Q: I'm doing some research and I wonder if you might be able to help with a question. I need to find out when foils were invented or first used for hair coloring (i.e.: the year or just approximately the time
period would be helpful).
A: I have been unable to find any specific listing of the inventor of the “foiling technique” for applying hair color highlights or lowlights. It is possible that there was nothing significantly unique to the idea
of using foils to targeted haircolor applications to merit the issuance of a patent. However, by tracking the patents that WERE listed, we can see the likely period during which the use of foils is likely to have been developed.
According to Google Patents Search, there was a device patent filed for by Robert E. Nicoletti on April 1, 1974. The device was a hinged device that was meant to isolate a segment
of hair in order to treat the segment with color without exposing the surrounding hair with the color. These specific devices were obviously created to meet the specific need to isolate hair for color treatment. One
could also see that the devices, while useful, might not be practical or comfortable for the client.
It is clear that the problem was further worked on, and that at some point (presumably between these two points in time) foil was employed for the purpose of targeted color
application. On July 18, 1977, Santo M. Minghenelli filed for a patent for “Liquid-impermeable sheets, suitably composed of aluminum foil” to be used in haircolor for targeting specific segments of the hair. These
sheets included pressure sensitive adhesive coatings to aid in their use for the purpose, so they presume an original use of foils for the purpose.
By following the timeline represented by these two patents, we can narrow the origin of using foils for highlighting to somewhere in the mid-70s with the widespread practice of the
technique occurring around the start of the 80s.