What Is Balayage? A Complete Guide to the Different Types of Balayage

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 hair and of course, some of the best hair colour inspiration.


What is Balayage?

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.

What is balayage, styling hair dyeing image
Source: Adobe Stock

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, 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.


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.


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 hair at home by using nourishing products which put some of that moisture back into your hair to keep your colour looking its best.

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 Keratin Smooth Deep Smoothing Mask is ideal for colour treated hair types as it nourishes hair and keeps it feeling super smooth.


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 hair colourists have their own methods but generally the process will follow the following steps:

1. Consultation – You will start with a consultation, in which you discuss with your hair colourist what you want, show them any reference pictures and talk about what’s possible on your hair.

2. Application – Your hair colourist will then section your hair and apply the dye with a brush or their hands. They may use foil or cotton wool to keep certain sections separate.

3. Developing time – The dye is left on to develop, which can take around 30-40 minutes.

4. Rinse – Once the dye has developed, it will be washed out, shampooed and assessed by your hair

5. Toner – Depending on the colour you’re trying to achieve, you may then need a toner to be applied to
achieve your perfect shade.

6. 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 it is best left to the professionals. The benefits of having a professional are 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 dye to flatter your face.


What Are Some Of Our Fave Balayage Hair Colours & Styles?

While it’s true that blonde 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 fave balayage hair colours, here.



Blond balayage hair highlights
Source: Adobe Stock

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.



Woman with brown highlighted hair
Source: Adobe Stock

Working in some lighter tones a couple of shades lighter than your natural colour will add fresh dimension to brunette locks.


Dark Hair/Black

Dark hair with brown highlights
Source: Unsplash

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.


Ash Blonde

Ash blonde hair with dark roots
Source: Adobe Stock

Ash blonde – with its mix of cool blonde and silver grey tones – always looks amazing.

TRESemmé Colour Revitalise Shampoo
TRESemmé Colour Revitalise Conditioner

Editor’s tip: Wondering how to keep your ash blonde balayage looking fresh? Using products such as the TRESemmé Colour Revitalise Shampoo and Conditioner will work to keep your hair colour vibrant for longer.



Copper balayage hair
Source: Adobe Stock

Copper hair is having a moment right now and we love the way this balayage flows into a striking, vibrant copper at the ends.


Rose Gold

Rose gold balayage highlights
Source: Unsplash

Making it your mission to be more experimental with your hair colour? Let this Instagram-approved rose gold balayage inspire your next look.



Bright purple hair colour
Source: Adobe Stock

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.


Dark to light

Dark to light balayage hair
Source: Unsplash

By painting lighter “babylights” closer to the roots, your hair colourist will be able to soften the contrast between your base colour and the ends, resulting in a smooth graduation of colour. Placing balayage highlights through your hair, focusing on the ends and through the front, will add detail and interest to the look.



Woman with curly balayage hair
Source: Adobe Stock

The balayage technique works on any hair texture – including natural curls, making them pop and giving them a more defined look.

To keep your curls looking vibrant, prep your hair with the Dove Nutritive Colour Care Solutions Shampoo and Conditioner.



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