Asian woman with balayage hair color.

What is Balayage Hair Color + Stunning Looks to Try in 2023

Here's everything you need to know about this versatile coloring technique.

Balayage hair color is 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 to your 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.”

Getting balayage hair soon? Here’s the lowdown on this trend, so you’ll know what to expect when you decide to try it.

Balayage vs. Highlights

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 a silicone cap is used for the usual dye jobs. When you’re getting balayage hair color, the hues are painted directly with a brush on extremely small sections of hair. This means that the color only sits on the surface of the hair, ensuring a smooth blended stroke of color instead of one dramatic streak.

The result is a soft and natural transition of colors that starts off dark at the scalp and becomes lighter going down. You’ll see more color on the mid-shaft and ends.

The Balayage Process

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 the hair in sections first, then color the ends freehand.

The width of your balayage highlights 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.

Who Can Rock a Balayage?

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.

Balayage Hair Color Ideas We Love

1. Balayage Highlights on Dark Hair

Back shot of an Asian woman with balayage hair color.
Balayage on dark hair makes for a simple but head-turning look. Credit: Shutterstock

New to balayage? Stick to a dark hair base. This allows you to retain your natural hair color. Then, pick a color for your balayage highlights that’s a shade or two lighter than your base color. You’ll end up with piece-y highlights that add depth and dimension to your hair without making it look like you underwent a drastic makeover. This balayage idea is also a great option if you want hair highlights for morenas.

Bottle of TRESemme Rooth Touch-Up Spray Dark Brown Color

Editor’s tip: Keep your hair color fresh with the help of TRESemmé Root Touch-Up Spray (Dark Brown Color). This lightweight, temporary hair color conceals roots and gray strands in seconds, so your hair color looks refreshed in between salon sessions.

Bottle of TRESemme Root Touch Up Spray Light Brown Color

If you have light brown balayage highlights, use TRESemmé Root Touch-Up Spray (Light Brown Color).

2. Balayage With Blonde Tips

Back shot of a woman with blonde balayage hair color.
Create a sophisticated look by adding blonde balayage highlights on dark hair. Credit: Shutterstock

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

3. Brown Balayage

Back of a woman with long brown balayage hair.
Browns become more sophisticated when you see them in a balayage look. Credit: Shutterstock

Elevate brown hair color by making it part of your balayage look. Get medium brown shades like caramel and golden brown so they pop against your naturally dark hair.

4. Subtle Balayage

Back of a woman with subtle balayage hair color.
This is another option for you if you don’t want to drastically change your hair color. Credit: Shutterstock

Add your highlights to finer sections of your hair to cop this balayage hair peg. Put your highlights on areas where the light hits to create a sun-kissed look.

5. Balayage for Short Hair

Asian woman with balayage short hair.
Spice up your bob by getting balayage hair color. Credit: Panadda Suwanjundee

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 want 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.

6. Balayage with Playful Colors

A girl with a beautiful smile and pink balayage hair walking on a 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 to 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!

7. Purple and Brown Balayage Highlights

Back of a woman with purple and brown balayage hair color.
Ready for a major makeover? Get this head-turning look. Credit: Shutterstock

Speaking of playful hair colors, here’s an idea: try purple and brown balayage. Brown grounds the whole look and gives it depth, while the purple sections add personality.

8. Ash Blonde Balayage Hair

Back of a woman with an ash blonde balayage hair color.
Here’s a chic way to wear ashy hair colors. Credit: Shutterstock

Combine ash and light blonde hues with your naturally dark hair to create a striking look. It’s edgy and dramatic—perfect when you want to stand out.

9. Ash Gray Balayage Highlights on Short Hair

Asian woman with gray highlights and hat
Elevate your short hair game with ash gray balayage for an edgy and fashion-forward statement. Credit: Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

Ash gray balayage on short hair is a laid-back and trendy option, giving your locks some extra oomph and character. This cool, easygoing balayage highlights style works well with various skin tones and effortlessly adapts to your everyday vibe.

10. Balayage With Platinum Blonde Highlights

Add waves to your balayage to let the highlights pop. Credit: Rad Stylist Designs from Canva

Don the timeless, classic balayage hair color with platinum blonde highlights. It’s great for those who appreciate a tried-and-true look. When styling, add some beachy curls or laid-back waves to keep it effortlessly chic and full of dimension.

11. Subtle Bleach-Free Balayage Highlights

Asian woman with hat and curly locks
No bleach, no problem! Credit: pixelshot from Canva

Guess what? Balayage hair color can be done without bleach! Using dark and medium shades of brown to blend with your naturally dark hair is key. Embracing bleach-free balayage is a fantastic way to switch up your style while being gentle on your locks. It also allows you to experiment with a more subtle look.

How to Take Care of Your Balayage Hair

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.

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.

TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Blonde Brilliance Shampoo

Editor’s tip: Keep your balayage hair color from turning brassy over time by using TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Blonde Brilliance Shampoo. Its purple formula neutralizes brassy tones, so you get to enjoy your blonde and ashy tones for twice as long. It also has jojoba oil for moisture and shine. 

TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Blonde Brilliance Conditioner

For best results, complement TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Blonde Brilliance Shampoo with TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Blonde Brilliance Conditioner

2. Keep your hair hydrated.

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 get keratin treatments regularly to deeply moisturize your hair. And when you shower and wash your hair, always use conditioner.

3. Wash your hair with cool or lukewarm water.

Hot water strips moisture from your hair, so make sure to rinse with cold or lukewarm water. And if your hair has become dry and damaged because of frequent coloring, use a hair repair conditioner like Dove Keratin Repair 1 Minute Serum Conditioner. It has keratin-infused serum capsules that go deep into your hair to treat damage from within. It leaves your hair recovered, beautiful, and resilient in just one minute.

Tube of Dove Keratin Repair Conditioner

4. Wash your hair less frequently.

Overwashing can lead to dryness, brasiness, and color fading. By cutting down on washes, you’ll help preserve your color’s vibrancy and prevent dryness. So, give your hair a break and embrace washing every 2-3 days for a fresh balayage hair color sans the brass.

5. Watch out for chlorine and salt water.

Chlorine and salt water can be sneaky culprits when it comes to fading and dryness in balayage hair color. If you can’t steer clear of them, be sure to give your hair a thorough rinse after exposure. Adding a leave-in conditioner to your routine offers that extra layer of protection your locks will appreciate.

6. Detangle with care.

Color-treated hair is more prone to breakage, so detangling with care is a must. Swap your regular comb for a wide-tooth one or grab a detangling brush to gently work through those pesky knots. By doing this, you’ll help prevent damage and keep your hair looking its best.

7. Keep in touch with your stylist.

Don’t forget to keep in touch with your stylist to keep that balayage hair color looking fabulous! Regular touch-ups and catch-ups make sure your hair game stays strong and lets you chat about any concerns. Plus, it’s the perfect chance to tweak your look and keep things fresh and stunning.

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.