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5 Hair Coloring & Lightening Techniques Modern Stylists Need to Know

glossing photo example
One of the most exciting parts of working in the hair industry is the fact that it’s always changing and evolving. That means that stylists always have the opportunity to try something new, learn a new skill, and develop their careers. It also means that no two days are ever exactly the same. For many of us, it’s what makes this job fun!

This can perhaps be best seen when you think about how many different hair coloring or lightening techniques are currently out there being requested by clients. Gone are the days where a foil highlight or simple dye job were the only services that a salon would offer. The list of services offered by most modern salons is now often quite extensive.

The beautiful thing about all of this variety is that it arms us to be better able to serve our clients and help them reach their hair goals. Even if a client never uses the terminology that we might use behind the chair, understanding the different techniques and how and why they work allows us as stylists to craft the perfect plan to get them where they want to be.

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With that in mind, here is a look at some of the most important coloring and lightening techniques that all modern stylists should know about: Balayage, teasy lights, smudging, melting, and glossing.

A Note About Hair Trends

Trends come and go. Some are hot for a summer and then fade away into obscurity. Some pop up every few years according to a cycle, the same way 90s fashion is big again. And some become a tried-and-true staple, a part of our repertoire for the rest of our careers.

Most trends come and go, but it’s still important to have knowledge about them so that you can either a.) perform them when a client asks about them or b.) advise them as to what would look best on them, whether that is the trend or something different.

It’s also important to recognize that trends are there for many reasons, one of which is to inspire. Even if a client comes in asking for one thing, your understanding of the current trends can help you to come up with a unique new look that they might never have thought of. People are often looking to social media, magazines, and celebrities for the newest fab look. It is our job to lead them in the direction of what might fit their personal style as well as lifestyle. It is our job to provide the best for our guests.

Modern Hair Techniques to Know

1. Balayage

Balayage is a hair painting technique that’s used to create natural, lived-in color. It works by sectioning the hair and hand-painting those sections with lightening product. The end result is hair that looks as if it’s been naturally lightened by the sun during the summer.

balayage photo example

Depending on the natural level of the starting hair and the saturation of the product, it’s usually possible for one balayage service to provide about 2-4 levels of lift.

Learn more about balayage:

2. Teasy Lights

Teasy lights refers to a foiling technique that uses the teasing of hair to make a softer blend with foils. This provides the most lift, as the sections are very small and the foils are a heat conductor to increase alkalinity. This is a great technique for darker levels wanting to be lighter with limited warmth.

teasy lights photo example

3. Smudging

Smudging is a technique used after a lightening service to mute foil lines and make for a softer transition from the natural hair to the foiled area. Smudging helps to reduce harsh lines of demarcation. It’s often used at the root line, as a great way to give your client an easier grow out and seamless blend at their root. It’s the perfect technique for high lift blondes who enjoy a slightly lived in look.

root melt photo example

Learn more about smudging:

4. Color Melting

Color melting is a technique used for a number of reasons, such as coloring, placement correcting, or to erase lines between different sections of hair. It’s one of the best techniques for getting rid of harsh lines left by foils, as well as uneven tones, and it can help you change placement in order to give your client a more lived-in look.

color melt example photo

You can take your melt as low or high as needed. Formulation is really important when doing this technique. An acidic color is preferred for no base shifting and generally this is done on damp hair. Formulating 2 levels below the natural level is recommended.

Learn more about color melting:

5. Glossing

Finally, glossing is an excellent way of finishing your services. This is the only way to adjust tone or get rid of that raw lift color. This is what gives actual tone to the hair after a lightening service and leaves someone with a complimentary color for their skin and eyes.

glossing photo example

Learn more about glossing:

You Don’t Need to Master Everything

As a stylist, it’s important to know what the techniques above are and how they work. That way, if a client comes in and asks you to perform the service, you’ll be able to know exactly what they’re asking for. And, ideally, you’ll know how to perform at least a handful of these techniques yourself. Variety in your skillset will empower you to fill more appointments and charge more money for your time.

That being said, it’s also important to acknowledge the fact that you don’t need to master each and every technique. It’s okay to specialize in one area and not others. Know your strengths and be confident in what you do, and if a client comes in asking for a service or treatment that you aren’t comfortable performing, it’s totally okay to recommend them to a different stylist who you think might better be able to serve them. You might also recommend something different, and find that they like your suggestion just as much as they liked their original thought.

Want to learn more ways you can add value for your clients and improve your skills? Sign up for our Ultimate Makeover course!

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