Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue used his Smart Lights technique on Luiza.
Although curl specialists have perfected their own unique techniques for highlighting curls, on one thing they agree: Highlighting curls and kinks is much different than highlighting straight hair.
When done poorly, highlights can make the hair look dull and frizzy. But when done well, highlights can add drama and definition to curls, making those ringlets pop. It is an art as well as a science.
Highlights have a reason and must be placed according to the style and texture of the hair,” says Shai Amiel, a curly hair expert at Capella Salon in Studio City, Calif. “When highlighting curly hair, you have to consider the way the curl falls. You must place the highlights just like your curls grow out of your head.
For Amiel, the technique that works best with curls is by hand painting each curl that needs accent. He feels that the basic foil pattern may not look as natural with curls.
When you hand paint the desired curls, you can pick and choose where you want the color,” he says. “You can also see how the whole thing looks and add or deduct certain pieces. Curly hair looks better with highlights that mimic what the sun would do to your hair.
Amiel’s technique is similar to the technique created by Devachan Salon — Pintura.
Pintura captures, defines and highlights the movement and dynamism of each curl,” says Shari Harbinger, color director for Devachan. “It gives the stylist the technical know-how and the opportunity to trust their own artistic eye to create the perfect harmony and balance between tone, shape, light and shadow.
”Using a painted comb brush, highlights are painted onto the hair. While foiling is horizontal, Harbinger says Pintura is vertical. "This automatically gives more contrast to the melody of tones in the hair,” she says.
She says Pintura also is more predictable than foiling. "What you paint is what you get with Pintura,” she says.
Pintura was the brainchild of Devachan co-founder Denis DaSilva, who came up with it 11 years ago when he became frustrated with the effects of conventional foiling on curly hair.
“He felt it looked like on solid color, and this drove him to find a solution,” Harbinger says. “The whole purpose of highlighting curly hair is to define the curls rather than change it. Highlighting should be about texture and contrast.”
Last fall, Da Silva created a unique at-home highlighting system, HC Color Fantasies, that clients can use at home to achieve these same results. It features a unique application tool that's designed with space to insert color and precisely apply it to sections of hair.
"If you're going to do highlights at home, you actually have to be able to do it," Da Silva says.
New York Curl expert Ouidad has created a technique she calls “Sparkle Highlights,” which uses up to four different shades of pigment and color.
“This way I’m able to pick up the exact curl and place the color of my choice on each strand,” Ouidad says. “This generates a full palette of colors that makes curls sparkle and jump out.”
The delicate coloring of the seashell was the inspiration for Jonathan Torch of Toronto’s Curly Hair Institute.
“When you add bands of color to hair, you add dimension and definition,” Torch says. “By breaking the mass with different colors and highlights, you start to see the ringlets individually throughout the curls.
When highlighting, Torch likes to use three tones to create richness, brightness and depth. "It's almost like shadowing to break out the solid look of the curly hair," Torch says.
Stylists are trained on Devachan Salon's Pintura technique.
Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue wants highlights to be low maintenance for his clients. That’s why he created Smart Lights. “I don’t go to the outer line, so my clients don’t get bad roots,” Christo says.
Highlight shades should be selected based on the base color and the skin tone.
“If you’re a brunette, you want to stay a brunette,” he says. “So we just spice up your color. We might throw in some cappuccino, caramel or chestnut tones — shades two to three tones lighter. This spices up your style and accentuates the curls.”
An absolute no-no, say curl experts, is using strong bleach on curly hair. It can dehydrate and damage the hair.
“I prefer the more delicate approach,” says Amiel. “I prefer to use color if I can avoid bleach. Strong bleach will blast open the cuticle and create damage and more frizz.”
Amiel uses a glossing treatment after he highlights because it adds shine and seals the cuticle, reducing frizz.
Highlighted tresses also should be deep-conditioned. Curly hair tends to be dry, and color services can make it drier.
“I believe healthy hair just looks better, especially the ever-so-delicate curl,” Amiel says.