Color How-To: Backcombing for Soft Chestnut Highlights

We know you’ve been doing a lot of free-hand balayage this summer, but have you tried teasing? Due to a finer selection of hairs, the technique creates a softer, more diffused result, guaranteed to fulfill any client’s need for a seasonal switch-up. Matt Beck (@freesaloneducation) demonstrates the technique mixed with free-hand balayage for soft, rich-chestnut colored highlights, perfect for the warmer tones clients crave in the chillier months. 

Bonus: The color treatment also comes in a convenient take-home jar that you can easily customize with your clients color for them to use as a diluted color treatment. This will prolong their color and add a couple of extra dollars to the appointment with a product and customization fee. 

Get The Look: 

Lift Formula:

  • Paul Mitchell Blonde Skylight Hand-Painting Clay Lightener + Paul Mitchell 40 vol. Cream Developer + 16th of an ounce Olaplex No 1.

Chestnut Color: 

  • Concentrated Salon Color Treatment:  Two tubes of Paul Mitchell Color Craft Custom Color Treatment + two pumps each of Paul Mitchell Color Craft Liquid Color Concentrate in Honeycomb and Chestnut.
  • Take-home Color Treatment: Dilute a few pumps of Paul Mitchell Color Craft Liquid Color Concentrate in Honeycomb and Chestnut into a jar of Paul Mitchell Color Craft Custom Color Treatment


  1. Start by sectioning hair from the top of one ear to the other. Clip away the section at the back. Continue by clipping away a section at the top center of the head (running between the arches of the brows) and leave out the sides.
  2. Begin working on one side. Start from the bottom, and work up in horizontal sections. To backcomb, hold onto the end of a section and gently tease upwards. Using lightener, hand-paint onto the remaining strands from mid-shaft to ends. When reaching the last section at the top, create a face-framing color pop by painting up to the scalp at the very front of the section and taper down at the back. Continue on the other side. 
  3. For the top center section, create a V-shape with the highlights by free-hand painting in a diagonal forward, while over-directing the hair back. For the fringe area at the very front, make the hand-painting sections larger and saturate heavily to add extra pop. 
  4. For the back, take a horizontal panel and free-hand paint. To keep the contrast in the front, avoid heavily saturating the hair. 
  5. Leave to process for 10-15 minutes, rinse and towel dry. Follow with Olaplex No. 2 and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Rinse and shampoo with Paul Mitchell Ultimate Color Repair
  6. Towel dry and apply the chestnut color, saturating throughout from scalp to ends. Finish by rinsing and styling. 

About: Matt Beck, founder of Gratitude Salon Education invites all stylists and future stylists to Now more than ever Matt and his team at Gratitude Salon Education are showcasing their passion for education and for the salon industry by offering an on-line learning network at no charge. A site dedicated to providing the highest quality step by step education on a weekly basis for anyone who wants to log in, be inspired, and learn! Stylists can expect education on cutting, coloring, styling, barbering, and business tips. You can also look forward to totally free educational videos sent by email and live web classes broadcast from in the salon.