Balayage Hair 101: Everything You Need to Know

Balayage hair has been taking the world by storm—and we can understand why. This hair highlighting technique was created by French colourists, and it looks stunning on just about everyone. If you’re asking yourself, “What IS balayage?” and wondering what is the difference between balayage and ombré, we’ve got all the answers. You’ve likely seen balayage hairstyles on a number of celebs and influencers—and we reckon it’s overtaken the ombré hair trend! If you’re looking for a low-maintenance way to switch up your hair colour and give yourself a fresh look, balayage might just be the answer.

WHAT IS BALAYAGE?

Let’s begin with the basics. The ‘70s were famous for many things: flower power, thigh-high boots, and words like “groovy” and “rad.” It also happens to be the decade when balayage highlights were developed. As we mentioned, balayage is a highlighting technique that was created by French colourists in the 1970s. In French, the word “balayage” means “to sweep” – and this is exactly how the highlights are applied. Balayage highlights are painted on with a brush. It’s all about where the colourist thinks the highlights will look best! The goal of balayage hair is to leave you with sun-kissed, natural-looking hair. To further explain, we’ll compare it to two popular highlighting options.

BALAYAGE VS. HIGHLIGHT

Instead of traditional foiling techniques, balayage is a free-handed technique. When using foils to highlight all over the head, you’ll get a very uniform finish—whilst with balayage, the result is intended to be more natural. The colourist can choose to apply colour in specific areas that they believe will brighten your features.

BALAYAGE VS. OMBRE

Ombré hair colour involves hair that gradually transitions from dark to light, from your roots to your ends. Rather than creating a gradient effect, balayage highlights are placed throughout your hair in specific areas.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF BALAYAGE HAIR IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

It’s now 2021—is balayage in style? Absolutely! If trendy hair colours are your thing, balayage hair may be worth your while. If you’re new to dyeing your hair, balayage is a great option, as it’s subtle without drastically changing your hair colour. Balayage hairstyles also work on any hair shade—whether it’s red, blonde or brown. If you’re after highlights that are low maintenance, balayage is definitely the answer. You won’t have to run to the salon for touch-ups every few weeks, since you won’t be highlighting the entirety of your head. As your highlights grow out, it’ll look totally intentional!
 

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE GETTING BALAYAGE HIGHLIGHTS?

We said that balayage highlights are easy to maintain, but there are still a few facts to keep in mind. As with all highlighting techniques, balayage requires lightening—which means your hair will need to be bleached. Bleaching can cause damage, so make sure to take care of your stands before and after balayage. Depending on your hair colour and length, there are a few other points to remember:

If you want balayage on dark hair: Balayage highlights will require a bit of work. The darker your starting colour and the lighter you want your highlights, the more work it’ll take to achieve your desired end result. You may need multiple highlighting sessions, depending on your starting colour and end goal. Remember to have realistic expectations as well! For example, if you want balayage on black hair, a darker shade like caramel highlights may be a good place to start.

If you want balayage on light hair: Girl, you’re in luck! Lightening those locks won’t take as many sessions as it would on dark hair, but it will depend on how light you want your blonde balayage highlights to be.

If you have short hair: Yes, you can rock the balayage! Balayage on short hair is an absolutely stunning look. Whether you have a short pixie cut or waist-length hair, this highlighting method looks great on everyone.

If you have long hair: Balayage highlights could be just what you need. If you have longer hair, balayage can add serious movement to your strands.

HOW IS BALAYAGE HAIR DONE?

As we’ve said, balayage is done freehand. This means the colour is applied by hand and swept through the hair with a brush and a backing board. We recommend leaving this technique for the professionals, as it requires quite a bit of skill in order to do correctly. When finding the right colourist, look for one who specialises in the balayage technique, and go in for a consultation before committing to the colour. Bring inspiration photos with you, so your colourist knows exactly what you want. Once your colourist sees the pics and has a chat with you, they’ll be able to create a custom look that flatters you.

 

IS BLONDE BALAYAGE THE ONLY TYPE OF BALAYAGE

Not at all! Whilst blonde and ash blonde balayage are the most traditional shades, you can (and should!) experiment with colour. For example, the reverse balayage hairstyle is a major trend these days. This look features light hair on top and darker hair woven from your mid-lengths to ends.

WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO MAINTAIN BALAYAGE HAIR?

Balayage highlights grow out naturally, meaning there’s no regrowth line, so you won’t have to worry about regularly visiting the salon for touch-ups. As with any hair colour, there are a few things you can do to maintain your colour and keep your hair healthy. We recommend using a repairing shampoo and conditioner, like the Elvive Total Repair 5 Shampoo and Elvive Total Repair 5 Conditioner. You can also try the Colorista Silver Shampoo for any lighter shades, as it neutralises yellow and brassy hues for beautifully toned locks. Apply this shampoo to your coloured hair to enhance any blonde, grey, silver, ashy and cool tones you’re craving.

You can also use a hair mask like the Elvive Total Repair 5 Mask once or twice a week. Leave it on for three to five minutes before rinsing thoroughly. When showering, make sure to bathe in lukewarm water, as hot water can strip your hair of essential oils and leave it looking dry and duller.

 

FOUR WAYS TO STYLE BALAYAGE HAIR

Are you sold on balayage highlights? We thought so! If you’re wondering how to style your new hair colour, consider one of these four hairstyles.

EFFORTLESS WAVES

Put those heat tools down! Balayage highlights look gorgeous when you rock curls or waves. Spritz a wave spray onto wet hair and let it air dry. Sun-kissed beachy waves, coming right up!

VOLUMINOUS CURLS

For this look, you will have to pick up your curling iron. Heat your iron or wand to a medium setting, apply your heat protectant cream, and get curling! If you’re new to this hairstyle, feel free to follow an online tutorial video.

FISHTAIL BRAID

Braided (or plaited) hairstyles are one of the best ways to show off a dimensional hair shade. Weave your strands into a fishtail braid and show off those balayage highlights!

DEFINED LAYERS

Do you have lots of layers? Play them up to showcase your balayage highlights. Use a hair putty or paste to create texture and define your layers.

Now that you’re a balayage hair expert, it’s time to find and understand the best colour for you. Check out our guide on How to Find the Best Colour for Warm and Cool Skin Tones.