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Transitioning a Foil Client to a Balayage Client

before and after changing from foils to balayage

If you work in the hair industry, then you probably already know just how addicted to their go-to treatments some clients can be. After all, if it worked in the past, then it’ll work forever, right?

While that can be true, the fact of the matter is that it can often be a good idea to change things up and try something new: New hair lengths, new styles, new colors, new cuts. It is by embracing the new that we find new favorites and new go-tos, and it’s how we enable our personal look to evolve over time.

The downside to embracing something new, of course, is the unknown. Your client might be excited to shake up her look, but still be plagued by fear. What if I hate it? What if it doesn’t match my face? What if it isn’t me?

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The good news is that transitioning a client from one service to another doesn’t need to be difficult or stressful for anyone. 

Your job as a stylist is to educate your guest on what you think will be the best treatment to reach their goals. If that recommendation aligns with their go-to service, then great! But if it doesn’t, you owe it to your guest and to yourself to explain why a different treatment would be better. If they choose not to make a switch, that’s fine—at least you can rest easy knowing that you tried. 

One area where we often see stylists struggle is in transitioning their foil clients into balayage clients. Below, we explore the common reasons that it might make sense to transition from foils to balayage, and offer tips that you can use to help your client understand what the process of transitioning will look like. 

Why make the switch from foil highlights to balayage?

While there are still cases in which foil highlights might be the best way to achieve a certain look, there are also many reasons why balayage could be better for your guest. You probably already know these reasons, but your guest likely doesn’t. If you can educate your client on these benefits, they will be much more likely to agree with your recommendation to make a switch.

The most valuable benefits of making the switch include:

  • Balayage creates a more natural look: A hallmark of foil highlights is a harsh line of demarcation. Because balayage makes use of a more gradual transition, the end result is typically much more natural than foil highlights.
  • Lower maintenance costs for your client: Because balayage is a more subtle and natural look, your client can go longer between touch ups than she would be able to with foil highlights. This translates into greater cost savings over the long run.
  • It’s easier to add dimension: With balayage, you can lift while also preserving depth, which will ultimately help you create a lot of dimension in your client’s hair—to stunning effect.

3 Steps for Transitioning Foils to Balayage

Once you have explained these benefits to your client, they will have to make a decision: Either yes, or no. 

If they choose to move forward with transitioning to balayage, there is a very specific process that you will need to follow, which will often take place over the course of multiple visits. It’s important that you explain to your client exactly what they can expect from the process so that they are happy with the result. 

We outline these steps below.

1. The Hair Consultation

Whenever you are talking about a transformational hair service like transitioning from foil highlights to balayage, it’s critical that you start things off with a hair consultation. This consultation is where you will explain to your client what the process will look like, which will help you manage their expectations and put them at ease.

During your consultation, you’re doing multiple things:

  • You’re evaluating the hair: Before you can even think about getting started, you need to understand what the status of the hair currently is. How has it been treated in the past? What level is it currently at? Is it brittle, or healthy? Fine, or thick? These questions will inform your next steps, so it’s important to do a thorough evaluation. 
  • You’re understanding their goals: Where do they want their hair to be compared to where it is now? What level or color are they aspiring towards? Do they have any inspiration that you can use to guide them? It is only by understanding their goals that you can map out a full picture of what the process will look like to transition them from foils.
  • You’re explaining the process: How many sessions will it take to get your guest to their end goal? What can they expect their hair to look like after each session? How long will be between sessions? You should also make clear that the reason we do this in sessions is to allow for a more graceful grow out, and to ensure that the hair does not become damaged. 

2. Melting

The first appointment is going to involve melting down the foil line so that the harsh lines of demarcation are less harsh. For this step, you’ll most likely be using a color that is close to their natural level. Depending on your starting point and the client’s wishes, you might also be able to add in some lowlights for dimension. The goal is to melt first, and then let the foil lines grow out a bit so that you can keep it nice and blended during the transition process.

When you explain this process to your guest, make sure they understand that they will not be walking away from the first session looking the way they envision. They should still be happy with how they look, but it will be a transition to get to that final step. 

3. Balayage and Smudging

After you melt the foil line, the next appointment is going to be a balayage appointment, where you actually paint the hair. After this appointment, the client should be at their desired end look.

Depending on the amount of grow out hat has happened between the first and second appointments, you may also need to apply a root smudge to finish the look. 

Managing Expectations

Managing client expectations is probably the most important part of transitioning from foil to balayage highlights, so be sure to not skimp on the hair consultation. Review actual photos of hair inspiration in person to understand what your client wants so that you can outline the process in full, and be sure that they understand all of the steps that will be involved. 

For example, if a client is showing me goal pictures of a balayage natural rooted look but currently has a full head of highlights, I would explain that transitioning them is the only way we can achieve that look with their starting canvas. I would then reassure them that the transition period is going to be graceful and that our main goal is to make sure they love their hair throughout every stage even if we haven’t reached the final goal yet.

I would also try to understand where they are coming from and why they don’t want to make the transition, especially if they are showing balayage as their goal hair. The main objective is to make sure the guest is happy, even if that means finding a different approach that they feel comfortable with. Always give the client options to make them feel comfortable.

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