Hairdressing How-To: Putting Foils in Hair—Tips, Tricks, Advice, and Know-How for Colouring Hair with Foils!

Updated on October 15, 2014

Hair Tips and Tricks with Foils

In the hairdressing world, foils are commonly used to add highlights to a client's hair. Very few people other than hair artists know the other amazing uses for foils!

In addition to highlighting, you can lowlight, use foils to dye most of the hair and leave a few bits natural (sort of like the opposite of highlighting), protect sections of hair from becoming over-processed, add in additional streaks that are bleached or colored, or touch up just the roots of color that's growing out. The truth is that hairdressing foil is a very versatile tool and can be used for several different tasks to create an array of interesting looks.

First, I'll tell you the right way to apply foils to the head. Then, I'll explain all the different things you can do once the foils are in, and along the way I'll show you some videos to illustrate the process.

About Foil for Hair (Can I Use Aluminum Foil?)

Yes, you can use regular aluminum foil for your hair, as long as the dye you're using says it's safe with metal. You could even use waxed paper if you wanted, and of course the stuff you buy at a beauty supply store will work too, although it may be more expensive.

Before you begin, you'll want to cut the foil into strips of manageable size, depending on the length of the hair you're working with. Usually, you'll cut strips that are four or five inches (10-13 cm) wide and eight to twelve inches (20-30 cm) long. Because you'll fold it up to encase the hair, cut strips that are about twice the length of the hair you're dyeing. For extremely long hair, instead of folding one piece of impossibly long foil over, you can use two separate pieces of foil that are each the length of the hair as a kind of foil sandwich.

You can use a piece of foil that is less than double the length of the sectioned hair, but the hair will need to be curled or tucked up inside the foil. Be careful while doing this so as not to bend the hair (and leave a visible crease in the dye).

Since foil comes in various strengths and thicknesses, you'll want to consider this, too. The trick is using a material that is tough enough to hold up to the chemicals in the dye, and still malleable enough to keep the sections of dyed hair separate. Another way to make sure your foil will hold up is to fold about an inch of the foil down on the end that will touch the roots of the hair. This will make that end doubly-strong and will help ensure that the dye will be contained.

DIY: How to Put Foils in Hair

Before you start with the foil, you should wash and dry your hair and have everything you need ready and on hand:

  • a clean head of hair,
  • barrettes or clips,
  • the color or bleach you'll be using (mixed, if applicable),
  • a tail comb,
  • a tinting brush for applying the dye, and
  • strips of foil.

Step #1: Sectioning Hair

1. Section off the hair that you wish to color. Dividing that hair into smaller bundles will give you more control over the process. Temporarily secure each section with a hairdressing barrette.

Sectioning hair: How to highlight your hair at home.
Sectioning hair: How to highlight your hair at home.

Step #2: Using a Tail Comb

Use the end of the tail comb to select which pieces you will dye. This requires artfully grabbing chunks of the hair or weaving the end of a tail comb through the hair select separate sections. If you're working on a friend's hair, you'll want to start with the sections at the bottom (closer to the neck) and work your way towards the front (forehead). If you're doing your own hair, you'll probably start at the sides and work your way up to the top. For a natural look, large chunks of hair are not recommended: instead, use smaller sections and many separate foils.

DIY Dye: Using a tail comb to section streaks of hair for highlights.
DIY Dye: Using a tail comb to section streaks of hair for highlights.

Step #3: Using Foil

Place that sturdy, folded end of the foil under the section of hair you're going to apply the dye to, preferably with the silver side facing up (although the foil can be used either way).

Step #4: Applying Dye

Apply the hair colourant that you are using, providing that it is safe to use with metal, with a tinting comb. Make sure to thoroughly coat the hair. Use the foil itself as a sort of canvas or table, as it will provide a little support for the strand of hair you are coating.

Dyeing your own hair: Brushing dye into foil.
Dyeing your own hair: Brushing dye into foil.

Step #5: Using Foil

Make sure the foil is tucked in close to the scalp and covering as much of the roots of the hair as possible to prevent the dye from getting onto other sections of hair. To wrap up the foil, begin by taking the end (opposite the roots) and folding it up over so that the hair is entirely encased in an envelope of foil. Do not press too hard when you fold the foil or you will cause a colour leakage. It will take practice to get this perfect! (Remember, for extra long hair, you can use two separate pieces of foil sandwiched together.)

Use the foil to separate dyed from undyed sections.
Use the foil to separate dyed from undyed sections.

Step #6: Folding the Foil

Now, you can fold the foil so that the ends of the foil-encased hair come up close to the roots. Be careful not to press too hard or you'll have a fold-crease in your dye. Don't worry if the foil looks messy at this stage, practice is required to make a perfectly folded foil. If the hair is long, you may wish to gently roll the foil from the bottom upward to the scalp instead of folding.

Step #7: Repeat

7. Repeat steps one through six until you have foiled all the hair you plan on dyeing. If attempting this on your own hair, especially if your hair is long, you may need the help of a friend the first couple of times. For how long to leave the dye in, read the instructions on the bottle. Since this whole procedure is quite is slow, the sections you begin with will be exposed longer to the dye than the ones you do last. To ensure that all your foils are the same colour after the instructed period of time, you may want to section off all the pieces of hair you want dyed first, then quickly work to dye and wrap them up.

Ta dah! Do-it-yourself highlights!
Ta dah! Do-it-yourself highlights!

What Else Can You Use Foil For?

However, foils aren't only used for dying sections of hair. Here are just a few professional tips and tricks which are extremely handy for DIY, at-home hair colouring sessions.

Exclusion

Foils are most often used if you only want to dye a few bits of your hair. However, if you wish to dye the bulk of your hair and protect a few bits from being processed, foils are also great. You can simply section off the hair you want to keep undyed and wrap each section in foil, using the same procedure described above, only without adding the dye. Then you can proceed to dye the remainder of your loose hair, working carefully around the foils.

Video: Chunky Highlights with Foil and Bleach

DIY: Bleaching Hair with Foils

If parts of your hair are already bleached, but you want to lighten the rest or add more bleached sections, then the exclusion method can also be used. This trick is excellent for protecting hair that has been damaged from over-processing with bleach, in order to avoid excessive damage. If you want to lighten the rest of your hair, the already-bleached parts should be covered and therefore saved from excessive processing. If you choose to bleach already bleach-damaged hair, you may end up with a chemical haircut!

Video: Using Foils to Highlight Your Own Hair

Using Foils for Regrowth Applications (Touch-Ups)

Foils are great to use with regrowth applications if you don't wish to dye over your previously-dyed hair. This is especially true for highlights as overlapping more bleach on top of your previous highlights will lighten your hair further and lead to a slight 'stripey' effect. You can use the exclusion method for this.

Tips for Root Protection

When excluding hair from a process using foils, you may find it hard to cover the roots with the foil, and this may become a cause for worry. One handy piece of equipment in this case is your conditioner! Using your tinting comb, brush some conditioner onto the roots of your hair to prevent them from being processed. You can also apply it to your eyebrows in case the hair you're dying falls in your face!

What do your think about do-it-yourself home dyeing with foils?

See results

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        silverstuff182 

        5 weeks ago

        Aubrey - I do random pieces from all over my head. I also work fast, which is potentially messy but I found that it isn't necessary to be very careful or exacting with the strips, sections etc. When it's all done it looks great. I DO have short hair. This wouldn't work on long hair. It just takes too much time. What you could do is some sections. Leave the rest alone. Next day continue with remaining sections.

      • profile image

        Tina W. 

        8 months ago

        Att: Ashley b.

        A great trick i use is mix Dawn dish soap and shampoo. This will strip the color . Use more shampoo and a small amount of Dawn dish soap. If it doesn't work add a little more dish soap. Be careful this will strip the hair.

      • profile image

        Ashley b. 

        15 months ago

        Someone please help, no one can give me answers.

        I have some very severe and crazy layers. I just got a bad cut. I know this cut looks so bad partially because if how dark my hair is. It's been damaged so bleach is my last resort. Tried to take the dye out with all other methods first. Time for the next step. I bought color zap at Sally's. The dye buildup is mostly on the ends so my plan was to use foils with it to get it on the ends first and then about 5 mins on my whole head but no one can tell me if this is okay. It's a sulfur based remover and i don't plan on mixing the peroxide activator with it. All it says in the directions is not to mix in a metal bowl...but everything says that. I can't afford to damage my hair. Can someone please tell me if I can use foils for this? Thank you so so so much!!

      • profile image

        Aubrey 

        2 years ago

        What do I do if the hair is done processing in the back but not done processing in the front? Can I spray it with a water bottle and will that stop it from processing

      • profile image

        Amanda 

        2 years ago

        This article is very well put together!! I'm going to try it tonight. I'll post how it went.

      • profile image

        Sharon 

        3 years ago

        When using foils , by the time u get to the front the back is processing so what I do if the back and sides are processed I use a higher volume of peroxide on top , or u can rinse the back and sides then foil the top with 20 vol peroxide. Hope that helps

      • profile image

        kendra 

        4 years ago

        how long do you leave the foils ?

      • profile image

        marla 

        4 years ago

        when i foil hair sometimes the back gets lighter than the top ,i have always startes from the back and worked forward.has anyone else had this problem. only happenes on very thick hair and i am wondering if i should start at the top first

      • profile image

        maegan 

        5 years ago

        I'm a hairdresser also and to avoid the foil from bleeding you can use cotton in between foils so that if it does bleed, the cotton will absorb it before the color touches the hair.

      • profile image

        stylgrl82 

        6 years ago

        hi winterhair im a stylest and i think clipins r a better way of thinkin, u can buy hair ready to clip at just about any cosmo shope or beauty land store in ur area or on the web key word clip on hair, That glue takes for ever to get out a can pull some of ur hair to boot! Hope this helps

      • profile image

        Jamie 

        6 years ago

        Thanks for the tips! Now i hope i just get it right!

      • profile image

        manamadz 

        6 years ago

        Im eight months pregnant and i want to bleach my hair, but i don't want to do my roots. Iv nevee tried using foils before, do you think its the easiest thing to usek

      • profile image

        DIYTeenMom 

        6 years ago

        Can you use foil with any home coloring kit, such as Revlon ColorSilk? I'm trying to give my daughter "low lights" and using a cap didn't work because the amount of hair I could pull through wasn't noticeable enough when we finished so I'd like to try foils so I can use larger sections.

      • profile image

        Jennifer 

        7 years ago

        @ Heather - sun exposure and can damage you hair if it is colored or not. There are products out there to help with protecting your hair. Try Redken's Color Extend SUN line to help protect your hair.

      • profile image

        Heather 

        7 years ago

        got a foil recently to lighten up my hair...does the sun damage hair after having a foil if I do not wear a hat or avoid the sun? My hair stylist says not to worry about the sun after a foil. Thanks

      • profile image

        Louise 

        7 years ago

        If your foils are bleeding, then you have put too much product in them.

      • Research Analyst profile image

        Research Analyst 

        8 years ago

        Great tips, especially for those who want to do it themselves at home it will be easier to know how to color hair with foils in this hub. Thanks!

      • profile image

        chloe 

        8 years ago

        hi do u have any tricks to avoid colour bleeding

      • profile image

        natty 

        8 years ago

        my hair hassent gone as light as i want it to how can i get it to go lighter?

      • profile image

        Winterhair 

        8 years ago

        I have thought about getting hair extensions and doesn't sound like a very good idea. So i am getting clip on hair extensions. Does anybody know where i can buy them, any good websites selling them and how much they cost>?

      • Choke Frantic profile imageAUTHOR

        Choke Frantic 

        8 years ago from Newcastle, Australia

        VB72 - I always have trouble with this issue myself. Remember - practice always makes perfect! You'll find at most salons for regrowth applications of bleach, a weaker solution is used, with a graduated result. This also helps you to go for longer between salon visits, because there isn't an oobvious line between the lighter and darker hair.

      • profile image

        VB72 

        8 years ago

        How do you bleach just the root of previously bleached foils without going over the bleached portion while also avoiding creating a blunt line of older/newer bleach?

      • profile image

        bloodnlatex 

        8 years ago

        Great job. You seem to really know a lot about the whole hair coloring and styling thing, and you laid it all out so that anyone could easily understand the process you were taking them through. That isn't always the easist thing to do. You definitely have a future in writing and in the hair business.

      • Choke Frantic profile imageAUTHOR

        Choke Frantic 

        8 years ago from Newcastle, Australia

        Thanks for your comment, momo. To me, the terms dye and colour are interchangeable.

      • profile image

        momo 

        9 years ago

        Very good way of explaining, I still cringe though when I read or hear the word dye instead of colour LOL

      • Choke Frantic profile imageAUTHOR

        Choke Frantic 

        9 years ago from Newcastle, Australia

        I've never even considered writing for a hair dressing magazine! Most of the ones which I buy are published in the UK though, and I don't know of any that are published in Australia. Also, they may not take me seriously since I'm not over 29 =] Thankyou for the compliment and good luck to you too.

      • profile image

        Brenda Scully 

        9 years ago

        Not like a hairdresser to give so many secrets of the proffesion away, appreciated, have you written for hair dressing magazines..... your articles are well put together.... good luck for the challenge. x

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, bellatory.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://bellatory.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)