How to Get a Celeb-Worthy Balayage Hair Color

Freehand vs. foils? You decide.

There’s no questioning how a great dye job can completely change your look (and your outlook, for that matter). When it comes to the world of highlighting, one certain method has edged out others in the pack. Balayage hair color, or the highlighting technique known for its more natural-looking results, has taken the world by storm and has most of us making a beeline to our local salons.

Famous for the sophisticated dimension it gives hair, the chic yet understated procedure—which is, of course, French—literally means to sweep or to paint. During a balayage session, a stylist eyeballs certain sections of hair naturally highlighted by the sun and brushes on the dye freehand, without any caps or foil.

Looking to get that much-coveted balayage hair color look? We made a short checklist of things to keep in mind:

Balayage Hair Color: What To Remember

balayage brown curly updo
Balayage looks its best when done in warmer shades.

1. It will give a more natural look.

Unlike foils, which can saturate—and, essentially, lighten—hair from root to tip if desired, balayage leaves the roots untouched, for the most part. This means you’ll end up with a hair color that gets progressively lighter towards the ends, and with less of an ashier tone.

2. Stylists have more control over foil.

It goes without saying that you should book an appointment with a stylist you trust. That said, foil still gives most stylist a lot more control over the end result than with freehand highlighting. With balayage, your stylist tackles your highlights in a more organic manner (just a brush and a trained eye), and results can vary for person to person—which is a great thing if you’re into a highly personalized (a.k.a. bespoke) dye job.

3. Balayage is awesome if you’re lazy.

Okay, maybe lazy is a harsh word… low on the upkeep, perhaps? Since it’s definitively looser and rootier up top, a balayage process can be left to grow out for up to four months—or even longer, if you’re going for the ombré look—and still look somewhat fresh.

balayage hair straight
Straight-ish hair? Muss it up to let those highlights pop. Photo credit:

4. How you do your hair matters.

There’s a reason why balayage models are oftentimes photographed with wavy or curly hair—ringlets and waves are more forgiving on freehand color, and help highlights look more blended in. If you wear your hair straight, any telltale seams are more obvious, so make sure your stylist properly “smudges” the ends (some even backcomb while applying the dye), so there isn’t a clear demarcation.

5. Be conservative with lightening.

Since balayage hair color naturally lightens and doesn’t use foils to allow the color to set or “cook,” there’s a limit to how light you can get in one sitting. If you’re starting with a dark base and want to go really pale and ashy, you’ll need to either get a single-process color first and then progressively lighten via balayage, or stick to foils for a more consistent allover brightening.

Looking for more hair color inspiration? Check out more fall hair color trends sure to step up your seasonal look.