For those of you who have jumped on the balayage bandwagon, you already know it’s a phenomenal technique used to add incredibly natural-looking highlights and dimension to your hair. It’s been around forever, but it skyrocketed into popularity when ombré could be found on the heads of all your favorite celebrities. I adopted the trend when Khloé Kardashian gave it a shot in 2013. While ombré has dyed down (the puns!), balayage has stuck around as the technique to try, but there’s actually another method, one you probably have never heard of, that can give you the highlights of your dreams, too.
It’s called palm painting. Unlike traditional hair painting or balayage, it’s applying color to the hair without the help of a brush or any tools. Like the name suggests, color is applied to the hair with just the colorist’s hands. I learned about it from Miguel Angarita, a master colorist at Mizu New York salon, who used the technique in part to take my hair color the blondest it’s ever been.
I noticed the method as he was working the color through my strands with his gloved hands. "Palm painting is an extremely advanced technique in the hair color portfolio,” explains Angarita. "It's achieved by only using your hands and no tools are necessary for the application of products—bleach, high lift dyes, tint color, etc.”
He told me that when practiced by a very experienced colorist, the tool-less process can eliminate the chance of lines of demarcation sometimes left from brushes. You also can get extremely specific with where you’re placing the highlights, and it can be done on all hair types, textures, and lengths.
So how do colorists know where to apply color? First, skill helps, plus understanding the geometry of haircuts and where light hits. "For placement of color, you use the angles of haircut and the hair's natural texture,” Angarita explains. "The product is placed on palm of hand, then taking a bit at a time, starting on ends or tips, you work the product towards the root. You can be as heavy or light as you want. It’s an extremely organic and natural technique, being that the hair dictates the amount and the way it's applied.”
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The result, Angarita tells us, is often multi-transitional tones. “It's also a quick easy way to lighten hair or color hair without a huge commitment,” he tells me.
He believes it’s here to stay, but he did warn me that it should only be done by a professional who’s mastered or perfected the technique. It’s already a hashtag on Instagram, so give it a search and call up your stylist if you’re curious.