There’s no questioning the fact that when it comes to looking effortlessly natural, French girls do it best. Their fresh, perfectly imperfect beauty look is coveted by women the world over, but anyone who’s tried au naturel chic will also know that it’s anything but effortless to emulate. A LOT of hard work goes into looking like you’ve genuinely just woken up like that (unless you were born French), and this is especially true when it comes to hair.
Tousled waves with grown-out, sun-kissed highlights à la Vanessa Paradis and Léa Seydoux may look like the result of last summer’s vacation to Saint-Tropez, but it’s actually artful highlighting. (Please—no one’s roots naturally look that good.) Thus, our ears perked up when we heard about a new technique that’s rapidly gathering momentum in Europe and has taken natural highlighting to the next level.
Enter palm painting, balayage’s brush-free counterpart. Pioneer of the trend Marcos Verissimo, senior colourist at Neville Hair and Beauty in London, tells us all you need to know. Keep scrolling to find out about the palm painting hair-colour technique!
WHAT IS PALM PAINTING?
“Palming is a technique that involves spreading hair colour with your hands and only hands (no tools like brushes or combs),” explains Verissimo. It goes one step further than balayage, as it doesn’t follow any pattern or structure, which helps avoid harsh lines and stripes you often get with highlighting tools. Instead, the colour is massaged in freehand to large sections of hair and not too close to the root either. This allows virgin (otherwise known as undyed) hair, particularly around the hairline, to show through; meanwhile, the subtle difference in thickness of the highlights supposedly gives a much gentler and more fluid look.
“Palming enables me to achieve great dimension and break all the rules,” explains Verissimo. Unlike foils when the hair is folded up in isolation, palming allows highlighted strands to sit on hair that hasn’t been coloured. The slight payoff mimics a natural, sun-kissed look (because you never come back from vacation with perfect bleached stripes).
WHAT ARE THE PROS?
It’s less maintenance.
Having your highlights sculpted around the regrowth means you can go months without having to get it touched up. Even then, the main thing that will have you zipping back to the salon is the shine-and-colour fade, as opposed to fear of dark roots.
It’s healthier for your hair.
It’s healthier for hair not only because the low upkeep means you don’t have to get it dyed as often, but also because of the way colour takes to hair. “Foil-free hand technique means the hair isn’t overly processed, and the colour lifts much slower,” explains Verissimo. Foils accelerate the dyeing process (which is why you get a much lighter colour), but that weakens hair follicles as the dye is too quickly absorbed.
It’s better for medium-length to long hair
While you can lighten up any hair colour (it’s not strictly reserved for blondes), this technique works best on mid-length to long hair. “The reason … is because you’ll be able to see and create more dimensions and flow,” explains Verissimo. It’s tricky to get the roots and colour blend when hair is short; you need length to really play around with tones.
So far, we’ve yet to see any examples of palm painting on curly, textured or kinky-curly strands, and we’re very curious to see if the same technique can transfer to hair that isn’t wavy or straight. We'll keep you posted, and in the meantime, tell us: Do you think palm painting is the next balayage? Sound off below!
Opening image: @joannahalpin