Balayage Hair Color: Everything You Need To Know About This Coloring Technique

This ever-versatile highlight technique is perfect for everyone, no matter your hair type! So are you ready for balayage highlights?

Unlike other highlighting or hair coloring techniques out there, balayage highlights may possibly be one of the most flexible trends that can easily give your hair a quick makeover. Pronounced BAH-LEE-AHGE, balayage is a French word that means “sweeping,” just like the technique used to create highlights. It’s a freehand painting style that adds gradient colors on hair to give it more dimension. The trend allows colorists to paint your hair to give it a more diffused highlight look or what others call “lived-in highlights.”

If you’re thinking of giving yourself a quick makeover, here’s a bit of Balayage 101 so you’ll have more info on what’s in store for you when you jump in on this trend.

Balayage: Filipina woman with long brown hair wearing a black printed dress outdoors
Balayage can add warmth to fair and morena skin. Credit: Michelle Pedron

Balayage is often used as the umbrella term for gradient hair, but the coloring technique is different from that of highlights. That’s because traditional foil or the silicone cap are used for the usual dye jobs. When you’re getting balayage, the colors are painted on extremely small sections of hair directly with a brush. This means that the color only sits on the surface of the hair, ensuring a smooth blended stroke of color—not like one dramatic streak.

The result is a soft and natural transition of colors that starts off dark towards the scalp, becoming lighter going down, focusing more on the mid-shaft and ends.

Balayage: Woman with wavy blonde hair at a salon
Getting balayage hair is like having your locks painted on. Credit: Shutterstock

Colorists take reference from your natural hair color, or the base hair color that you want, and paint in the highlights to create a look suited for your current haircut, hair length, and face shape.

While it sounds easier than it looks, the process varies depending on your hair length and how you want it to look. Some colorists use a brush and backing board to color individual strands of hair. Meanwhile, others prefer to separate their sections with foil or cotton wool. Some even tease hair in sections first, then color the ends freehand.

The width of your highlight varies depending on how you want the overall look to be. But generally, separating your hair into inch-wide sections is enough. Balayage calls for painting, but it needs to be blended properly. Typically, the color is left for 20 to 30 minutes before being rinsed off, followed by a thick layer of toning mask to secure the colors.

A balayage hair color can be tailored for all hair lengths, making it a versatile and low-maintenance style. That’s because the colors are applied in specific areas that colorists think will brighten your features. There are no two exact replicas when it comes to a balayage since it varies depending on hair type, length, hair color, and the technique that the colorist uses.

1. Balayage on Dark Hair

woman with balayage on wavy hair
Dark hair balayage on wavy hair. Credit: iStock

New to balayage? Stick to a dark hair base. This allows you to retain your natural hair color. Then, bring dimension to your hair by picking a color that’s at least shades lighter than your base color. It would add just a touch of lightness to your hair without making it look like you underwent a drastic makeover.

2. Balayage for Long Hair

girl with blonde balayage and holding cup
Balayage on long hair. Credit: iStock

Adding a lighter-toned balayage highlight is a great way to bring back movement, body, and flow to your long hair. Sticking with a dark base at the top, pick out a color that’s at least five to eight shades lighter than your base and have your colorist work the color down from about five inches away from your roots. The faded “lived-in” highlights will instantly give your hair lift and breathe new life to your hairstyle.

Editor’s tip: Got a blonde balayage? Keep it from going brassy over time by using TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Blonde Brilliance Shampoo and TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Blonde Brilliance Conditioner. This duo has a purple formula that helps neutralizes brassy tones, keeping your blonde and ashy hair colors gorgeous for a long time.

3. Balayage for short hair

Happy young woman in black dress and pearls
Portrait of happy young woman in black dress and pearls on grey background..

Balayage is versatile enough to be used on both short and long hair (and all the lengths in between). How the color is applied depends on the effect that you and your colorist wants to go for. Want to soften your features? Pick a lighter color and focus the placement around your face and further away from the roots. For something a little edgy, bring the color closer to your roots and up higher up towards the crown of your hair.

3. Balayage on Curly Hair

curly hair balayage on black hair
Balayage on curly hair. Credit:

Here’s the thing: balayage looks amazing on curly hair. Why do you think most of the before-and-after-shots of balayage shows hair lightly curled? Balayage on curly hair gives hair more movement and dimension by visually separating the curls. For curly hair, it’s best to use at least two shades with different undertones. This will make your hair appear to have even more body and flow.

3. Balayage with Playful Colors

A girl with a beautiful smile walking on the wooden dock
Pastel balayage on short hair. Credit: iStock

Balayage isn’t just reserved for natural-looking hair colors like brown, blonde, and copper. You can also be playful and add bright pops of neon in your hair. To truly get the colors to pop, pick a base that is at least two to three shades lighter than your natural hair color. Then pick a bright, fun color like lavender, baby pink, or bright blue.

Take note: Depending on your base color, you may have to bleach your hair to achieve a bright pop of pink. So remember to keep your hair well-conditioned!

Although a balayage is relatively easy to maintain, it still needs to be taken care of— like any other color job. Here’s how to keep that sun-kissed look for as long as you can (and keep your hair in good condition too!):

1. Switch to products designed for colored hair.

Balayage: Asian woman with colored layered hair smiling outdoors
Maintain your gorgeous balayage by switching to products made for colored hair. Credit: Natasha Estelle

To maintain your gorgeous hair hues, make sure to use products that are tailor-made for dyed hair. This includes color-correcting, low-sulfate shampoo and conditioners, and products that are designed to combat color fading.

Editor’s tip: If your balayage is more brown or red than blonde and ashy, use TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Color Radiance Shampoo. It has a color radiance booster and is proven to prevent color fading. For best results, use it with TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Color Radiance Conditioner and enjoy your colored hair for a longer period of time! 

2. Keep your hair hydrated.

Woman getting a salon treatment
A weekly hair mask treatment can keep colored hair well-moisturized. Credit: Shutterstock

Dyeing your hair will dry out your tresses. And when your hair dries out, it becomes frizzy, unkempt, and hard to style. To keep strands looking healthy, you can either apply a hydrating hair mask or go for keratin treatments regularly to deeply moisturize it. And when you shower and wash your hair, always use conditioner.

3. Wash your hair with cool or lukewarm water.

Asian woman in the shower
Ditch the hot water when washing your hair. Credit: Shutterstock

Hot water strips moisture from your hair, so make sure to rinse with cold or lukewarm water. And to keep hair from looking dry and brittle, skip a hair wash or two.

When done right, a balayage will add life to your hair. It’s easy to maintain and suits hair of any length. It’s definitely a good start if you want to do something new to your hair.


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