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Antonio’s View: Is Balayage or Foiling Better for Curly Hair?

by Antonio Gonzales on Monday, February 22, 2010

antonio gonzales

I was born in Trinidad in the height of a hurricane. I spent my childhood surrounded by the sights and sounds and smells of Carnival and the other Indian, African and Spanish festivals of the Islands. Loving the amazing costumes, I got my start dressing my sisters and doing their hair and makeup. An opportunity came up to work with Trinidad’s leading costume designers, makeup artists and hair stylists. After I left the Island, my career evolved with work in Munich, Los Angeles and now New York City. Here in New York, I am a stylist at the Orlo Salon in the Meat Packing district. Vogue magazine recently named me as one of the rising hairstylist stars in N.Y., I was awarded the best haircut of 2008 by shecky’s.com, Gotham Magazine called me a Shear Genius and Allure Magazine featured me as one of the best cuts 2009.

See Antonio’s blog here.

Every day in the salon when I work with clients and their curls, this is a concern frequently expressed. So I felt this was the perfect forum to answer this question for all our readers.

First, allow me to distinguish between these two methods.

Balayage

Balayage is a hair-coloring technique likened to painting. The word itself is French for “to sweep,” a reference to the “sweeping” motion of the brush while applying color to the hair. If you look at curly hair in the sunlight, the one thing that catches your eyes is the ability of the curls to reflect light in certain areas.

When coloring curls, I love to recreate this effect in the hair. It’s almost as though the colors are dancing through it, which makes sense since balayage is a French word with Latin roots (no pun intended)—“ballare” is Latin for dance.

Foiling

Most women who have had their hair highlighted or low-lighted have had foils in their hair. It’s a very normal process using aluminum foils to apply color in sections throughout the hair in order to create brightness and dimension.

Balayage for Curly Hair

Being a “foil man,” I feel that there is a woman for either technique. However, for curly hair, balayage is certainly the best for many different reasons.

When I balayage, I can work with the shape of the head and the face, carefully taking thin sections of hair from the head as I proceed.

Keep in mind that the head is round, but foils are square.

I can choose the size of highlights as I go through the hair and I can place them close to each other, be they thick or thin.

Foiling is not as versatile, and if you attempt to use different sizes per foil, it’s not nearly as natural. I can use different colors and place them right next to each other. It’s a more natural way to get “sparkle” in the hair color by creating dimension.

With foils, I am limited to safely working with one color per foil.

For a brunette going lighter, I can avoid the immediate hairline and the hair part while painting the hair. Then, as it grows, there is almost no visible root line. You can then wait up to four months before your next application.

Foils can be too intense in the wrong hands.

I will conclude now with a question I get all the time—is balayage damaging to the hair?

My answer remains the same—“as with foils, it all depends on the hairstylist.”

I wish you and your clients beautiful curls!

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