I Tried the "Money Piece" Highlights Trend and Learned Something About Myself

POPSUGAR Photography | Alyssa Kaplan

  • "Money piece" highlights have had a resurgence in popularity this year.
  • They are similar to the chunky, face-framing highlights that were big in the '90s.
  • The final results are dramatic and fun but do require regular upkeep.

Aside from a brief phase in college where I hopped on the ombré-hair bandwagon, I've stuck to my signature beachy waves and medium-brown hair color almost every day for the last five years 一 until recently, when I was itching for a change. After spending one too many late nights scrolling on TikTok, I decided to try out the "money piece" highlights trend. I wanted to add some brightness and dimension to my monotone hair, and because I've seen so many flattering examples of these chunky, face-framing highlights, I knew opting for this style would get me there.

Days later, I found myself in the styling chair of Tyler Timothy Carfi, my longtime hairstylist and owner of the brand-new Selfish Hair Salon in Mt. Kisco, NY. I explained that I wanted to take the money-piece trend for a spin but was fearful about it looking too chunky or stark. We discussed adding in balayage highlights to balance out the money pieces and give my overall look more dimension. Keep scrolling to see how it went.

Before
POPSUGAR Photography | Alyssa Kaplan

Before

The Process
POPSUGAR Photography | Alyssa Kaplan

The Process

Having opted for balayage over traditional foils in the past with the goal of achieving the most natural look, I was surprised when Carfi began to cover the front sections of my hair in foils.

"I decided to use foilayage, a technique in which freehand-painted color is separated or wrapped in foils to allow a soft gradation of color from roots to ends," he said. "To achieve a more controlled money piece, I decided to use a traditional weave and foil [on that section]."

POPSUGAR Photography | Alyssa Kaplan

If you're as confused about how foilayage differs from traditional highlights and balayage as I was throughout this process, let him explain. "Foilayage combines the use of balayage (freehand painting of lightener) and separating the lightened pieces with foil for even lifting, control, heat, and protection against bleed marks (blotching from pieces touching)."

He then freehand painted a few more sections of hair before letting the lightener work its magic. Finally, he applied the toner, which would give me the golden caramel color I was after.

After
POPSUGAR Photography | Alyssa Kaplan

After

Once my hair was dried and styled, it was time for the reveal. After my initial shock wore off from seeing such bright, bold highlights front and center, I loved it. Having such a distinct money piece was certainly outside my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed what a fun change it was. I was also thrilled that we decided to go for balayage highlights in addition to the money piece. They helped to give me an overall brighter look, and I loved the depth and dimension that we achieved.

I will say, though, my opinion changed slightly after it had been a few weeks, so it's worth considering the grow-out process before deciding to try this trend (more on that ahead).

Final Thoughts
POPSUGAR Photography | Alyssa Kaplan

Final Thoughts

For the first couple of weeks, my money-piece highlights were great. It was refreshing to look in the mirror and see something other than my flat, natural hair color. But around the one-month mark was when I started to see regrowth and the dreaded line of demarcation. As someone with little patience for frequent maintenance trips to the salon, I began to realize that keeping my money pieces looking fresh would require more touch-ups than I was willing to get. In the end, I decided to head back to the salon to soften the look.

When I went in for the second time, I asked for shadow root, also known as a root smudge. This is when the stylist applies a color close to your natural shade on top of the highlights a few inches from the roots. It's done with the intention of blending the harsh contrast and softening the grow-out phase 一 which is exactly what I was looking for.

My takeaway for anyone considering money-piece highlights? If you don't mind maintenance, it's definitely worth a try. But if you can't be bothered to consistently touch up your roots, like me, ask your colorist for a more subtle take on the trend.