Ah Balayage, the cool-girl look we all want. Balayage is brilliant because, done well, it’s completely unique to you and will have all your mates complimenting your hair for months to come. While it can look beautifully natural, like your hair has been lightened by the sun on a two week holiday to Bali (The. Dream.), it’s the perfect canvas for experimenting with this summer’s rose gold, pastel and coral tones too.
Tempted? Keep reading for balayage 101 - it’s literally everything you need to know.
What is balayage?
We called on Christian Wiles, founder of Christian Wiles Hairdressing to shed some light on the term, “balayage is a freehand hairdressing technique that we use to create light and shade through the hair. The transition from the base colour to the ends is seamless and fluid to give the appearance of natural, subtle, sunkissed locks.
“The balayage technique is for those who desire hair that looks full of life while giving your skin a glow, enhancing your features and making your appearance more youthful,” he notes. Er, yes please. While balayage is often used to create natural highlights, you can add vivid colours to the lightened pieces for a more trend-led look.
Why would I want balayage?
There are so many reasons to book a balayage appointment. Balayage is the most searched hair colour term on Google, which means balayage is bang on trend.
Balayage is versatile, it can be subtle with smaller pieces delicately lightened, or you can dial up the size and hue of the blonde pieces or add vivid colours for a fun look.
It’s a super low maintenance hair technique - because the colour doesn’t reach the roots you don’t have to head back to the salon every 6-8 weeks for touch-ups as you would with foil highlights. It’s the perfect intro colour for anyone who has virgin hair and wants to dabble in lightening their strands.
Why is balayage so popular?
While balayage won’t give you the same all over blonde look that a full head of highlights will, it doesn’t require the same level of upkeep, so it’s often a welcome trade off for busy people (that’s all of us then).
“Balayage looks beautifully natural, it’s high impact colour!” says Christian. “And, with the right hair care and professional application, it offers a low maintenance, effortless alternative to highlights.”
Is balayage expensive?
Unlike foils which is quite formulaic in its application, “balayage is a bespoke technique and will often require more time with a colour specialist,” says Christian. “This can make it one of the priciest hair colouring services.”
Don’t write off balayage just yet however, because the colour is woven seamlessly into the hair and not too close to the roots it is a low maintenance choice. You’ll be able to get away without revisiting the salon for around three months.
What happens during a balayage service?
After a thorough consultation, to ensure you and your colourist are on the same page, you will be gowned up and your hair will be sectioned. The Matrix colourist will most likely use a product called Light Master, which will lift your hair colour whilst gently conditioning it. For freehand techniques like balayage, Light Master is mixed with Freehand Additive to give the colourist extra control and to stop the colour bleeding. Right now, you can opt to have an extra hair strengthening treatment added into your colour but, this May, Matrix is launching Light Master with Bonder already inside, so be sure to ask your colourist about this.
Once the colour has developed, your hair will be shampooed. While you’re at the backwash your colourist will use a toner. What does this mean? Well, when you lighten brunette hair, for example, the underlying pigment is revealed which is usually a warm orange tone. The toner helps to neutralise this colour. There is a range of Color Sync Toners so you can reach the end result you’re after. If you want a natural balayage, there are neutral and mocha shades to help achieve this. However, if you want a cooler hue, then the PowerCools range can be utilised. The Color Sync Toners are ammonia-free so they are kind to your colour-treated strands and impart gloss too. Oh, and they work in just five minutes.
Is balayage better than foils?
Balayage isn’t necessarily better but it is different. You see it all depends on the result you’re after. “With foils you can expect a very uniformed, structured finish yet with balayage, the result is far more natural,” explains Christian.
What’s the difference between balayage and ombre?
Balayage and ombre are two hair colour terms that are often confused or grouped together, but they’re actually very different!
Christian explains that, “balayage is a vertical technique for applying the colour and offers a softer, more subtle and natural finish. Whereas, ombre means ‘to shade’ in French and uses a gradual, horizontal transformation from darker roots to lighter ends.”
Ombre is often bold, with the hair transitioning from one colour at the roots to a completely different shade at the ends. Balayage is kinda like its quiet and mysterious cousin!
Does balayage work for all hair textures and colours?
Basically, balayage is the hair world’s equivalent of body positivity! “Balayage is not colour or texture prejudice,” Christian tells us. See! “Instead it is a technique and can be used with lightening products or with semi or permanent colours. You have the choice to also opt for a reverse balayage which means working darker pieces into lighter hair.”
“Bayalage works on all textures and colours because of the sweeping, free-hand technique that gives a colourist the ability to be selective over colour placement,” explains Christian. “You can achieve maximum impact with little colour and work on very specific areas.
Does balayage have to be worn wavy?
If you have ever seen pictures of balayage on Instagram or Pinterest (that’s most of us then), you’ll notice it’s pretty much always on long, wavy hair. That not you? Don’t write it off just yet!
“The beauty of painting colour on the hair vertically means you will achieve a softer, more subtle look which works perfectly with straight, wavy or textured hair,” says Christian.
See, balayage really is for everyone.
How do I look after my balayage at home?
When you get balayage you essentially have two types of strands—those that have been dyed and those that haven’t, which means your hair can feel quite different in places if you don’t give it some TLC.
“Take your colourist’s advice on the perfect shampoo, conditioner and treatments that are personalised to your hair colour and texture,” explains Christian. “Home care is always essential to maintain tone but especially after having balayage when you introduce multiple colours.”
If you want to keep your balayage looking fresh, Christian advises that you head to your salon between appointments for toning and a treatment to keep your blonde pieces looking their shiny, happy best.
How do I prevent balayage turning brassy?
While you shouldn’t leave the salon looking brassy, blonde hair can turn orange thanks to minerals in tap water, air pollution and even sunlight.
Matrix at-home range Total Results is a go-to for colour treated hair, as there is a range suitable for everyone. For instance, So Silver is packed with yellow-neutralising purple pigments to keep platinum blondes bright and clean, while Brass Off boasts blue-violet pigment to neutralise orange tones in brunette strands. Opted for a vivid hue over your balayage? Then the Keep Me Vivid range will do just that.
There you have it! Everything you need to know about balayage—see you at the salon?
Watch how Cihana Larslann transformed his client's hair with Total Results: