Unless you’ve been living on a remote island for the last couple of decades, you’ve definitely heard of balayage. Just about everyone has seen it in magazines, on television, and even just out and about on the street. Your stylist may even suggest it if you want to try a fresh new color that’s lighter or darker than your natural shade.
But just what the heck is balayage, anyway…and why does it suddenly seem so popular in 2019? Sure, it looks great, but are there other benefits, too?
Absolutely! In fact, there’s a whole lot more science, strategy, and creativity in a great balayage than the average woman realizes.
So, let’s shed a little light on the subject and highlight the benefits of this French-originating color process together.
What is Balayage?
Here’s the official definition of balayage:
A hair coloring method that involves free-hand painting the hair shaft to produce a multi-tonal, naturally graduated shift between color and the regrowth line.
Now, let’s break that definition down.
First, let’s talk about the regrowth line. In “plain English,” this term refers to the harsh contrast that develops between your overall color and your natural color, usually at the root.
The bigger the difference between your natural color and the color you choose when you dye, the more obvious this regrowth will be as it grows out.
Need an example? Think of a brunette who goes platinum blonde. As her hair grows out, the roots become much more obvious. The longer they grow out, the further down the hair shaft the regrowth line travels.
Blondes who go dark can also suffer from the same root regrowth issue, but light roots are often much less obvious. This is a result of the way the color reflects light.
In balayage, color is freehand painted onto the hair shaft by the stylist. This is in direct contrast with foils, all-over color, and regular highlighting techniques, which all focus on applying color more precisely to achieve intensity of results.
How is Balayge Applied?
In most cases, stylists who are trained in balayage try to apply color in a way that blends the color from the ends of your hair up and into your rootage. This starts with painting color onto the hair with the greatest saturation focused on only the ends.
Color is then pulled upward towards the roots with the brush. It’s a bit like painting with a partially loaded brush…the further the brush travels, the less product it deposits along the paper (in this case, the hair shaft).
Some clients prefer to have a fairly long, dark rootage without going for a full-on shadow root. To achieve this, the stylist might preserve 2-3” or more of the regrowth, blending out the regrowth line itself instead.
This is ideal when you want to be able to space out color sessions as long as possible.
Instead of leaving you with a harsh contrast line within just a few weeks after you color, regrowth comes in looking natural and subtle.
If your stylist is especially capable, the regrowth might even come in looking like it was a part of the overall color technique used.
Sounds great, right? It pretty much means you maintain that “fresh out of the salon” look for months, rather than weeks. No regrowth touch-ups or additional salon appointments needed…unless, of course, you happen to want something new.
The technique also creates sun-kissed highlights that turn out more as if you’ve been spending time on the beach than in the salon.
Some people get this kind of look naturally. If you’re not that lucky, balayage highlights can help you get it (and no one will be the wiser for it).
Balayage is a fantastic way to add shade and highlights at the same time, too. Some stylists combine lowlights and highlights with other strategies, like a shadow root, to add more dimension.
Want golden-touched highlights along your face? Balayage can achieve this!
Want to add a little red into your life without going full pin-up girl? That’s something balayage can achieve, too!
Warm highlights, ashy highlights, bright colors, pastels, silver variants…you name it, balayage can make it look better and more natural, too.
But There’s More…
Balayage is one of the few hair color techniques that’s easy to apply on hair of any length.
Yes, that means you can rock a balayage bob, or a balayage pixie cut, or a super-long, Disney princess style balayage if that’s what you’re into!
It’s also totally compatible with all hair types and thicknesses, too.
Lastly…balayage highlights can sometimes be easier on your hair than an overall refresh, even though it refreshes your look just as well.
The “less is more” approach limits damage and might even let you get away without fresh color longer, too. That’s a big deal when you’re making a drastic change (e.g., black to blonde).
The skill of your stylist really matters, here, so you want to be sure you work with someone who has a lot of experience.
The Balayage Experience
It might seem complicated, but the truth about balayage is that sessions don’t really take much longer than an all-over color.
Depending on what you’re after, getting the right look may even take less time because it’s more subtle. Some sessions take as little as 20 minutes, while others require several hours.
As with any other color, if the look you’re after is a drastic shift (especially dark to light), you might need a couple of sessions to get you there. This prevents the need for double-processing on the same day, which can greatly raise the risk for breakage and even total hair devastation.
So if your stylist tells you not to rush it, or to wait, know she has your best interests at heart.
When you schedule in, ask your stylist about combining other services with your balayage process. This is also a great time to freshen up your cut, go for a new style, or even add some face-framing layers, if you’re feeling sassy and ready for a change!
So, Why So Popular?
Here’s a weird fact…balayage isn’t new. In fact, it was first “invented” in the late 1970s!
Tragically, it didn’t achieve relative popularity outside of celebrities and fashion industry until some time later. It was considered too complex, and few stylists practiced it (or didn’t practice it well, which is just as much of a problem). It was also costly to hire a stylist who actually knew what they were doing.
But we’ve come a long way in 40 years. Today’s balayage is easier, more perfected, and less prone to issues – and that means it’s cheaper and more accessible, too.
Celebrities also play a big role in the resurgence of balayage highlights. Over the last five years, we’ve seen star after star adopt some form of this unique French highlighting strategy.
Ruby Rose, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Halle Berry, Gisele Bündchen; they’ve all had or currently have balayage hair.
When we say it’s everywhere…it really is everywhere!