Ecaille by Monica Byrne


With a decline in bold, bright, unnatural colors and a return to more natural looking hues, Ecaille is THE new trend. Think warm golds paired with rich caramel tones, as seen on Blake Lively, Khloe Kardashian and Jessica Alba.  It’s a technique that supplements color, whether natural or not, with multicolored highlights to achieve a tortoiseshell effect. Monica Byrne, owner of Monica Byrne Studio (Falmouth, ME), explains.

“Ecaille is the French word for tortoiseshell and the technique consists of golden highlights paired with darker, rich, caramel tones with accent pieces and a punctuation of lightness…the end result resembles a tortoiseshell,” explains Byrne.

Ecaille Technique

Step 1- Base Color:

If using natural virgin hair, go to Step 2. If smudging (slightly shifting natural color - lighter or darker) or retouching new growth, formulate for desired result.

Step 2– Formulation:

If client has natural virgin hair, choose 3 or more colors that are within 2-3 levels lighter or darker of base. For example, if base is level 6 neutral, 3 good choices would be; 1. level 4 gold; 2. level 6 warm red; and 3. level 8 copper. If client has colored hair, lift to reach the level of lightness needed to create the lighter color (in this case level 8 copper), because color won't lift color.

Step 3 - Placement:

Starting at the nape, Balayage the darkest 2 color choices, starting with 2 sections of the darkest color, then 1 section of the mid color. Repeat this pattern to low occipital. 

Starting at low occipital, change pattern to 1 section mid, 1 section light, 1 section dark. Repeat this pattern to about one inch above ear. 

Starting 1 inch above ear, change pattern to 1 mid, 1 light, 1 dark, 1 mid, 1 light. Repeat pattern until the round of the head (apex to temples). 

Starting at top of head, eliminate dark color and alternate mid and light sections.

Step 4 Punctuation of Light:

This is the lightest brightest highlight, (usually prelightened), in some form of blond, placed at the fringe section or customized accent pieces – they can be bold or delicate.

Step 5 – Toning

After processing and shampooing, tone all prelightened sections. On colored hair, tone the lightened hair to the lightest color choice (in this case level 8 copper). Be sure to avoid the punctuation of light and formulate for that section separately.

Formula for Above Model:

Step 1- Natural virgin hair

Step 2- Level 4 gold with 10 volume developer, level 6 warm red with 20 volume developer and level 8 copper with 30 volume developer

Step 4- Lightener with 30-volume developer

“This is a technique that really has to be customized for each specific client, and that includes the formulas, as well as the placement pattern, because the accent pieces and punctuation of light are crucial to making this tortoiseshell effect flattering,” says Byrne.

[Image courtesy of Glow Communications]

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