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Balayage hair: all about this hair color trend

Balayage hair 101

For clients asking for hair color that looks effortlessly sunkissed, balayage has long been professionals’ go-to technique. Should we forget traditional foils altogether? How can hair colorists explain balayage hair to clients clearly and concisely? This article offers responses to the main balayage-related questions that professionals are regularly asked.

Traditionally, foils are used to separate sections of hair in order to lighten them, while balayage hair (from the French word “balayer”, meaning “to sweep”) involves freehand application, usually with a board and brush. And where there’s freehand work required, there needs to be expertise and experience– hence a store-bought balayage kit can’t reproduce an in-salon creation. 

But why is balayage so popular? Because it’s natural looking and there are no tell-tale stripy sections of hair. Balayage offers the result of a soft, elegant, and personalized color that looks naturally lifted. Hair is subtly lightened with a blended contrast between the roots and the ends. 

When explaining the benefits of the balayage hair technique, we always emphasize this made-to-measure factor. From hair type to tone, length, application, angle, and placement, clients love the way a balayage is tailored to flatter their face shape and bring radiance to their complexion. Plus, women often find a balayage more reassuring than one all-over color because there’s no demarcated root regrowth. It’s the reason why balayage hair is for everyone!

Preparation for balayage hair

How would you prefer your clients to come at the salon? Is it better to get a balayage with clean or unwashed hair? Too much residue from hair products will affect the even application of hair color. However, we need those natural oils to keep the hair fiber moisturized for effective product penetration..

So, if clients ask whether it’s better to get balayage with clean or dirty hair, the best response is to suggest they wash and condition their hair the day before but avoid using any styling products..

How balayage hair is done

How to balayage hair: when it comes to the balayage hair process itself, it can seem confusing to those who don’t work in the industry, but reassurance comes through explanation. There isn’t one answer to “where should balayage start?”, for example. It all depends on what the client wants and the artistry of the professional.

Yes, it is possible to do balayage hair from the root, but for more subtle, sunkissed balayage hair, we will usually focus on the lengths and ends, painting the color into specific zones while moving along the hair. Sections are painted according to where the light should hit, with the most common patterns called “V placement”, “W placement”, “singles”, “slants”, and “gradient panels”. 

How long does it take to balayage hair?

From start to finish, how long does a balayage take? Again, the answer is: “it depends”. Balayage hair is such a personalized color service that every appointment is different. A few sunkissed streaks might take under an hour. But for a full head of color using balayage, your client could be in the chair for several hours.

At L’Oréal Professionnel Paris, we have been working on ways of speeding up the balayage hair process so that colorists can focus on their creativity. This has led to the development of the new Blond Studio 8 Bonder Inside: a 2-in-1 lightening powder with an incorporated bonding complex offering up to 8 levels of lift in one step only.

Will balayage cover grey hair and grey roots?

Balayage is not the technique we would recommend to cover grey hair and grey roots but it can be combined with other processes, such as a color melt, where a (darker) shade is applied on the roots, and then blended with another two or three colors that gradually and invisibly blend into the balayage highlights.

Or you could color the roots and smudge down to blur the line, then use the balayage hair technique with a board and brush, moving up the hair and gradually blending into the roots. Some colorists recommend using a light conditioner on the root area as a blending agent.

Your client is growing out her/his roots and gradually transitioning to her/his natural shade (grey or other)? Balayage is ideal for subtly combining all the tones in the hair and bringing them together to create an all-over natural shade that, as the hair grows, offers seamless movement between colors.

We have also seen an increasing number of clients– of all ages – who want to celebrate grey hair with all-over silver balayage hair!

Can balayage be done on dyed hair?

Can a balayage be applied directly over already-colored hair? If the client already has a temporary color in their hair, there is no risk to hair quality or the finished look. No peroxide means the hair fiber (should) be in good condition.

Virgin hair (never treated) is the ideal base for the balayage hair technique, as you can be confident of color consistency. However, especially with those coloring for the first time, a skin allergy test isn’t just essential to ensure against skin sensitivity, it will also reveal the hair’s porosity – an all-important factor in timing your color..

If the client has permanently colored their hair in the past month, it is not recommended to re-color, for risk of damaging the hair and subsequent discoloration. Remember: if your client already has dyed blond tips, don’t completely saturate the ends with lightener – simply feather them down a little.

The reverse balayage to brown

What about going from light to dark? A balayage to brunette. Can balayage hair be darker than its base color? Yes, and it’s sometimes called a Reverse Balayage. The same technique is used, except there is no need for a lightener. Adding darker tones gives more body and dimension to the hair, and draws more attention to the lighter sections – just like a shadow makes the light around it look brighter.

Using the balayage freehand technique with shades darker than the base is a great way for a client to subtly transition from a blond to a brunette balayage. As a general rule, two toners are enough to create a multi-dimensional balayage.

How long does balayage last in hair?

With hair growing at an estimated half-inch per month, we are often asked how long a balayage hair lasts. Interestingly, many clients prefer highlights applied using the balayage hair technique to an all-over lightener. This is because of how easy the look can be to maintain and grow out subtly.

How often does balayage hair need to be redone? It depends on the client and the balayage. Of course, as the hair grows, highlights and lowlights grow out too. But because balayage is applied to different sections of the hair, there’s no regrowth line at the root.

A well-executed balayage should therefore grow out invisibly: six months down the line your highlights will be lower down the face but still look amazing, with no visible roots. Whereas, with a full head of one color, or traditional foil highlights, the roots will start to show just a few weeks after coloring, and will need regular maintenance..

That being said, it’s always helpful to remind your client of the main dos and don’ts when it comes to balayage haircare:

  • DIY coloring is a firm no-no, especially given the technical skill required for beautiful, long-lasting balayage hair.
  • haircare for colored hair is also recommended to extend the color’s vibrancy and prevent fading.
  • the occasional in-salon gloss and at-home masque can help clients get the most out of their balayage hair color.
  • avoid washing your hair for at least 48 hours after coloration to ensure the cuticles have fully closed along the hair fiber so you won’t lose any of your precious new color.

How much does balayage hair cost?

Balayage specialist prices differ depending on the salon, but the most important factor is the hair colorist: professional skill can save money from future appointments and free clients from feeling constantly tied to repeated trips to the salon.

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