hair color application What’s the Difference Between Foils, Balayage and Foilayage?

The best one for you is really going to depend on your hair goals.

September 12, 2022
Highlights Hair Foils Foilayage Balayage


One of the easiest ways to switch up your hair color is by adding bright highlights to your strands. They’re great because you don’t have to deal with the commitment that comes with a full head of new color and the maintenance can be a bit easier, too. Of course, highlights aren’t one-size-fits-all and if you’ve been doing your research, you’ll know that there are different  ways to highlight your hair. 


Techniques like foil highlights, balayage and foilayage offer a similar look but they all have key differences that can influence how they fit in with your hair color goals. So, if you’re wondering what separates these three highlighting techniques, you are not alone. Take notes as we break down everything you need to know about foils, balayage and foilyage so you can choose the best technique for your hair with confidence.

Foil Highlights vs. Balayage vs. Foilayage: What’s the Difference?

All three methods can help to give your hair brightness and add dimension, but one may be better for your hair type and hair goals over the other. Read on as we break down these three hair highlighting techniques, below.


1. What Are Foil Highlights? 

Foils are used to create traditional highlights throughout your mane. After each strand is coated in bleach, it’s then wrapped in a sheet of foil to develop. This process helps to separate each highlight for a more uniform look and speeds up the lightening process by trapping heat. Foil highlights typically go from the root down to the end of each strand.


2. What Is Balayage?

Balayage, as you likely already know, has become one of the hottest hair highlighting techniques over the years, especially on social media. That’s because this technique is best for delivering a natural look as the process involves your colorist hand painting your hair for a seamless, sun-kissed-inspired head of highlights. Balayage highlights also typically feature a lived-in root, making the look low-maintenance. Additionally, it can be achieved with bleach or hair dye. 


3. What Is Foilayage? 

Foilayage, as you may have been able to guess by now, is a combination of foils and balayage. The process involves your colorist hand painting highlights throughout your mane before wrapping each in a sheet of foil. This combines the natural look of balayage with the sped-up process of foils and helps to create a brighter look. Like balayage, bleach or dye can be used to achieve the look.


Which Highlighting Technique Should I Get?

Now that you know the difference between foil highlights, balayage, and foilayage, you may be wondering which one is best for you. The answer depends on what type of look you're going for and how much maintenance you want to commit to. If you’re looking to switch up your hair color with a full head of highlights, foils are the best highlighting technique for you. As we mentioned above, this technique will create a uniform, consistent look throughout your mane from roots to ends. 


If you want natural-looking dimension and low-maintenance color, balayage is your highlighting technique match. The process will add some subtle dimension to your strands without changing your root color or lightening your strands too much. Additionally, if you have dark hair that you want to upgrade without tons of maintenance, this will be the best method for you because it will avoid a harsh line of regrowth. 


If your aim is vivid, dimensional highlights, foilayage is your perfect highlighting technique. Since this process is similar to balayage, it’ll create natural-looking, multidimensional highlights throughout your mane and with the addition of foils, your highlights will appear brighter and lighter. 


How to Care for Highlighted Hair

With gorgeous highlighted hair comes the necessary task of properly caring for it. The right routine and products can benefit your hair color so it’s important to pick the right ones. Check out our tips for caring for highlighted hair, below. 


1. Use a Color-Safe Hair Care System 

To keep your highlights looking fresh and vibrant, reach for a shampoo and conditioner that is formulated for color-treated hair. To enhance shine without stripping hair color, we love the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Glossing Shampoo, pH Balanced and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Glossing Conditioner, pH Balanced. The glossing system also includes the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Glossing In Shower Acidic Glaze, an in-shower glossing treatment that helps to keep colored hair shiny, silky and vibrant. 


First, cleanse your scalp and hair with the shampoo, then spray the in-shower glaze on wet hair and let it sit for one to three minutes, (do not rinse) and follow up with the conditioner. Once a week, you can switch out the conditioner for a hair mask, like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Signature Masque, Color Care Hair Mask, to deeply hydrate dry, colored strands and enhance shine.


Editor’s tip: If you have bleach-damaged hair or color-treated hair that is dry and damaged, reach for a reparative system like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care Bond Strengthening Shampoo and the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Bond Strengthening Conditioner. This duo helps to strengthen hair inside and out by reinforcing weak hair bonds.


2. Use Purple Shampoo

If you have blonde highlights then you’re probably no stranger to brassy strands. To fix that, add a purple shampoo and conditioner to your routine like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Brass Toning Purple Shampoo and the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Brass Toning Purple Conditioner. This duo contains purple dye to neutralize brassy, yellow and orange tones from blonde and highlighted hair. Once a week, switch out the conditioner for the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Anti Brass Purple Mask Treatment to give your hair an extra dose of hydration while banishing brass.


3. Add a Gloss to Your Routine

To keep your highlights looking like you just left the salon, it’s essential to add a hair gloss, like the L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss, to your routine. This in-shower gloss enhances shine, tones color and deeply conditions hair with each use. It’s a great way to keep your highlights looking fresh, especially if you opt for the low-maintenance, balayage technique. 


4. Limit Heat Styling

If you can skip heat styling, you’re never going to regret it, it’s always the best option for your color-treated strands. In place of hot tools, we recommend a heatless style like a messy bun or a sleek, low bun. Curly hair types can reach for a curl-enhancing cream like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Non-Stop Dreamy Curls Leave-in Conditioner to bring out your natural waves. 


If you must use heat tools, always remember to prime your strands with a heat protectant like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum Leave-In or the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Weightless Blow Dry Primer, Heat Protectant. It’s best practice to use your hot tools on the lowest temperature setting and only pass through each section of hair once to avoid damage.


Next: 10 Gorgeous Highlight Ideas for Dark Brown Hair

Edited by: Reece Andavolgyi, Photo by: Ashley IG @/ashleyrayhair, Design by: Sarah Duvivier