Brittany Pavao
Updated on December 27, 2023

Balayage, shadow root, melt, tone, gloss, glaze… There are many different techniques out there with many different names. We as hairstylists are always working through the creative process to come up with new and different ways to color the hair. With all of the trends from the 90’s coming back, it should be no surprise to you that the term “frosted” is coming back with them.

Don’t worry, we aren’t bringing back Justin Timberlake’s frosted tips (I know that’s what you all were thinking). If we aren’t talking about frosted tips, then what are we talking about? Let’s get down to it.

What Does the Term Frosted Hair Mean?

Frosted hair is the up and coming trend of 2024 and is a great way to accentuate your natural hair color. It is a little bit softer than balayage and is applied from the root area all the way to the ends. I would describe it as sweet and subtle. Specific areas of the hair are lightened delicately, creating a soft, sunkissed look.

It is a great technique for someone who is new to coloring their hair. Think super subtle face framing highlights. This technique will grow out super natural allowing for low maintenance. A guest who is receiving a frosted look will typically return for a “frosting” appointment about every 6 months.

Here is an example of just how natural frosted hair can look like. There are very fine natural highlights accentuating her features.

It is possible to create the frosted look with gray coverage clients as well. This what has been done for this charming lady.

How is Frosting Different from Balayage?

I would say frosting is a different form of balayage. With balayage, we tend to see bold ribbons of dimension created throughout the hair. While balayage started out as a super subtle highlighting trend, it now tends to show a bolder look, while giving a low maintenance style, as it allows for more time in between appointment visits. A guest who is receiving a balayage service will typically return for another balayage appointment about every 3-5 months.

Here is an example of a balayaged look. There is a soft grown-out root with a bold face frame. Ribbons of dimension are placed throughout the hair for a natural but brighter look.

Another example is of a frosted look featuring a very subtle dimension throughout the hair for a low commitment color.

Here is a frosted look compared to a balayage look side by side. On the left there are some pieces framing her face, but they are very subtle. On the right you can see that there is a much bolder look around the face and hairline.

And below, there is a before and after. Very subtle highlights were added into her hair to create sunkissed dimension and soft face framing. A great example of what a frosted brown hair look can be.

How Is Frosting Different from Traditional Highlighting?

A traditional highlighting technique is done when a guest wants a high maintenance look. This means that the blonde goes right to the root area. There can still be contrast and dimension left throughout the hair or enhanced with the help of lowlights, but the light pieces will go all the way to the root. Most traditional highlights tend to be bold and bright. A guest who books for a traditional highlight will typically be back in the salon for a lightening service about every 6-8 weeks.

The photo below is the perfect example of traditional highlights. Here you will see that this is a very light and higher maintenance blonde. The highlights go up to her root area and you can visibly see the dimension in her hair.

How Do We Create the Frosted Look?

Frosting is delicately applied to specific strands of the hair. It is applied from regrowth to ends. The goal is to create a salt and pepper effect in the hair. Think sprinkled in highlights on very small strands of hair. Smaller hair sections allow for cooler tones to be created in the hair. Placement is also important. The stylist should be considering different factors. It is important to note where your guest parts their hair and if they tend to put it up often.

Traditional lightener or clay lightener can be used to create this look. The type of lightener depends on the hair type being worked on and stylist preference. The result is an extremely soft multidimensional look with very low maintenance. Low maintenance means low commitment.

A mix of techniques can be executed to create similar looks. The softness around her face is the goal idea of frosting the hair.

How Do I Ask for this Technique?

I always say photos are important. Having a visual aid makes it so much easier to communicate what exactly you want. Sharing an article that describes the technique (like this one) will also help with communicating this to your hairstylist. Our version of a tone or a style and your version may be completely different, which is why I love seeing inspiration photos.

Will this Technique Work on Anyone?

Yes! Hair frosting can be customized to each guest. Curly, straight, wavy, textured, you name it- we can frost it! So you need to decide for yourself what level you want to brighten your hair to.

Again, a bolder face-framing look like the one on the left is balayage, and will require more frequent visits and using a toning shampoo to maintain blonde brass free. On the right, you will see frosting, which gives a much softer framing look and is easier to maintain.

If you are someone who has never colored their locks before or are looking for a soft and subtle look, frosting is definitely something to consider. It is the perfect thing for the guest who wants that subtle glow. I would love to connect with all of you, follow me on Instagram @brittanysblondebeauties for more tips and tricks on the latest hair trends.

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