The 411 on Balayage: Subtle, Sexy and Oh-So-Wearable

Eunice Lucero | 23 April 2016

Sweeping never sounded so glam.

What is balayage? We’ve heard this fancy-sounding word thrown around a lot amongst celebrities, social media mavens and stylists. And while the mainstream has quickly been catching up on this much-buzzed-about trend, not a lot know the history behind the technology.

What once was an underground hair coloring technique in France, balayage—from balayer, meaning “to sweep” or “to paint” in French—has been around since the 1970s. It involves a stylist painting on color or highlights onto hair using a freehand technique. As opposed to previous processes that we’re already familiar with, such as using foil or a cap, balayage lends itself to achieving subtler, more natural-looking results—the stylist is free to assess which areas of hair need more highlighting and is then free to ribbon these highlights throughout your tresses.

balayage dark honey highlights
Now you see it, now you (kinda) don’t: the subtle beauty of balayage. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Why is Balayage So Popular?

Some call it the lazy girl’s best friend. But the reason the balayage technique has been gaining a fever pitch around the beauty circuit these days is quite straightforward. Not only is it a relatively quicker and more hassle-free process for the client, it also works best on those who have never previously had foil highlights done. This makes balayage an easy—and very on-trend!—entry point to the world of hair coloring, especially for those who were maybe a bit anxious to take that first leap. It also means a more diplomatic process for both the stylist and the client: Both can agree on how far you want to go in terms of color.

Another reason balayage is so in demand these days is that it is a relatively low-maintenance procedure. Since the trademark of this process is a softer, more grown-in look, the highlighted strands commonly start at mid-shaft, producing a sun-kissed appearance usually achieved by merely staying out in the sun for too long (or even simply stepping into some really good lighting). Regrowth is naturally encouraged at the root, making it perfect for those who can’t afford the time or cost of rigid color upkeep.

It is also a technique that offers highly personalized or bespoke results. Those averse to having uniformly-streaked hair can rest assured knowing that your new head of highlights is uniquely your own, regardless of whether you choose a well-known shade of color. Everyone’s base color is different to begin with, and a balayage technique ensures this individuality is carried over to the highlights you choose for your particular ’do at the moment.

blonde balayage curls
Buttery tones (whether natural or bottle-borne) get more dimension with balayage highlights. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Balayage and already-highlighted hair

This isn’t to say that men and women who’ve already had their hair previously colored aren’t a good fit for the procedure. A seasoned hair stylist will be able to properly paint on new highlights on your hair with respect to already existing highlights. They can even find ways to enhance your existing color with the right balayage layer. This actually can make for an even sexier, more personalized end result. The highlights also look more intricate, giving balayage a higher-end feel than simply a grown-out dye job.

There are very little to no permanent hair coloring techniques as democratic as balayage. It’s a process that allows hair to grow out beautifully and for clients to last longer between color appointments. As far as at-home maintenance goes, it simply requires just the same amount of care that regular color-treated hair needs, specifically a wash and care system (we love the gentle, lower-sulfate cleanse that comes with Dove Nutritive Solutions Color Care Shampoo and Dove Nutritive Solutions Color Care Conditioner) that keeps brassiness and fading at bay.

Haircuts and balayage

Since the process lends itself to ribboning out through the hair strand, it primarily looks best when used with longer, more flowing hairstyles. Whatever obvious regrowth starting point there is—and with a good balayage, there is little to none—is deftly hidden with a tousled, wavy style. However, those with shorter hair can also benefit from the technique depending on the communication you have with your stylist. Bigger blocks of color on a bob or even a pixie cut can add just the same level of dimension afforded by balayage to longer styles.

Have you ever tried balayage highlights?