Can You Use Regular Aluminum Foil To Highlight Hair?

Do you sometimes sit at the hairdresser’s and ask yourself whether they use normal aluminum foil when putting on your highlights? Then you are not the only one!

A week ago I received an e-mail from one of the readers who wondered which aluminum foil hairdressers use for highlighting. I hadn’t thought about this before and that’s why I thought it was a funny question. My first instinct was that they do use foil for coloring hair, but just to be on the safe side I called my local hairdresser.

Below you can read what she said to me!

So, can you use regular aluminum foil to add highlights to your hair?

Yes, you can! You can indeed use normal aluminum foil to add highlights to your hair. The only thing you should pay attention to is the fact that the foil indicates that it is safe for metal. My own local hair salon has the standard “sandwich size” aluminum foil in the drawer. She says they actually always use it. It is easy to use, cheap and can be picked up in any supermarket. 

There are also her salons that even buy huge rolls of this foil from a wholesaler and use an industrial cutter to cut off pieces of this foil.

My local hairdresser indicated that aluminum foil is great to use if you want to add highlights to your hair at home.

Now I have to say that you could even use waxed paper to dye your hair with. At the end of the day, it’s all about what you prefer. Of course, you can try both and see what works best for you personally.

What thickness of aluminum foil do you need for your highlights?

Aluminum foil is made in different thicknesses and different strengths. In any case, this is something you have to think about. You need aluminum foil that is strong enough to withstand the chemicals of the hair dye but is also malleable enough to keep the different sections of the dyed hair separate.

To make sure it is strong enough, you can always fold a piece of aluminum foil in half at the end. Let this part touch the roots of the hair. In this way, you make the aluminum foil twice as strong and you can be sure that it goes well!

How should you cut the aluminum foil for highlights?

This is an important part where you should at least keep your attention. The most important thing here is to cut the strips to a manageable size. This of course depends on how long the hair is. If you have a short haircut, you will need a lot less aluminum foil than if you have long hair. 

You can normally assume that you need strips of about 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 centimeters) wide and 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) long. 

Because you fold the aluminum foil so that it goes around the hair, it’s handy to make strips that are about twice as long as the hair you’re going to dye (this will often be the same as above, but it’s not necessary). If you now have extremely long hair and are unable to wrap your hair with 1 foil strip, use 2 separate pieces of foil that are as long as the hair and make a kind of sandwich out of them. One at the top and one at the bottom. 

There is always the option of using a piece of foil twice the length of your hair. However, you will have to hide or curl your hair in the foil and this can cause a crease in the color of your hair. So beware of this! Do it carefully or don’t do it.

How do you highlight hair with aluminum foil?

Below I’ll guide you through the process of highlighting your hair with aluminum foil. Take your time and read it carefully. It is more important to do it right than it is to do it fast!

What do you need:
– Clips or barrettes
– hair dye (or bleach)
– a tail comb
– a tinting brush (for applying the dye)
– comics or foil

It is handy to cut the strips of aluminum foil in advance. Think about how many you need and make this number. Of course, you can always make more in case one tears or if you need more. The most important thing is that you have the aluminum strips.

#1 – Divide your hair into sections
Divide the hair you want to color into different sections. To give yourself more control over the whole process, it is useful to divide the section of hair you want to color into small bundles. Each section (bundle) can be temporarily secured with a barrette.

#2 – Use your comb to select the hair you want to color
Using the tail comb you can select pieces you want to paint. This requires you to choose beautiful pieces of hair, or weave your comb through the hair to select different sections. To create a beautiful, even and natural To create look it is convenient to select small pieces instead of big ones. and it is also convenient to use many different pieces of aluminum foil instead of trying to put everything in one.

#3 – Use the aluminum foil
Place the folded piece of aluminum foil under the section of hair where you are going to apply the hair dye. Make sure the aluminum foil fits snugly to the roots of the hair for an even better result.

#4 – Time for the hair dye!
Now it’s time to apply the hair dye. Make sure you completely soak the hair you want to dye. Every piece must be done to get a nice smooth result. Use the aluminum foil as a table on which your hair lies and shrub with the tinting comb. 

#5 wrap the foil
Now that the aluminum foil is under the hair and the hair dye is in the hair, it is time to wrap the aluminum foil around the hair. 

Start wrapping at the end of the hair (not at the roots) and fold it so that all the hair is completely wrapped by the aluminum foil.

Be careful not to squeeze too hard into the wrapped aluminum foil. Otherwise, you might get the hair dye starting to leak.

Just wrapped the hair completely, now it’s time to fold the aluminum foil and hide it. Take the foil at the end of the hair (not at the roots) and fold it so that all the aluminum foil is wrapped around the hair like an envelope. 

#6 – Fold the aluminum foil
Now it’s time to fold the aluminum foil with the hair around it so that it goes close to the roots. Make sure you don’t squeeze too hard here because you can see a “fold line” in your paint. 

If the hair is long you can also choose to roll up the aluminum foil instead of folding it. 

#7 – Make sure you have every strip
Repeat the previous 6 steppes for each strip of hair you want to paint. Take your time. Again, it’s better to do it quietly and well than in a hurry and not happy with the result afterward.

Leave the hair dye now as long as it says on the package. 

Now, of course, this is a slow process and the hair strands you did first will be finished sooner (in terms of time the paint needs to sit) than the last sections. It is therefore advisable to first make all the sections you want to be painted and then put all the paint in at once and fold everything closed. In this way, you avoid different results and everything gets the same nice and even result!

What can I use instead of foil for highlights?

Aluminum foil has been used a lot because it’s a pretty easy thing to work with. Many salons work with it and get great results. Of course, there are reasons not to go for aluminum foil (maybe an allergy, or maybe you just don’t have it in your house… So what could you use it for?

Waxed paper (plastic wrap)
As I said before, you could also use a good waxed paper. There are hair salons that use plastic wrap as an alternative to aluminum foil. They do this because it allows them to see the colored hair. This is also sometimes used because it is ideal to cover as much of the hair as possible. This makes a huge color changes a lot easier. By covering as much of the hair as possible you get very close to the roots and this gives a nice overall result.

So the reasons to use plastic wrap are as follows:

– You can create a beautiful and natural look (maybe even better than with aluminum foil).

– You can see which parts you have already painted because you can see through the plastic wrap.

– You can more easily use heat (like a hairdryer) if you need it.

Final Thoughts

So, can you use regular aluminum foil to highlight your hair? You sure can! It is even something that lots of hair salons use to do exactly that. The mini-guide on how to use aluminum foil with highlights gives you the opportunity to start experimenting at home with this. As I’ve said earlier. Be prepared, do it safely, and make sure that you set aside enough time so that you don’t have to do it in a hurry.