Balayage is seriously popular. Why? Because it looks totally effortless, like the hair has been kissed by the sun and it’s not high maintenance like a full head of highlights (now she’s fussy).
But just as no makeup makeup takes skill, so does the seemingly easy-looking balayage. Unlike formulaic foil highlights, balayage requires a little creative flair to master real-looking highlight and depth to the strands.
We called on two colour experts Michael Convey, Artistic Educator, and Terry Longden, Artistic Director for Colour, to reveal the 7 balayage mistakes every stylist should be aware of and how to avoid them…
Mistake #1 Rushing the Consultation
Whether it’s balayage, a haircut or something else, the consultation is so important to ensure that both you and your client are on the same page. Take your time!
“What colourists need to know about performing balayage is that each service is bespoke and individual to that client, depending on their hair type and needs,” says Terry.
“So the consultation process shouldn’t be rushed. You need to gain as much information from the client as possible and combine that with a strand test to determine the quality and history of the hair.”
Mistake #2 Thinking One Size Fits All
The beauty of balayage is that it’s totally unique to every client, this isn’t a one size fits all service! Plus, balayage can even make your client’s complexion look brighter and face more contoured. Clever, right?
“Use balayage to pop out your clients cheekbone or accentuate the jaw line just like you would a hair cut,” says Michael. “You can really compliment your client’s natural beauty with balayage and they will love you for it. Really take your time and look at what you can enhance.”
Terry notes that, when it comes to balayage for clients with darker hair, it’s worth discussing the types of blondes that will work best for them. Brunettes look gorgeous with caramel, honey and cool gold tones (not brassy, never brassy!). “After lightening, try pre-toning with the new ColorSync 5 minute toners ‘anti’ to banish the brass and create a perfect canvas for mochas, gold violets (GV) and even cool reds (RV,RR) to lay over,” adds Terry.
Mistake #3 Forgetting Hair Condition
Sure, balayage doesn’t require as much blonding as a full head of peroxide, but condition is key because your client will likely have a head of natural and highlighted hair which could look and feel very different in texture. Yikes. But don’t panic, Matrix has a selection of products that will leave your client’s hair feeling soft and looking shiny. “I would recommend total results Matrix Total Results The Re-Bond if your client’s journey involves a lot of pre-lightening,” notes Michael.
“Things like Matrix Bond Ultim8 and The Re-Bond are a must when you’re pushing the hair’s boundaries. I will always advise my balayage clients to re-book in every 3 to 4 weeks for interim toners and treatments to keep their hair in great condition and their colour looking fabulous, this also combats the fact that balayage clients don’t tend to visit as much as a traditional foil client,” adds Michael. Smart.
Mistake #4 Always Looking at Dyed Hair
The internet is jam packed with the most incredible examples of balayage, seriously you could spend hours mesmerised by balayage on Pinterest. And, while they serve a purpose, inspiring you as a hairdresser, when it comes to balayage you might have forgotten one great place to look to for inspiration…
“If you want your balayage to look natural then you need to look at natural hair! It’s very rare we get clients in with virgin hair but if you take a look at a young girls hair, someone who has never had colour, it generally appears lighter around the face and hair line and darker and deeper through the baseline and internal layers,” explains Michael.
“Take note and when working with clients, start small and apply the colour these areas first. You can build on this as the client's journey evolves,” he adds.
Terry adds that, “for a natural balayage effect, try a little backcombing at the root area before application as this gives a natural sweep-of-light result.”
Mistake #5 Ending Up With Brassy Blonde
It is very, very, very rare that a client would want their hair to look brassy on purpose. And, when it comes to brassy tones there are things you can do and things your client should do. In salon you can knock the brassy tones out, but then you need to encourage your client to use professional at-home haircare otherwise their blonde will be tangoed in no time!
“Eliminating warmth and brassiness can be tricky but it's something we face on a daily basis. For me, you must pre-tone the warmth away before you go in with your target shade. Matrix has just launched some fantastic fast toners called Color Sync 5-Minute Fast Toners and they are a lifesaver for both stylist and client,” says Michael. “They work fast, which is great for the time poor client but also great for the salon’s bottom line.
“If you want to create natural or cool tones in a red or brunette client's hair then these toners are a must have. They are also great for the condition of hair because previously we would need to lift the hair more than necessary, so we could neutralise the warmth and then tone it down but now you simply apply your Lightmaster, process until you reach your desired level, pre tone and then tone with your target shade,” he adds.
Lifestyle factors like UV rays, pollution and even tap water also contribute to brassy blonde, and we can’t expect clients to live inside all day every day and wash their hair with Evian, which is why getting your client to use the right at-home products is so important.
“The client needs to know their tone can still stay cool whether they are blonde, mocha, GV, RR or RV,” says Terry.
“Advise them to use Total Results Brass Off Shampoo, the occasional Brass Off Mask for extra cool tone deposit plus deep moisture, Brass Off Pigmented Conditioner to close the cuticles and lock in the tone. If they blow-dry with Brassoff Threesome it will protect from excessive heat that may pop out the newly added cool colour molecules. I also recommend they take and use weekly the Bond Ultim8 Step 3 Weekly Sealing Treatment to maintain those strong bonds.
“And finally, I always tell clients to turn heat stylers down to 150 degrees to keep those cool tones in tact!”
Mistake #6 Blobbing and Too Much Of a Good Thing
Ah Blobbing, not a maddening 90s TV character but annoying all the same. “One of the biggest complaints I hear from applying a balayage is lack of lift and blobbing on hair when the lightener expands after application,” notes Terry. “This is where I always say, you can’t safely perform a balayage without the perfect mix of product. My go-to is Lightmaster Lightener combined with Lightmaster Clay Additive to a creamy consistency, where it can still be taken on the brush from the bowl but won’t fall out when the bowl is tipped upside down, this mixture allows the lightening to continue without drying so it won’t stop the process but it restricts the product expansion, therefore no blobs or spotting.”
Now, balayage is meant to give the client natural-looking blonde tones, as if the hair is sunkissed. Go too heavy with the dye and it’s no longer balayage.
“I think sometimes, as hairdressers, we can get a little over excited and we don’t tend to step back and look. The best advice I can give for balayage is look at it like you do when you’re cutting, think about where it's going to fall and what it's going to look like once its blow-dried,” advises Michael.
“The use of product is so important too. If you want to create those seamless blends you need a product that is workable in texture and that you can leave to process in open air. The Lightmaster Clay Additive is perfect as it gives you a great texture to work with, it doesn’t dry out so you don’t lose lift and you can be sure you're not going to get any bleeds. My top tip: If it doesn’t look smooth once it applied it won't look smooth once it’s dried,” adds Michael.
Mistake #7 Not Encouraging Experimentation
More experimental clients may overlook balayage because of its natural effect, but actually balayage offers so much potential for experimentation that will keep clients coming back to the salon time and again. This summer rose gold, faded pastels, copper, mahogany red, lilac and even coral are all on our trend radar, so encourage your clients to have fun and mix it up!
“Clients are becoming more and more daring so we must keep up and be able to offer them something fun and encourage them to play with different colours,” says Michael. “So Colour Cult direct colours are a perfect choice when offering something fun as you can go as crazy or as subtle as you want! Using the clear to dilute or Pastelise is perfect to introduce a client to vivid colours.
“The main thing on clients’ minds when talking vivid is how long will it last? Of course, this all depends on the condition of their hair and the products your client is using at home but the Total Results Keep Me Vivid range is perfect from the in salon Lamination Spray that can keep their colour locked in for up to 65 washes to the sulphate-free Total Results Keep Me Vivid Shampoo and Conditioner. It’s going to keep their colour looking great for much longer,” adds Michael.
For clients who have had balayage for some time and would like to experiment, Terry advises getting them to start with more playful tones that still feel familiar. “Caramel or mocha clients can start experimenting with more playful tones of ColorSync Watercolour in Rose Gold, Bronze, or Quartz Pink. Cool-toned blondes can play with the other ‘festival faves’ like the brighter and stronger watercolour tones that won’t stain.
“If the client then starts to want more of a vivid tone, this is when So Color Cult can be thrown into the consultation process. The Velvetizing High Heat Protecting Blowdry cream will help to keep the vivid tones as bright and glossy for longer, it’s a good product to recommend,” adds Terry.
So there you have it, follow this guide and you’ll be creating brilliant balayage looks every single time!
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