How to Get Natural Looking Highlights for Men

Young man in hairdressers with foil in hair, portrait
Serge Krouglikoff / The Image Bank / Getty Images

There is a ton of advice about hair color for men out there, but one topic I don’t hear enough about is creating natural looking highlights for men with short hair. Guys, listen up! If you want natural looking highlights, there is going to be nothing natural about your color if you see your hair stylist coming at you with a hand full of foils. You'll probably end up with highlights that look like stripes, or—in the worst cases—like someone accidentally spilled some bleach on your head.

The solution is well known in most hair salons: Balayage. This is a technique of painting the hair in small strokes, which gives the stylist more control in creating an overall more natural appearance. Let me lay down some of the differences:

Why Foils Look Unnatural

1) Foils are square, and the head is round. So it’s difficult to avoid the appearance of lines or stripes in the hair if using foils.

2) When hair is short, it’s only possible to place a single color in each foil instead of two (one light and one dark, or in technical terms, one highlight and one lowlight). On some men, two colors can actually make the overall appearance more natural.

3) If the hair is particularly short, and foils are used on the back and sides, you end up with blond dots. Not necessarily the look you're going for, unless you want to look like a cheetah.

4) With short hair, foils can also fall out while the color is processing, so you might hear the stylist say "oh don't worry, that one isn't needed." It was needed—that's why it was there. 

5) On medium length hair, foils can end up looking dated.

Why Balayage is More Natural

1) Because the head is round, the technique follows the shape of the head, and you can carefully place color where needed.

2) With the Balayage technique, you're able to blend colors in order to keep a balance of colors. For example, if a client returns for more highlights, you can place some of their natural color back in so they don't look too blond.

3) You're guaranteed not to end up with "tiger stripes" using this method, which gives you a look that's more in line with how you'd look naturally.

4) This is a great way to blend grays for the person who is coloring their hair for the first time. There's control, and gray coverage can be a very gradual process.

5) For men with medium length hair, Balayage frames the face better. The idea is to naturally blend colors, without creating a look that's too, processed or has an over done finish.

So, do a little research and find a salon and/or colorist who specializes in Balayage. It might mean breaking up with your regular stylist, but it's well worth it for better highlights in the long run. You'll see more dimension in your color and cut, without worrying about looking like a member of a '90s boy band.

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