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How to Balayage Short Hair: An Expert Guide

Lisa Valentine pic.jpg
Jan 222020
By Lisa Valentine
Matrix Educator Lisa Valentine reveals everything you need to know about how to balayage short hair…

Short hair can be balayaged. While social media would have us believe that balayage only works on mid-length (or longer) hair, you can definitely balayage a shorter-haired client. Here Matrix educator Lisa Valentine reveals everything you need to know about how to balayage short hair…

What is Balayage?

First off, I always like to explain to clients when they show me a balayage picture that in fact it is a technique and not a finished result. Balayage is a French word that simply means “to sweep”, so for us hairdressers it breaks down to sweeping colour across the hair to create soft dimensional colour. However, in the past couple of years it has evolved to be so much more and, depending on your application and product choice, can be such an impactful technique.

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Consultation is Key

As with any colour application, consultation is key and not every head of hair can allow us to emulate those beautiful images we are presented with on social media, so remember to always be realistic and honest with your client, so as not to disappoint either yourself or them.

Use the Right Products

There is a multitude of products out there for creating balayage, but my ultimate favourite go-to is always Matrix LightMaster Lightening Powder. I combine it with its very own Freehand Additive which gives the perfect combination of lightening and blend.

LightMaster on its own can give you up to eight levels of lift, 20 per cent faster with control but when adding in the freehand additive it takes on such a creamy almost mousse-like consistency that it allows you to do a seamless blend on any type of hair. Add in Matrix BondUltim8 to protect against any damage and you have the perfect product for all your balayage needs.

How to Balayage Short Hair - Colour Placement

So, let’s get down to what you really want to know and that’s how to do balayage on shorter hair lengths. The balayage technique is about creating soft dimensional colour, so I personally prefer to work on an angle as much as I can, every head shape is round so why work up in straight line sections when trying to work on a curved surface?

Balayaging shorter hair is really no different to long hair, you just have less surface to paint onto. Now, depending on whether you want a heavy balayage giving you a much lighter result on more of the surface or a softer sun-kissed look will depend on how many sub-sections you take and if you apply lightener to cover it completely or only part of that sub-section.

You can take the lightener in deep V sections, leaving the darker hair more exposed for dimension or more shallow to give a soft root. It all depends on what you and your guest's vision is as to how you apply. 

How to Balayage Short Hair: Step 1- Sectioning

I section five larger pieces to first to make sure I am working cleanly and so that I can stay symmetrical. You do not want to end up with a heavier colour finish on one side. Then working methodically within each of the sections using sub sections (see step 2 for sub sections).

 My sections are…

  1. Create a single continuous section working horizontally from the front hairline at the temple along the parietal ridge (where the head naturally curves) creating a V just below the crown through to the opposite temple. This should resemble a teardrop shape when looking down on the top section.
  2. Divide the top section across the top of the head using the ears as a guide creating a triangle section at the crown (secure this section) then split the very top section straight down the middle part creating two further sections. Firmly secure sections using a plastic clip. I tend to wrap the hair around so that the ends are also secure and tucked away.
  3. Take a vertical section from the parietal ridge above down towards the ear, however this should be just behind the ear in line with the divided section you did above. Secure the same as the top.
  4. Repeat exactly the same on the opposite side of the head.
  5. Take another vertical section through the back from the bottom of the V just below the crown to the nape (essentially you have just equally split the back section in 2 creating sections). Secure both sections separately and secure the same as all the rest.

How to Balayage Short Hair: Step 2- Sub-sectioning

I always start at the back taking a deep diagonal sub-section from the hairline mid ear, to the centre point, divided at the nape. Mirroring this at the opposite side. This is my first two sections that I will apply colour to.

  1. Next section is a horizontal single section across the middle of the V I created with the above sections.
  2. I repeat this all through the back until I run out of hair.

Remember, this can be done in however thick or thin sections you want and comes down to how much of a presence you want of the colour being applied in line with the look you are creating.

How to Balayage Short Hair: Step 3- Sub-sections Sides and Top

  1. Un-secure the top section and isolate a triangle section through the crown area to where the sides are sectioned off just behind the ear, repeat the back sections again until you run out of hair.
  2. Working next on one side, first release the top section to incorporate it with the side you are working on. Now, take diagonal sections working from side to side making sure that they overlap slightly each time so that you have no connecting edges.
  3. Continue each section until you run out of hair at the parting on the top of the head.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

Tips to remember:

Keep a clean brush to help with any clumpy areas of lightener that needs smoothed out when you are sweeping the product on.

Use smooth strokes with the brush to get a soft blend.

Apply plenty product to ensure good saturation, remember that LightMaster’s Freehand Additive encapsulates the hair to keep it from drying out.

And finally, let it process for the full time.


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