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Foiling is a technique used by most hair care professionals to highlight and lowlight hair. Highlighting is lightening select strands; lowlighting is darkening select strands. Foiling involves sectioning off the hair and applying color to certain sections of hair that are protected by the foil and folded away to prevent the color from touching the rest of the hair. Foiling is a little tricky to perform on yourself, so having a helper is recommended.

Divide your hair into four sections by creating one part that runs from the middle of the forehead to the middle of the nape area and one part that runs horizontally, ear to ear. Hold each section in place using hair clips.

Tear out a long sheet of foil and cut it into 3-inch strips. Mix equal parts of the crème color and developer in the mixing bowl. Blend with the color brush until the color is smooth and even throughout.

Section off a 1/2-inch horizontal section of hair. Weave the pin-tail comb through the section. Grasp the hair on top of the comb with your fingers and allow the hair that was weaved under the comb to fall free. Place a strip of foil underneath the hair you are holding. Hold the hair flat down on the foil to hold the foil in place.

Apply color to the hair along the length of the foil using the color brush. Fold the sides of the foil in over the hair, and fold again in half. Clip the foil up and out of the way using a hair clip. Create another 1/2-inch section, and pin it up with the previously foiled section. Weave the next 1/2-inch section, place foil and apply color. Continue in an alternating pattern, moving from section to section, from the top of the head to the lower hairline.

Process the hair for 20 minutes after foiling the last section. Check the color of the first section by removing the foil and eyeballing the result. If you like the color, continue to the next step. If not, replace the foil and process for an additional five minutes.

Remove the foils. Rinse, shampoo and condition.


If you want to add lowlights and highlights at the same time, alternate the lighter and darker colors when placing foils.

You can place highlights and lowlights on select sections of hair, on the top layer of the hair only or throughout all sections of the hair depending on the look you want. There is no right or wrong way to place foils. Envision the look you want and place foils accordingly.

The color result will depend primarily on the strength of the developer. For highlights that are three to four shades lighter than the original color, use 40 volume developer. Highlights that are one to two shades lighter require 30 volume developer. Twenty volume developer is used for gray coverage, and 10 volume developer is used to deposit color. Depositing color achieves a lowlighted appearance.

Color does not lift color. If you want to highlight hair that has been previously colored, you will need to use a hair lightener instead of color.

If it is taking quite some time to place the foils, the first section might be fully processed before you get to the last section. To stop the coloring process on a section of hair that has reached the desired level, open the foils and wet the hair with a spray bottle.

About the Author

Kathy Mayse

Kathy Mayse began her writing career as a reporter for "The Jackson-County Times Journal" in 2001. She was promoted to assistant editor shortly after. Since 2005, she has been busy as a successful freelancer specializing in Web content. Mayse is a licensed cosmetologist with more than 17 years of salon experience; most of her writing projects reflect this experience.