Two of my favorite methods for highlighting naturally curly hair are balayage and pintura. In this post, I will explain the difference between these two hair coloring methods and offer my opinion on which technique works best for different curl types.
The history of Balayage
Balayage was created by the French in the 1970’s and has been slowly gaining popularity in the U.S. It is a hair highlighting method that creates the beautiful natural sun-kissed looks preferred by Hollywood starlets and Victoria Secret models. With both the Balayage and Pintura highlighting techniques, the hair appears darker near the roots and lighter on the ends as if the hair has been exposed to the sun for a few months.
How the Balayage Highlighting Method works
I took a class in Balayage offered by the L’Oreal Soho Professional Academy. The teacher was Min Kim, who has been one of Nancy Braun’s assistant. Min Kim and Nancy Braun are widely recognized as experts in the Balayage technique. As taught by Min Kim, when performing Balayage, a stylist applies lightener by first sweeping it onto the mid-shaft of the hair, then blending it lightly toward the roots and heavily onto the ends. This causes a slight lightening of the roots and more intense lighting of the ends. This is particularly important along the front hairline and along both sides of the part. It takes practice to do it well, but when it is done by an experienced colorist, the effect is gorgeous.
A little background on Pintura
I studied Pintura highlighting at the DevaCurl Academy in NYC, where I took a class with Dennis Da Silva, the cofounder of DevaCurl. As far as I know, Dennis created the Pintura technique. Dennis is Brazilian and “pintura” means “painting” in Brazilian.
How the Pintura Highlighting Method works
In Pintura highlighting, the lightener is painted onto the hair, however, it is applied first at the roots rather than at the mid-shaft. Also, more lightener is deposited at the roots than is done in Balayage. This creates lighter roots. In order to mimic the natural lightening of the sun, even more lightener is applied to the mid-shaft and ends of the hair than is applied to the roots. This is the same in both Balayage and Pintura.
How to Choose
The question remains, when is Pintura better than Balayage and vice versa?
The answer lies in the size of the curl.
Tightly curly hair such as fractal, corkscrew, botticelli, and corkicelli diffuses more light than loosely wavy hair. This is because the tighter curl creates a surface that reflects light in different directions and thereby diffuses the light and makes the hair appear darker.
For this reason, it is best to use the Pintura technique on tighter curls because the highlights need to be brighter in order to be seen. In the case of looser curls, such as wavy and swavy hair, the hair has greater light reflection, and therefore the Balayage technique looks better.