Are Foil or Cap Highlights Better?

Woman coloring hair
Contrast highlights create the illusion of texture. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Color plays an important role in hair design, and the decision to add highlights is made daily by both men and women, whether in the salon or with home coloring kits. Whether seeking to lighten your natural shade or try out a brand new color, the right method of highlighting can provide changes from subtle to bold, creating a fresh new look that adds style and flair to your lifestyle.

Highlights 101

Pretty Brunette with Short Hair Looking Away
Highlights can add volume to a narrow face. (Image: Donna Coleman/iStock/Getty Images)

Hair highlighting refers to the process of partially lightening or coloring the hair, creating its effect by strategically applying color to individual sections. When using a lighter color, this area will appear to advance, while darker colors will seem to recede. When placed around the forehead, cheeks and temple areas, these special effects can frame the face to optimal advantage, enhancing or minimizing features to create a more striking appearance.

Take Your Pick

At the hairdresser ? woman gets new hair colour
Foil is the preferred method for highlighting in salons. (Image: kzenon/iStock/Getty Images)

The two chief methods of applying highlights are the foil technique and the cap technique. The foil technique involves weaving subsections of hair with a long tail comb and then selecting alternating strands from each subsection. These chosen strands are then placed over a square of foil and the selected shade of lightener or high-lift tint is applied, usually with a brush. In this way, highlights can be strategically placed with precision. The foil is then folded over the treated strands to prevent lightening unwoven hairs.

The cap method of applying highlights involves the use of a special perforated cap that is placed over the head. Strands of hair are pulled through the perforations with the use of a hook implement. The amount of hair chosen to be pulled through each hole will determine the amount of highlighting that is achieved. For a subtle look, fewer strands should be pulled through and surrounding holes may be overlooked. For a stronger, more dramatic effect, hair may be pulled through every opening and in greater thicknesses. Hair lightener is then applied to the pulled-through strands, usually with the use of a squeeze applicator.

Pros and Cons

Woman reading magazine while hairdresser coloring hair
Stylists bring skill to highlight procedures. (Image: moodboard/moodboard/Getty Images)

Both methods of application are effective in creating attractive highlights. Advantages of using the foil method include less stress on the hair and no scalp discomfort, the ability to achieve highlights close to the scalp and hairline, and overall greater precision in the placement of each highlight. The disadvantages are cost, as it is a time-consuming procedure and hair salons generally charge top dollar, frequently offering a choice of partial or full highlights. Foil applications also require a higher degree of skill, producing poor results if not applied well.

The cap method is simpler for the home hair colorist, but it is more difficult to control the exact placement of highlights, particularly around the nape area. This method works well for short hair, but for curly hair or longer styles it can be difficult and even painful to pull long threads through the cap.

Your Crowning Glory

beautiful young woman with laptop
Highlights can mean a good hair day. (Image: Desislava Dimitrova/Hemera/Getty Images)

Whether choosing to cover gray, perk up your natural color or try a new look, highlights can add glamour, creating the illusion of texture by alternating dark tones with light. Psychologically, we associate lighter colors with youth, so adding light highlights to fuller looking hair can contribute to a younger, more vital appearance. Whether choosing the foil or cap method, highlights can accentuate your natural beauty, boost confidence and add to your happy, healthy lifestyle.

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