The name might call to mind a can of Duncan Hines or jarring early 2000s frosted tips, but the technique is much more natural than both. Basically, it’s a riff on traditional highlights that add subtle pops of brightness throughout your hair. “Hair frosting is a free-hand method to paint highlights on the surface of the hair,” says Bianca Hillier, a celebrity hair colorist and Olaplex ambassador. “They’re intentionally placed and have a natural grow out, perfect for those who only get their hair maintained a few times a year.”
The super natural look is achieved because the highlights are painted directly on the hair, not on a foil like you may be used to. Not only does this give you a less precise look, but the lack of foil keeps the color on top of the hair, instead of moving all the way through it, explains Hillier. “A foil conducts heat, and frosting doesn’t instigate any heat and allows the chemicals to act at the formulated pace,” she says. “These frosted bits feel more sheer and ribbon-like opposed to a foil—dense and tinsel-like.”
Hillier says that the name “frosted” usually refers to an icy tone, there’s room to wiggle and you can get the look with warmer, more golden tones as well. “It’s always best to show up with an inspiration photo of what you desire allowing the hair colorist to navigate what is realistic to achieve and give a thorough consultation,” she says. “With a frosted look everyone must consider their skin tone and eye color in order to compliment what is best for you.”
Other things to consider? How much maintenance you want to commit to—this will determine the level of brightness you go for—as well as how natural you want the highlights to look, since they can range from sun-kissed to full-on money piece vibes.
No matter what shade or brightness level you go with, Hillier suggests asking your stylist for “soft contrast with fluid frosted tips,” to get the desired look. You’ll also want to upgrade your hair routine a little to make the highlights pop. “I always recommend my clients use Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother, and Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil at home to give the hair shine since cooler tones reflect less light than a golden warm tone,” she says. “I want all my clients to have the most sparkle possible.”
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty writer at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.