Have you ever been asked for a French balayage? Or perhaps you’ve recently recommended one to a client? Here we break down all the key information about the French balayage coloring technique so that you can confidently and clearly answer every question your clients might ask.

A French balayage refers to this original two-point (V-shape) application technique which leaves shadow on the roots and allows for invisible regrowth. Zones of light and shadow are created, aka “negative space”, bringing radiance and balance to the face.

The key element of a French balayage is its subtlety. The result looks entirely natural and continues to as it grows out. This is where it differs from traditional foil highlights, which can have more of a stripy finish and a visible root line.

As for the “2 steps” to French balayage hair: lift the hair color using precise lightening application techniques, then tone the hair to achieve a multidimensional, naturally-chic finish. However, as with so many hair coloring techniques, while it might sound easy, a true French balayage requires your professional expertise.

French balayage vs. hair painting, what’s the difference?

Even hair color professionals sometimes get these two terms confused. French balayage is not the same technique as hair painting, although they do share some similarities.

A major difference between French balayage and hair painting is the technique. French balayage uses thin sections of hair to allow for precise placement, sweeping the color across the surface of the hair before the underneath section.

Hair painting, however, uses wider sections of hair, and the color is applied with much heavier saturation throughout the section. Both can be used on almost all hair lengths.

When it comes to lighteners, professionals find the creamy texture of L’Oréal Professionnel Paris Blond Studio Multi-Techniques, Blond Studio Freehand Techniques, and Blond Studio Platinium the most effective for a French balayage. While, for hair painting, the thinner consistencies of Majimèches, Blond Studio Sun-Kissed Lightening Oil (and all other lighteners used in balayage) are ideal for product saturation.

What about the end results? While French balayage gives clients made-to-measure, enviable sunkissed highlights in all the most flattering places, hair painting results can be more varied: from super subtle to super dimensional, melted or ombré.

Step 1: balayage application

This first step is for creating a lightened base.

  •  Separate the hair into ribbon-width sections where you are going to do your balayage.
  •  Comb the hair tight along the board and hold the brush parallel to the hair.
  •  Decide on a V or W shape, and apply the lightener in the mid-section, then feather upwards towards the root to create your one, two, or three points.
  •  Next, brush the product down the rest of the mid-section towards the ends, remaining on the surface.
  •  When 2-3 inches from the tips, push the product through to saturate.
  •  Leave (times vary depending on desired effect, hair condition, color, length, and more), rinse and style.
  •  Advise the client to use haircare for colored hair; to get the most out of her French balayage.

Step 2: French balayage gloss

In a French balayage, the gloss brings a typically French refinement to the lightened base you’ve just created.

More and more stylists are doing a gloss after lifting the hair during their French balayage. Why? A gloss brings a refined, bright, and natural-looking glow to the hair, neutralizing unwanted yellow tones. L’Oréal Professionnel Paris Dia Light line is a colorist’s go-to gloss for perfecting a French balayage.

Dia Light is a gel-cream with an acidic pH level which has all the properties of a gel, such as transparency, as well as the cosmetic qualities of a cream. The advantage of Dia Light is that we’re dealing with an acidity very similar to the capillary fiber, so the oxygen is released very gently.

For a light color deposit, use volume 6, or for a stronger color deposit, use volume 9. Alternatively, for more detailed suggestions of French balayage coloring formulas using Dia Light gloss, see our suggestions below. This step of the French balayage is what makes the technique so subtle and unique- and impossible to create at home!

French balayage on dark hair

For a French balayage on a really dark base (natural 3), use 40g Blond Studio 8 Bonder Inside and 60ml 30 volume Oxydant Crème. For the gloss, mix 25ml New Dia Light 6.28 with 25ml New Dia Light 8.28 and 75ml 9 volume Diactivateur.

Or, on a partly pre-colored very dark base, mix 40g Blond Studio Multi-techniques 8 and 80ml of 20 volume Oxydant Crème (natural base 4), 40g Blond Studio Multi-techniques 8 and 80ml of 30 volume Oxydant Crème (colored base 4). Then 1 tube (50 ml) of Dia Light 6.28 and 75ml of Diactivateur 9 volume.

French balayage on light hair

On lighter shades of brunette (natural 5), mix 40g of Blond Studio 8 Bonder Inside with 40ml of 20 volume Oxydant Crème. Keep tones cool with 1 tube (50ml) of Dia Light 8.28 and 75ml of Diactivateur 9 volume for a modern, smoky ash finish.

Starting your French balayage on a light base (natural 6)? Do a super soft blend using 1 Blond Studio Majimèches Crème Sachet, 25ml of lightening cream and 25ml of 30 volume Oxydant Crème. Tone with 50ml of Dia Light 6.01 with 75ml of Diactivateur 9 volume, and 50ml of New Dia Light 8.21 with 75ml of 9 volume Diactivateur.

With these formulas, you can use the application technique and timings of your choice. The recipe is only half of a French balayage, the rest is all down to your creativity and expertise!