Kim Vo talks summer enlightenment, sharing his five favorite ways to brighten hair to reflect the season of sunshine.

A change of season often brings about a change in attitude. Some of your clients might be thinking about lightening up a bit for summer, while others are ready to plunge right in and go for a look that's dramatically different. Here are a few highlighting techniques to tempt them.

Kim Vo
Kim Vo

  • Foils The most common highlighting technique, foils can provide a variety of looks. The key is to develop a common language that allows you to communicate effectively with your clients. I use "pasta speak," which makes it easy for them to clarify if they prefer highlights as wide as angel hair, spaghetti, fettuccine or even lasagna noodles.
  • Balayage Meaning "sweeping" in French, this is a traditional French technique of hand-painting the hair. One-inch sections are coated from root to end, creating a diffused line and warm color. Since the lightening takes place on the surface of the hair only, the palest shade you'll get is like the inside of a lemon.
  • American Tailoring A marriage of the foil look and the Balayage technique, American tailoring involves painting thin slices of hair. Because you're working with smaller sections, the hair can process through completely, allowing you to achieve lighter, cooler shades.
  • Rake Paddle You can let your tool do a lot of the work when you highlight with a rake paddle. The rake separates the hair for you. You then paint the top layers right on the tines. This is a great solution when your client wants finer painted highlights.
  • Flat Paddle Designed like a putty knife, a flat paddle comes in varying widths to deliver differently painted looks. Narrower paddles work best on short hair, wider paddles on long.

So, why switch to a new technique if the same one has been working well on a client for several years? The answer is simple: Clients get bored. And for some strange reason, when boredom sets in, they're more inclined to change colorists than to ask for something new. That's why it's important to have an inventory of tools that allows you to provide many different looks.

I like to modify my clients' color twice a year—in summer and winter. Offering something new gives them an opportunity to participate in the process and keeps it from becoming predictable. I try to intuit how they respond to change, in order to determine whether my recommendations should be subtle or striking. For clients who need to move slowly, I develop a plan that's executed over time, creating a mood of anticipation. For the braver ones, I do something dramatic, resulting in immediate gratification. Either way, it keeps the client involved and, more important, returning time and time again.