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Foilyage for Long and Dark Hair
By Melissa Johnson, Product Club Educator

How often do you have someone come in for highlights with dark hair, old hair color, or very long hair? Do you need a faster way to achieve results because traditional balayage doesn’t give you the lift you desire when working on these clients?

Since I have often worked with super long, dark hair throughout my salon career, I’ve come up with a few ways to adjust my technique to get the best results. Here are a few things to consider with these types of hair:

  1. Folding a traditional foil on super long hair can leave demarcation lines and uneven lightness. The chance for the foil slipping is much higher.

  2. Most traditional balayage lighteners will not give you the amount of lift you desire on their own, as most clay lighteners are made for up to 6 levels of lift.

  3. If you are dealing with previous hair color, you will most likely need to use a lightener that creates more levels of lift to correct it.

  4. If you are working with super long hair and want to balayage, the client must remain as still as possible during application. If they lean back on the balayage, it can pack the lightener and push it through the hair, causing unwanted marks in the color.

I recently had a client come in for highlights and she told the salon coordinator that she had long hair. This was an understatement! She had waist-length hair that she wanted to be much lighter. After consulting and evaluating her hair, we had to figure out the best way to create her dream hair in the fastest amount of time.

Choose the Best Hair Color Tools

Product Club roll foil to the rescue! With my long haired client, I used the roll foil and I easily cut the foil to about 24” in length using the roll foil dispenser. If you are concerned about slipping because of movement, I recommend using some balayage clips to secure the hair. Since they’re gentle and lightweight, they won’t dent your foils or disturb your lightener. Feather bristle brushes are my favorite for painting long strands of hair to create a soft blend, and the 12” acrylic balayage board provides an extra-long, sturdy surface for my application so I can really saturate each section.

Photo courtesy of @kristenlinares

Tips for Successful Foilyage

Start with the Back of the Head

After doing a diagonal back on each side, take a horizontal parting and use medium weaves or stitches to create a more traditional type of highlight. This will give you more “connection” to the root area. If you are looking for a heavier, brighter effect on the ends, then use a “dual light” - one weave close to the root and then a slice diffused from mid-strands to ends.

Rather than folding foils, stack them or sandwich them. It also is beneficial to start with a lower volume lightener and gradually increase the strength as you work up the head. Working bottom to top will give you a quicker application. Be sure not to take sections wider than the foil. 

The Crown Area – Remember to Blend

Work until you reach the crown area. Be aware of the changes of direction and the growth patterns here as you may need to adjust your weaves or slices to smaller pieces. You can also backcomb a little to create extra softness. Personally, I choose to avoid backcombing long hair because it can be hard to detangle later on. Your choice of color brush is also important. A great option is the blending brush set. These are small, precise color brushes that are perfect for avoiding demarcation lines and getting into detailed areas. I like to use the blending brushes after I apply the lightener to blur and also to remove any extra lightener that may have been applied too high on the strand. 

Work Your Way to the Sides of the Head

When you move to the sides, continue to work on a diagonal back. One option is to do softer pieces around the face and get stronger at the back of the section. If you have a client with hair that is more delicate around the hairline, section out the hairline and use a lower volume developer to do a more traditional highlight around the face. As you work up towards the part, analyze the hair for the most impact on placement. Depending on the texture of hair, you may adjust your application to get closer or farther from the root area. I often take smaller slices and leave less hair out around the face to create a bright face frame. Work up until you reach the part. Working off the client’s part is the best way to customize your look. 

For Chunkier Highlights

As many people are looking for options to create chunkier highlights, you can take the top horseshoe and work vertically in Mohawk sections. This placement creates a stronger, ribbon-like effect. If you would like a softer, more blended look, work diagonally across the part. Using a shallow zig-zag pattern can help you camouflage lines and result in a more natural-looking highlight.

Once you have processed your color/lightener, place a Product Club disposable cape around the client before removing the foils. If you have chosen to do a traditional balayage, you can also use the disposable capes to protect the client and your salon furniture. I like to leave the cape on throughout the glaze to keep everything neat. The placement of this foilyage is ideal if you need to remove the back foils first due to the length of time it may take to apply. 

Final Thought

Remember to charge appropriately for this technique and any type of specialty techniques you offer. Let the client know ahead of time how much you plan to charge. Try to not quote prices over the phone, but if you must, plan on the highest end of the price range and then let your client be pleasantly surprised when it actually costs less. The amount of product used alone will be much more than average. I used almost 11 ounces of lightener on the waist-length hair. 

Hopefully this helps to reduce some of your anxiety when working with super long and/or dark hair.

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