Balayage 101: What It Is & Why You Need to Try It! The Haircolor Technique That's all the Rage

Balayage 101

Step into any hair salon, and chances are you will hear someone requesting a balayage coloring treatment. This hair coloring technique has been around for decades, but it’s recently had a resurgence in popularity thanks to trendsetting celebrities, like Rihanna, above. Keep reading for all the details on balayage and discover if it’s right for you!

What is balayage?

Balayage hair coloring is a technique that was originally developed in France in the ’70s. The word ‘balayage’ translates to ‘to sweep’ or ‘to paint.’ Your hairstylist will literally paint the highlights onto your hair for a natural, gradual, sun-kissed look. The stylist will apply the color by hand, rather than the typical foil method that’s often used. The entire goal of balayage hair coloring is to look as seamless and natural as possible – the color your hair would turn after a summer hanging out on the beach.

How is it done?

Balayage is all about getting an organic, natural look. Your stylist will use a brush to paint the color onto individual strands of your hair. They may tease your hair into sections first, then paint the ends. The color isn’t saturated all the way through until the ends – this way the effect is very soft and gradual. Each client has a different preference, so it’s important to discuss what you want with your stylist before coloring. Bring in pictures as examples, and have a clear vision of what you are going for.

How is it different than ombré?

Many people think ombré and balayage are the same thing, and while they are definitely similar, there are distinct differences between the two styles. Ombré is almost like hair color blocking: there’s an intense difference between the color at the top of the head and the color at the ends. With balayage, the effect is much more sun-kissed and soft. It’s a seamless transition from dark to light. Also, in balayage, there are some dark pieces left at the bottom, to make everything look more natural and add some extra dimension.

Does it require a lot of maintenance?

One of the best parts of balayage is that it requires very little maintenance, compared to other hair coloring techniques. Since you’re not touching the top of your head, you can let your hair grow out and the balayage won’t be affected. In fact, it will look even better. The only thing to keep in mind is that color naturally gets a little dull as time goes on – consider toning or putting a glaze on your hair when you notice color fading. Also, just as you would for any other color-treated hair, use shampoos and conditioners specifically made for colored hair. L’Oreal’s Everpure Volume Shampoo works wonders and is super affordable.

Does it flatter all hair types?

Balayage can work with every hair color – blonde, brunette, red…it’s all about adding dimension and different tones. As far as length, it can work for pretty much everyone, other than super short cuts. There wouldn’t be enough hair to create that gradual transition of color. Girls with curly hair as often hesitant about doing balayage or ombré, but it looks beautiful with curls! It gives off that effortless, summery, beachy vibe. It’s one of the most versatile and easy-to-pull-off hair color techniques.

Why has it become so popular recently?

Balayage has grown in popularity for numerous reasons. A major draw is that it’s so low-maintenance – you don’t have to recolor it every time your roots grow out, since it’s focused on the ends. Also, it can look so natural, which is attractive to many women. It’s become a big celebrity trend as well. Everyone from Jessica Alba to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to Rihanna have jumped on board the trend.

Check out some gorgeous balayage looks:

Jessica Alba


brunette balayage

red balayage

Images via Marie Claire, So Feminine, Cute DIY Projects, Modern Salon, Preen

Are you into balayage? Have you tried it? Let us know in the comments below!

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