"Clouding” Is The Key To Curly Hair With Natural-Looking Highlights

Here’s everything you need to know.

When it comes to highlights, balayage is surely one of the most low-maintenance, natural-appearing hair coloring methods around. In short? The technique centers on adding light dimension from the hair’s ends to anywhere from the mid-shaft to up near the roots in a feathered, almost painterly way. Instead of taking strips of hair and adding streaky highlights towards the root (that, of course, grow out and need significant maintenance), balayage offers truly low-key highlights that grow out beautifully.

That being said — balayage is a technique most often used on those with straight or wavy textures. “Hair clouding,” on the other hand, is a very different method, yet yields similar results as balayage for those with more textured hair.

Diane Da Costa — a celeb-loved stylist, curly hair guru on the Swivel Beauty app, and author of Textured Tresses, The Ultimate Guide to Maintaining and Styling Natural Hair — shares everything that girlies with curly and coily hair need to know about clouding (and why it results in minimal damage on natural tresses, too).

What Is “Clouding?”

Looking for barely-there highlights? “The color clouding or color blocking technique is a simple and quick method of highlighting curly and coily textures to achieve an overall subtle and dramatic change, with soft diffused highlights and saturated ombre effect without using any tools or foils,” explains Da Costa. She adds that it is a hand-scrunching technique that takes around one and a half to two hours for the coloring service, sans the dry time needed after washing out the lightening product.

The result? Da Costa notes that the highlighting method creates a natural, sun-kissed look and only lightens hair “from the mid-shaft to ends, while keeping the roots natural, or [even] coloring the roots with a deeper tone to accentuate and blend the colors.”

Which Hair Type Is The Technique Best For?

“The color clouding technique is best for curly and coily girls who don’t wear their hair straight since it is not a precision highlighting technique and more of an overall diffused, ombré technique,” Da Costa says.

As for particular hair textures that may want to consider the look, she explains that the method is great for “all curly and coily textures, as well as deep wavy textures [with] fine and thick hair types — [like] 2C, 4C, and afro-coily textures with C & zig-zag patterns.” Though her biggest piece of advice is to check-in with your stylist to make sure that your curls are healthy and strong enough for the hair coloring process.

What Does “Clouding” Maintenance Look Like?

When it comes to hair clouding, Da Costa explains that “here is virtually no hair loss or damage” with this technique — especially if there is a healthy hair regime filled with hair masks, hair oiling, and more in place (she recommends the Maria Nila Structure Repair collection, especially for maintaining a vibrant hair hue).

As for maintaining the sun-kissed look, she explains that “the lightening service can be applied every three to six months and will result in lighter tonality, which can be toned with a high-gloss tint to achieve different hues of color.” In other words? Expect to spend way less time sitting in the salon chair.