Trend: Strobing

Strobing is a recent trend that stems from a technique used to apply makeup in a way that highlights where the light would naturally reflect on the skin. When applied to hair, it means placing brighter colors where you want to mimic natural light. This sounds fantastic, but this is where it goes awry. The internet is overflowing with different definitions of the trend and the video tutorials are all different. It seems to be more of an effect than a concrete technique.

Given the beauty world’s obsessive interest in contouring faces to bring out the best features, it was only a matter of time before experts started using the same technique for hair. Enter hair strobing, a process by which hairstylists weave highlights and lowlights throughout your hair in a unique way that brings out your individual beauty and the facial features that make you special.” (, 2016) I admit, this description sounds Pinterest-worthy. But in my humble opinion, it’s just a wordy synonym for custom color.

Color Placement 101 teaches us to accentuate features with lighter color and apply darker shades surrounding places you want to minimize. When it comes to the classic definition of beauty, symmetry is the name of the game. If your face has a perfect oval shape, then you are in the lucky 20% who can get away with any hairstyle and color. If it doesn’t, that’s not a specialty. I believe it’s a necessity that your hair professional should know how to accommodate your look.

This leads me to belief that hair strobing is no more than a marketing ploy created by a team of stylists to make themselves stand out. Okay, so maybe I’m a cynic. I shouldn’t be so skeptical of this “strobing” trend. I mean, at least people can pronounce it (i.e. ecaille.) And, we don’t have to translate French interpretations of its meaning (like balayage…. Boy oh boy, if I only had a 20% tip for every time a guest has asked me for a “Biolage.”) But I’m also an Aveda color specialist who has been surrounded by talented artists for nearly a decade at Jacksonville’s own Aura Salon. I witness a variety of color techniques diligently applied every day to customize hair color for each guest’s individual look.

How did Hair Strobing come to exist, you ask? Marie Claire tells us that, “The technique was developed by the team at the Andrew Jose salon on London’s Charlotte Street, with colorist Nalan Derby carefully drawing a personalized hair map for each client, zoning the areas to be lifted or given depth – for example, lightening the hair around the eyes, to lift the cheekbones and brighten those peepers.

‘Creating hair color is not a one size fits all concept,’ Nalan says. ‘As there are so many different shades and tones to choose from, a bespoke and tailored color may not be an instant thing. Your perfect color quite often evolves from a series of journeys – which is why it is so important to create an individual path for each client. It is a process that is done together and follows an in-depth consultation.’”

Sounds a lot like doing your job. This statement was, I assume, carefully planned and edited for the salon’s interview with Marie Claire. Its enchanting appeal draws you in for a 600$ “hair color” that will on no uncertain terms instantly turn you into JLo. No… seriously.

Head mapping the placement for hair color is an educational tool that I have always used, and assume that any decent stylist uses as well. Pictured above is yet another marketing tool that is not actually interpretable. As I have grown in experience, the color map lives in my mind, and I design it uniquely for each guest as I apply color. Any Aura stylist will sit you down for a 30 minute consultation prior to coloring and design a shared vision and plan for your color.

I found another abstract method of Strobing used by Matrix SOCOLOR celebrity stylist Daniel Moon. “Hair strobing is an individualized highlighting technique that is specific to one’s natural hair color, face shape and skin tone. It is accomplished by applying wider strips of color for dimension and contrast and using color that are two shades lighter and two shades darker than natural hair color. It is hand painted since it’s so specific to the individual.” I officially extend my challenge to book a color consultation with any Aura stylist. On the distinction between Strobing vs. traditional highlights and balayage? Moon says, “The process differs from typical highlights in that it takes three steps rather than two. After you do the toning and highlighting process, you go back again and highlight to accentuate and build dimension.” I. Just. Can’t. Work smarter, not harder, Mr. Moon.

My research for this topic led me to a wealth of knowledge on the reliable old internet, but in the end, that could not sway my misanthropy for all things Google that lead my guests on a phantom quest for hairfection. Ultimately, I shoot down hair strobing as a passing craze. But don’t put all your fashion faith in me. This is coming from the girl that used to think that leggings weren’t pants.