‘Hair Frosting’ Is Replacing Balayage & It’s So Natural

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 12: Madison Beer attends the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards at Barclays Center on September 12, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for MTV/ ViacomCBS)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 12: Madison Beer attends the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards at Barclays Center on September 12, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for MTV/ ViacomCBS)

Though we’re not far into 2022, salon experts have been busy predicting (and cementing) the haircut, color, and styling trends that are going to take the year by storm.

For color services, there’s ‘French glossing,’ a modern take on the ombré look, which promises to transform dull, dry hair. We’ve also seen a trend towards ‘expensive brunette,’ with many people embracing the roots that grew out over the past two years. But one LA-inspired hair color movement is slowly trickling down into top salons — and it’s set to take over from one of the most-requested color appointments, balayage.

Enter: hair frosting.

What is the hair frosting color trend?

Dreamed up by Stuart Marsh, award-winning color director at Taylor Taylor London, hair frosting is not to be confused with frosted tips reminiscent of ’90s boy bands. The buzzy blonde technique consists of bleaching individual strands of hair a cool shade of blonde from root to tip, while leaving the adjacent, darker strands untouched. This intricate technique creates a multifaceted finish that juxtaposes light and dark hairs, which, the salon says, lends a ‘salt and pepper’ effect. The lightened strands fall, very delicately, among the darker hairs, resembling how frost settles atop trees — hence the phrase ‘hair frosting’.

So who’s the inspiration behind hair frosting? There are quite a few people, actually. Hailey Bieber’s recent sun-kissed hair (created by hairstylist Bryce Scarlett) is a perfect example. Mostly brunette, the wafer-thin, bleached strands that sit at the front of her face impart a contouring effect — think of the technique as a modern-day alternative to using Sun-In hair lightener. “If bleached strands are concentrated at the front of the head, they frame the face and create contrast,” explains Stuart.

Halle Berry is another celebrity championing hair frosting lately, with multiple blonde strands scattered throughout her brunette. Courtesy of colorist Tracey Cunningham, the trend creates a glow to her hair. Then there’s Sofia Richie, Suki Waterhouse and Sarah Paulson, all of whom are firmly on the hair frosting bandwagon this year.

How does hair frosting differ from traditional highlights or balayage?

Balayage is arguably the biggest hair color movement of the past decade. But there’s a big difference between balayage painting and hair frosting. Stuart explains: “While balayage, foil highlights, and hair frosting are all types of hair lightening techniques that don’t involve coloring every single strand of hair with the same color, frosting gives a more muted, subtle effect.”

Balayage means ‘sweep’, so hair is lightened in larger sections. Stuart adds: “Frosting typically uses small, cool-blonde tones to contrast the darker base color [rather than the warmer, buttery tones that tend to be used when creating balayage]. It’s easy to maintain, as it’s designed to blend into your natural hair color.” Stuart says that hair frosting creates a really soft, multidimensional look. “The results can create full layers of color with a detailed finish that never appears ‘overdone’.” He adds: “It’s the best result for clients who want an easy, manageable color without high commitment.”

Does hair frosting work on all hair types and textures?

Hair frosting is bespoke, too, depending on where your hair falls naturally or which style you prefer to wear it in. Center parting? Cool blonde face framers will amplify your hair color and accentuate your face. It’s also perfect for all hair types and textures, provided you nail your aftercare routine. “The technique can be used on hair of any texture, including curly and coily hair,” says Stuart. “If your hair is curly, in the days before your salon appointment, just make sure you clarify and condition the hair, as this will help retain moisture and keep it healthy after lightening.”

Bleached hair is prone to becoming dry and brittle. “In the first three weeks after bleaching, try to wash your hair less often so that you don’t strip the lengths of their natural oils,” says Stuart. “Avoid heat styling and keep your strands hydrated with a deep conditioner. R29 also loves Amika’s The Kure Intense Bond Repair Mask, Olaplex No 3, and BLEACH London’s Reincarnation Mask, for reversing damage and breathing life into weakened, bleached hair.

How do you explain hair frosting to a colorist?

All colorists would recommend collecting some pictures of similar styles for inspiration ahead of your consultation and appointment. But here’s exactly what to ask for, according to Stuart: “If you want to try hair frosting, ask your stylist to add ‘cool tones’ that contrast your darker base color and explain that you would like a more muted effect than traditional foil highlights.” The latter may appear chunkier and disconnected from the darker pieces of hair. Hair frosting is all about achieving a dainty softness — and it’s going to be everywhere this year.

This story was originally published on Refinery29 UK.

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