The Ultimate Survival Guide to Hair Colour Foils

Hair Colour Foils
February 27, 2022

Rachael Grant

Everyone is always raving about hair colour foils. After all, they’re one of the most popular choices for colouring hair. Yet, their popularity means it can be intimidating to ask questions, and many people feel lost when the topic of newly treated locks arises.

Fortunately for you, we’ve compiled a detailed overview of the wondrous world of hair colour foils. There’s information for beginners (what exactly are hair colour foils, and how long should they take?) and for experts (what effects can they achieve, and are there alternatives?).

Keep reading to discover new information or refresh your knowledge!


Hair colour foils, also called hairdressing or salon foils, are thin sheets of foil used during hair colouring. They can be cut according to the needs of the client or purchased in pre-cut strips. The standard colour is silver, but using distinct colours or prints can prevent confusion once products have been applied—and they look more exciting!


Hair foils work by allowing strands of hair to be carefully separated. Products can be applied without accidentally affecting unwanted areas, and foil is wrapped around the hair to generate heat and complete the process. The most common hair colouring products to hair are bleach, peroxide and hair dye. These may sound harsh, but most quality salon-grade products are infused with healthy hair ingredients that prevent damage, such as keratin and argan oil.

The process ultimately gives the hair an organic, multi-tonal appearance that ranges from subtle to axiomatic. The blending of colours also means that regrowth is relatively quick and easy.

Often, it is advised that foils shouldn’t be used on short hair. This is because an inexperienced or inattentive hand can cause a patchy and unappealing appearance. However, there are plenty of guides about using foils on shorter haircuts to achieve a gorgeous outcome. It’s all about patience and experience.


The allure of cheap rolls of kitchen foil can be a strong one. After all, isn’t salon foil just overpriced kitchen foil?

We’re here to tell you there are a few key differences. 

First and foremost, salon foil is salon-grade, which means it’s one of the highest quality wares on the market. More than that, salon foil is often nicely separated into easy-to-apply squares and comes in a range of colours and patterns to aid in organisation.

And, of course, using specialised foils has the added benefit of making anyone look like an expert.

While regular kitchen foil can technically be used for hair colouring purposes (it traps heat and separates hair just like salon foil), always check the product description to ensure metal-based compatibility.


One of the biggest sources of confusion amongst salon newbies is the difference between full head and partial foils. Luckily, we’ve outlined the two techniques in-depth below.

Full Head of Foils

A full head of foils is almost always offered as a dramatic change and is safer than covering the slathering the scalp in product. The process involves covering approximately 50% of hair with foils and applying product to every layer. This will help you achieve the most even possible result.

Partial Head of Foils

A partial or half head of foils is appropriate for touch-ups after a full head of colouring has been applied. Foils are used on the most visible sections of hair, such as the top layer. It’s also a chance to make any small changes, such as increasing lightness in the face-framing layers or letting other areas darken.


The time required for hair colour foils will vary depending on a range of factors, including: 

  • Type of colouring (full or partial)
  • Length of the hair
  • Experience level of the salon.

However, the average time is approximately two to three hours.

Keep in mind that touch-ups will need to be performed approximately every six weeks to prevent visible regrowth.


This is a question that many people forget to factor in. How many foils does it take to achieve a polished look?

The answer again depends on the length of the hair and the type of colouring (full or partial). However, for a full head of hair, it’s standard to use 50 to 100 foils.


Some hairstyles will demand foils for the desired effect, but other techniques offer their own benefits. While choosing a technique should often be left to hair professionalstheir experience is what you’re paying for, after allrequests for specific methods are usually welcome.

Whatever the case, always evaluate which option will achieve your desired look. The difference can separate good from great.


Balayage is a technique where colour is painted directly onto the hair. 

This technique clearly differs from the preciseness of foils, which achieve a wonderful multi-tonal appearance without the risk of affecting unwanted areas. However, the sweeping application of balayage creates a more natural and blended look. It’s also easier to decide the ‘softness’ or ‘brightness’ level compared to hair colour foils.

Ombre / Dip-dye

An ombre or dip-dye technique is used to create a two-tone look. The product is applied to a specific portion of the hair (usually the top or bottom of the hair) using a technique similar to balayage.

Palm Painting

A relatively new technique, palm painting involves applying product directly to the hair with gloved hands. Although this sounds somewhat crude, palm painting allows products to melt directly into the hair and blend smoothly.

Plastic Cap

A plastic cap is one of the simplest and safest ways to apply any sort of hair product. The technique involves pulling strands of hair through small holes in a plastic cap and colouring the selected segments. Typically, this is a technique performed at home instead of a salon, although it can still achieve quality results.


At the beginning of this article, we aimed to provide an easy-to-read overview of hair colour foils. There was a lot to consider, and we covered beginner to expert facts throughout the journey. 


We hope you’ve added to your knowledge about hair colour foils, or at least had fun along the way.  


And who knows? 


Maybe the information provided here will give you the confidence to try hair colour foils on your hair, or even brighten someone else’s day (and tresses).

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