Balayage has remained a popular hair coloring trend in recent years with a big thanks to social media. The freehand hair highlighting technique gives your strands gorgeous dimension and low maintenance color. Even if you’re not exactly sure what balayage is, chances are you’ve seen it on A-listers, social media influencers and even your friends — you probably just assumed it was some type of highlights.
If you’re looking to spice up your hair color without completely altering your base color, balayage may be just what you’re looking for. Read on as we share the details on this hair highlighting technique, including what balayage hair color looks like and how it differs from highlights so you can pick the best option for your hair.
What Does Balayage Do to Your Hair?
Let’s start with the basics. The ‘70s are known for many things: thigh-high boots, flower power, the words groovy and rad — and, as it turns out, it also happens to be the decade that balayage highlights were developed.
The technique was created by French colorists and the word balayage means to sweep, which describes how the highlights are applied. Balayage highlights are painted onto the hair using a brush.
They're completely freehanded, meaning there is no cap or guide of any sort, which allows colorists to place the highlights where they think they’ll look best. It creates a custom hair color and the whole goal of a balayage is to leave your hair with natural-looking, sun-kissed highlights.
What Is the Difference Between Highlights and Balayage?
Rather than traditional foiling or cap techniques, balayage is a freehand method. With foil highlights, you’ll get a very targeted, uniform finish, while with balayage, the result looks more organic and natural. Balayage also allows the colorist more freedom to apply the dye in certain areas that can brighten your features and frame your face.
As we mentioned, balayage is better suited for anyone who needs a low maintenance color. It’s often applied inches down from the roots to make it appear even more lived-in and natural as it grows. Doing this helps to avoid the harsh line of root outgrowth that is often associated with foil highlights as they grow.
Editor’s tip: If you’re familiar with foils and balayage, you might have also heard of foilayage. As the name suggests, foilayage is a combination of foils and balayage, using both techniques to highlight the hair.
Is Balayage and Ombré the Same Thing?
An ombré hair color involves hair that gradually transitions from dark color at the roots to light color at the ends with a gradient effect. Rather than creating a gradient effect, balayage highlights are placed throughout your strands in specific areas to create a piecey, dimensional look as opposed to a more uniform color.
Can You Balayage Your Hair at Home?
With the right at-home hair color kit, it’s possible to balayage your hair at home. To DIY this highlighting technique, reach for the L’Oréal Paris Superior Preference Balayage At-Home Highlighting Kit. In as little as one hour, get natural, multidimensional balayage highlights at home. The kit even includes a pro toning mask to soften color at the roots and give your highlights a natural, sun-kissed effect.
How Long Does Balayage Hair Last?
One of the best things about balayage highlights is that they grow out very naturally. As we mentioned, that means there’s no harsh regrowth line, so you don’t have to worry about visiting the salon regularly for touch-ups — they’re as low maintenance as highlights can get.
But just because balayage has less upkeep than traditional highlights doesn’t mean they last forever. How long your hair color will stay fresh depends on a few different factors, including how well you care for it, but there are other things you need to know about this style of hair color.
As with all highlighting techniques, balayage requires lightening — and that means you’ll need to have your hair bleached. Bleaching your hair can cause damage, so it’s important to make sure you take care of your strands pre- and post-balayage, not only to make the color last but to keep your hair healthy. Depending on your hair color and length, there are some other factors to keep in mind for getting and maintaining balayage.
Which Balayage Looks Good on Dark Hair?
The darker your starting color and the lighter you want to go with your balayage highlights, the more work it will take to achieve your desired end result. So, keep in mind that you might be in for multiple highlighting sessions depending on what you start with and what you want your hair to look like at the end of the process.
While blonde balayage is one of the most common shades, there are other options that can be better suited for dark hair like golden balayage or caramel balayage. To do less damage to your hair and achieve a more natural look, opting for a darker shade like auburn balayage is a good place to start.
Which Balayage Looks Good on Light Hair?
If you already have light hair, you’re in luck. Lightening your strands likely won’t take as many sessions as doing balayage highlights on black hair or dark brown hair may, but that will depend on how light your desired balayage highlights are. If you’re looking for platinum blonde balayage, bleaching will likely still be required whereas ashy or champagne balayage will likely be good picks for your light hair.
How to Maintain Your Balayage Hair Color
As with any dye job, there are certain things you can do to help maintain your color and keep your hair in top shape. Using color-safe shampoo and conditioner is the first step.
1. Use Color-Friendly Shampoo and Conditioner
The L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Bond Repair Shampoo with Citric Acid and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Bond Repair Conditioner with Citric Acid are great options for keeping your balayage hair fresh because not only are they safe on color, but they work to address hair damage from bleaching and heat styling by reinforcing weak hair bonds from the inside out.
It’s also important to turn down the water temperature when washing your hair because hot water can strip your strands of necessary oils, leaving your hair feeling dry as well as causing premature color fading.
2. Avoid Excessive Heat Styling
Along with avoiding hot water, keeping heat styling to a minimum can really benefit your hair and your color. On the occasions when you do use heat, always remember to prime your strands with a heat protectant. If you’re using heat on dry hair we recommend the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum Leave-In, for wet hair we love the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Weightless Blow Dry Primer, Heat Protectant.
3. Use At-Home Hair Gloss
Finally, invest in an at-home hair gloss so you can really keep those salon visits to a few times a year. We love the L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss because it’s easy to use, refreshes your color in under 15 minutes and deep conditions your hair.
Photo Credit: Judy IG@/hairbyjuudddyyy, Photo Design: Crystal Simone
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