7 Hair Colouring Techniques Explained By An Expert

Balayage, ombré, wet-lights – if you find the long list of hair-colouring options confusing, you’re not alone. We asked Hari's creative colourist Francesca Dixon to decode the most popular techniques. Bookmark these seven, ready for your next appointment.

1. Balayage

This popular technique creates super-soft, sun-kissed colours throughout the hair. It is achieved by leaving natural colour in between lighter pieces and back-combing the coloured pieces to soften any lines. It can also be done by painting diagonal sections of the hair and leaving sections in between completely natural. Balayage is a low-maintenance, ‘lived-in’ style that’s pretty subtle, but can be built up over time – perfect when you’re ready to hit refresh but don’t want a colour overhaul. It works on most hair types and colours. 

2. Wet-Lights

This is ideal for those wanting to soften and break up a harsh hairline or fluffy regrowth. Wet-lights are painted free hand on to wet hair, creating a halo of light that brightens up the overall colour. They’re 50% healthier and quicker than alternative colour treatments too because they’re applied wet, when the cuticles are open, which restricts extreme damage, leaving hair stronger, smoother and healthier-looking in half the time. Wet-lights are particularly good for those with over-processed bleach or brassy blonde hair.

3. Ombré

Ombré melts darker roots into brighter ends. It’s a lot more obvious than balayage because there is no definition of natural colour through the ends. Rather than picking pieces and leaving natural shade in between, you pick up every strand of hair and colour the mid-lengths to the ends. Always make sure your stylist has blended the colour consistently and thoroughly because, if not, it will look like a dip-dye job. 

4. Highlights

Highlights are old-school, but they still reign supreme. Stylists apply them in a weaving technique, placing colour directly onto the root. The hair is then neatly folded into foils and placed under heat, which encourages the foil to lift the hair to its desired, natural potential. Depending on the thickness of your hair, you can have chunky highlights or baby fine highlights, which are created by leaving sections of your natural hue in between each strand of new colour. 

5. Lowlights

This colour-lightening technique always includes a natural base tone. Lowlights are used throughout the mid-lengths to add definition to the ends, achieving a ‘shadow’ effect while breaking up any blockiness from highlights. Lowlights reduce the need for colour maintenance because they soften the regrowth with the application of your own natural colour throughout. Ideal for anyone who wants just a subtle difference that catches the light. 

6. Permanent Colour

Put simply, permanent colour is one that doesn’t fade when you shampoo and won’t leave the hair cuticle. It is usually for clients that have more than 70% grey hair or stubborn grey hairs that won’t take a semi-permanent option. If clients have fine hair or only a few grey hairs, permanent colour can become harsh to your hair and scalp, and start to look unnatural over time. In those cases, semi-permanent colour is preferable.

7. Reverse Balayage 

This is for those with ombré hair who are looking for a more natural, broken-up colour. It is also for clients who have had over-processed balayage, where repeated application of colour to the same hair strands has left them with an ombré style. Reverse balayage is all about adding natural hair colour back in. The stylist paints natural colour through the mid-length to the ends, giving hair more definition and reversing it back from ombré to balayage. This technique often works best on darkening those with lighter hues – think blonde roots to coffee-coloured tones – but most hair types can try it. 

London Salons For The Best Colour:

1. Josh Wood at the Josh Wood Atelier, Notting Hill, JoshWoodColour.com

2. Hari’s Hairdressers, Chelsea, Notting Hill & Parsons Green, HarisSalon.com 

3. Percy & Reed, Great Portland Street & Spitalfields, Percy&Reed.com

4. John Frieda, Mayfair, JohnFrieda.com 

5. Larry King, Kensington, LarryKing.co.uk

6. Myla & Davis, Brixton, East Dulwich & Herne Hill, Myla&Davis.co.uk 

7. Hare & Bone, Fitzrovia, Hare&Bone.co.uk

INSPIRATION CREDITS: Instagram.com/HarisHair
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