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Balayage 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Highlighting Technique

Hair Color Ideas

Balayage 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Highlighting Technique Balayage 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Highlighting Technique Balayage 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Highlighting Technique

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 was developed. Balayage is a freehand hair highlighting technique created by French colorists—and we’re here to tell you that it looks absolutely stunning. Even if you’re not sure what balayage is, chances are you’ve definitely seen these highlights on A-listers as they’ve strutted down the red carpet. That’s right, it’s still going strong decades later! You might even say it’s overtaken the ombré hair trend. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance way to change your hair color and give yourself a new beauty look, here’s everything you need to know about balayage, from what it looks like, how to get it, and how to maintain your color. 


Let’s start with the basics, shall we? As we mentioned earlier, balayage is a highlighting technique that was created by French colorists back in the 1970s. In French, the word balayage means to sweep. Rather than traditional foiling or cap techniques, balayage is a freehand technique. The good news is, it doesn’t matter whether you have a short pixie cut or waist-length hair—this highlighting method can be used on anyone. The whole goal of balayage highlights is to leave you with natural-looking, sun-kissed hair. If you have longer locks, balayage can add serious movement to your strands.


If you’re a color newbie, then balayage is for you! It’s a subtle highlighting technique that isn’t as drastic as completely changing your hair color. Balayage works on any hair color, so it doesn’t matter whether you have brown, blonde, or red hair. Also, if you’re looking for highlights that are as low maintenance as you can get, then balayage is the way to go. With these highlights, you won’t have to run to the salon for touchups every couple of weeks since you’re not dyeing the entire length of your hair. As the highlights grow out, it’ll look totally intentional. Less touchups? Yes, please!

what do you need to know before getting balayage highlights?

Just because balayage highlights are low maintenance doesn’t mean there aren’t facts to keep in mind before hitting up the salon. As with all highlighting techniques, balayage requires lightening—and that means you’ll need to have your hair bleached. The darker your starting color (and the lighter you want to go with your balayage highlights), the more work it’ll 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 too look like at the end of the process.


Balayage is done freehand rather than using tools like foiling and caps that are often used during other highlighting techniques. That means the color is applied by hand on an individual. As you now know, balayage stands for sweeping in French. This technique gets its name because of the process of sweeping the color through the hair with a brush and a backing board. As you may have already guessed, this is a technique best left to professionals, as it requires a certain skill to do. To find the right colorist, look for one who specializes in the balayage technique, and go in for a consultation before actually having our hair dyed. Make sure to bring inspiration pics with you so that your colorist knows exactly what you want. When your colorist sees and hears what you want out of your balayage highlights, they’ll be able to create a custom look that flatters you.


The balayage technique differs from other highlighting techniques, like ombré or traditional highlights, because it gives the colorist more freedom to apply the color where they deem fit. With foils, you’ll get a very uniform finish, while with balayage the result is more natural. This also allows the colorist to apply the color in specific areas that they think will brighten your features. 

do balayage highlights have to be blonde?

No! While traditional balayage features blonde highlights, you can totally experiment with color. For example, reverse balayage is trending these days—this look features light hair on top and darker hair woven throughout from your mid-lengths to ends. Which leads us to…

what are the best shades of balayage highlights to try?

Besides reverse balayage, there are plenty of trendy balayage hair color ideas to try. Here are some of our favorites of the moment:

Pearly balayage. This pearlescent balayage hair color features a sandy brown base with light pinkish purple ends, reminiscent of, well, you guessed it, a pearl! Get the look temporarily with the L’Oréal Paris Colorista 1-Day Sprays in Silver, Light Pink, and Pastel Lavender, which wash out after one shampoo.

Rose quartz balayage. One of the most popular beauty trends of 2018 is crystals, so give this trend a spin on your hair with rose quartz balayage. A pop of color can be beautiful and a lot easier to maintain than allover color.

Peach balayage. Peach hair is perfect for summer, but you don’t have to dye your entire head of hair—for a subtler look, opt for peach balayage instead. If you fall in love with the color, you can always go for allover color later.

Rose gold balayage. Rose gold is one color that shows no signs of losing its place atop of the beauty trend list. As with peach, you can try rose gold balayge instead of coloring your entire head of hair this shade.

Blue balayage. Ready to take a major hair color risk? Then blue balayage might be right up your alley. Whether you pick a lighter or darker shade within the blue family, you’re sure to look stunning.


The great thing about balayage highlights is that they grow out very naturally. That means that there’s no regrowth line, so you don’t have to worry about visiting the salon regularly for touch-ups. As with any dye job, there are certain things you can do to help maintain your color and keep your hair in tip-top shape. One of the best things you can do? Use sulfate-free products, like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Repair & Defense ShampooL’Oréal Paris EverPure Repair & Defense Conditioner, and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Repair Remedy Balm. Swap out the conditioner for the hair mask once or twice a week, and leave it on for 3-5 minutes before rinsing out thoroughly. It’s also important to shower in lukewarm water, since hot water can strip your strands of essential oils, leaving your hair feeling dry and looking dull.

how can you style balayage highlights?

Finally, give the heat tools a rest. Balayage highlights look extra amazing when you rock curls or waves. Spritz the L’Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle AIR DRY IT Wave Swept Spray onto wet hair and let it air dry. Sun-kissed beachy waves, coming right up!

Ready to learn the ins and outs of another hair coloring technique? Check out our article, Is Palm Painting the New Balayage? Here’s How This Highlighting Technique Works.