Photographed by Anjali Pinto.
"Aluminum is the number one material sitting in landfills," says Rick Wellman, color director and co-owner of the Patrick Melville Salon. "It lasts longer than our lifetimes. So, why would you want to contribute to that by using it for highlights?"
It's a question that more and more colorists are asking; though, Wellman was the first to come up with a solution. Instead of using aluminum foil to set highlights, he pioneered Biolights, biodegradable cotton used for the same purpose. The material decomposes outside in less than six months and is completely plant-based. "The hair-color industry has been moving in a more sustainable, eco-friendly direction in terms of what goes inside the foil," Wellman says, "So, we needed to find a way to match that."
Using cotton instead of foil has benefits for your hair, too. First of all, it's a faster application process by about 20 minutes, Wellman estimates. And, it's a lot gentler. "Using aluminum is the most aggressive way to accelerate highlights, since metal is a heat conductor, meaning it makes the color heat up," Wellman says. Hair can actually overcook, which is one of the most common ways highlights can cause damage. "That heat triples the chances of hair breaking," he tells us.
It's not just about the health of the hair, though. The final result that Biolights creates is much more soft and subtle than traditional foil highlights. For women with dark hair, it might be a game changer: "It makes the color lift gently enough so that you can get those nice caramels and chocolate tones in dark hair," Wellman says, "Rather than artificial-looking strips of white or blonde."
We have a feeling this is going to catch on in a big way. After all, we've gotten rid of aluminum in our deodorant, so why not eliminate it from our salon treatment — especially if it makes for better end results?
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