Balayage (pronounced bah-lay-ahge) is a hair colouring technique in which colour is applied freehand to create natural-looking highlights that give a sun-lightened effect around the face and at the tips. Said to have originated in Paris in the 1970s, today it’s still one of the most-coveted hair looks around, with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Shay Mitchell and Jessica Alba all firm fans.
Thinking about getting balayage? Here are all the things you need to know, from the differences between balayage and traditional highlights to how to care for your balayage hair and of course, all the best balayage hair colour inspiration.
What Are the Best Balayage Hair Colours?
Thought balayage was just for blondes? While it’s true that blonde balayage is one of the most popular types of balayage, the balayage highlighting technique also works beautifully on brunettes, red, black and even more trendy hair colours, like rose gold and purple. See some of our favourite balayage hair colours, here.
If you want to go blonder but still want it to look as natural as possible, balayage is the ideal solution. And best of all, you won’t have to worry about the regrowth coming through. Credit: @friseursalon_astridhansen
Dark brown and black hair can have a tendency to look flat and one-dimensional and balayage is a flattering way to lift the colour without changing your look too drastically. Credit: @styled.by_sarah
Ash blonde – with its mix of cool blonde and silver grey tones – always looks amazing. Credit: @sharon.nguyen.hair
Editor’s tip: Wondering how to keep your ash blonde balayage looking silvery rather than yellow? Alternating your regular hair care with purple toning products, such as the TRESemmé Violet Blonde Shine Shampoo and Conditioner will work to neutralise any brassy tones and keep your colour icy blonde.
Fall in love with your colour again by enriching dark brunette with multi-dimensional strands of colour. Credit: @hairbyamybee
Maintaining bright colours like this vivid red requires a lot of upkeep, but blending your roots through with balayage means you can go longer between salon appointments. Credit: @beautybyahmari
If you want to rock a brighter colour but naturally have quite dark hair, this purple balayage with a dark root smudge could be just what you need. Credit: @blendedbybridget
Auburn balayage gives brunette base colours a warm, autumnal feel. Credit: @craft_and_mane
This beautiful sandy shade may be called beige – but one look and you’ll see that it’s anything but! Credit: @baidoeshair
Ultra-light blondes like this one instantly give a scandi, cool-girl look that we just love. Credit: @tangiblehairdressing
By painting lighter babylights closer to the roots, your colourist will be able to soften the contrast between your base colour and the colour at the ends, resulting in a smooth graduation of colour. Credit: @bobbypinsetc
Ashy but understated, this cool-toned light brown is a wearable but updated take on brunette for this season. Credit: @yougotyourhairdonebyhannah
Natural (and not-so-natural) redheads, take note. Whether you’re more of a dark auburn or a strawberry blonde, try adding some natural-looking copper highlights for a subtle sunkissed effect. Credit: @hairbyjennifields
What Are the Different Types of Balayage?
Balayage isn’t just suitable for one type or length of hair, it’s versatile in that it can flatter whether you’ve got a bob or flowing locks, straight or textured tresses. Want the proof? Here are some of the most common balayage looks to try, for all hair types.
The easiest way to add excitement to your bob cut? Placing balayage highlights through your hair, focusing on the ends and through the front, will add detail and interest to the look. Credit: @sophielizabethfox
Low-maintenance style doesn’t come simpler than this chic short hair and blonde balayage combo. Credit: @hairbybrittanydonalyn
Consider focusing your highlights more around your face and eye line to really open up your face and flatter your features. Credit: @denizprocksch
If your long hair is your crowning glory, one way to stop long hair looking flat or weighed down is to blend balayage through the lengths to give it more shape and body. Credit: @hair.chels
Balayage is perfect for those who have never dyed their hair before. We recommend keeping it subtle at first, starting with just a few lighter strands and then you can easily build up the colour. Credit: @kybalayagepdx
Rather than lightening the hair, reverse balayage involves applying a root smudge to darken the roots to give an overall darker shade while keeping the ends light and bright. Credit: @sailorbexx_hair
Balayage vs. Ombre – What’s the Difference?
It’s easy to get balayage and ombre confused but there are a few noticeable distinctions between them. Ombre is a graduated hair colour look that fades from dark at the roots to lighter at the tips. The most visible difference is that ombre is applied horizontally rather than vertically (as with balayage), with two distinct tones which are blended mid-way up the hair to give a soft transition from one colour to the other.
Generally, ombre is more of an obvious finish, whereas balayage has a more natural effect. However, you can also have balayage ombre, which is a combination of the two styles together. Credit: @hairbyelle_annand @marieevefaucher
Balayage vs. Highlights – What’s the Difference?
Traditional highlights are applied using foils from as close to the root as possible. With balayage, the colour is applied in selected strands on the top layers of the hair rather than all over. Balayage regrowth is softer and less noticeable, making it a more low-maintenance alternative to classic highlights. Credit: @hairbyerkan @carly.colors.hair
What Does Balayage Hair Look like Before and After?
As with any hair colouring process, balayage can result in some dryness, especially if you’re going significantly lighter. So, be sure to take care of your balayage hair at home by using nourishing products which put some of that moisture back into your hair to keep your colour looking its best. Credit: @hairstylist_sarabea
Editor’s tip: In addition to your regular conditioner, we recommend caring for your balayage hair by treating it to an intensive deep conditioning treatment at least once a week. The TRESemmé Colour Shineplex Mask is ideal for colour treated hair types as it nourishes hair while making your colour look more vibrant.
How Long Does It Take to Get Balayage Hair?
The process of getting balayage varies in length but takes on average between 2-4 hours. Different colourists have their own methods but generally the process will follow the following steps:
- Consultation – You’ll start with a consultation, in which you discuss with your colourist what you want, show them any reference pictures you’ve got and talk about what’s possible on your hair.
- Application – Your colourist will then section your hair and apply the colour with a brush or their hands. They may use foil or cotton wool to keep certain sections separate.
- Developing time – The hair colour is left on to develop, which can take around 30-40 minutes.
- Rinse – Once the colour has developed, it will be washed out, shampooed and assessed by your colourist.
- Toner – Depending on the colour you’re trying to achieve, you may then need a toner to be applied to achieve your perfect shade.
- Blow dry – Finally, your hair will be blow-dried and styled to your chosen finish.
Can You Do Balayage at Home?
You may have seen that there are some at-home balayage kits out there on the market but we’d suggest that balayage is best left to the professionals. The benefits of having a professional applying your colour is that they’ll be able to tell you what’s achievable on your hair and they’ll know which tones and where best to apply the colour to flatter your face and colouring. Credit: @meltedbymish
How Much Does Balayage Cost in the UK?
The price of balayage can vary a lot depending on where you live, the level of your colourist and your desired look but you can expect to pay anywhere between £70-£250. Most salons offer a free consultation beforehand, so you can inquire about the exact costs involved before you commit.