Balayage (pronounced baa-lay-arge) was developed in France during the 1970s as a way to create natural looking sun-kissed hair. However, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that it started to spread to the United States, and even more recently in our own land down under.
These days, balayage is available in almost any hair salon in Australia. Along with helping us achieve our beach-babe hair dreams, it’s also ideal for those of us who love to play with red, pink, green, blue and purple hair, but hate the maintenance involved.
In this guide, you’ll discover what balayage is, why it’s so popular, how much it costs (on average), who should try it and the answers to any other questions you may have. You’ll even find where the best balayage specialist is near you!
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash
Your Complete Guide to Balayage in 2020
What is balayage?
The word for balayage actually translates to ‘scanning’ or ‘sweeping’ in French. In relation to the hairstyle, it’s the technique of free-hand sweeping colour up and down sections of hair so no regrowth or harsh lines are left. As a result, the hair looks like it has naturally received lightening by spending time in the sun.
Balayage is often confused with ombré. An easy way to remember the difference is that balayage is the technique and ombré is the effect. When something has a multi-toned look, transitioning from dark to light (or reverse), this is ombré, which for hair, can be created by using balayage.
All hairdressers will have their own style of balayage, but it really depends on the look you want. For example, you may want some of the highlights to start on the actual roots or you may want them to start lower down. Or, you may want to have framing around the face, starting with the light from root to tip, and then starting further down the hair lengths towards the back of head. It all depends on you.
Why is balayage so popular?
As balayage is such a natural style, it will always always be in fashion. Plus, as the colour is always hand-painted, the look is unique to you, your face shape, colouring and style.
One of the big advantages of balayage for brunettes is how much it reduces maintenance costs. If you’re brunette and decide to go full-head blonde, within a week or two, your regrowth is going to show in a horrible, harsh line. This technique stops that.
The ombré effect is made so some of your roots are already showing nicely, so as your hair grows, your regrowth simply blends in. This is great if you want to grow your hair and minimise how often you’re visiting the salon.
How much does balayage cost?
The cost of your balayage will depend on your hair length, condition, current colour, the end result wanted and the salon. However, you’ll be looking at anywhere from $150 to $400+ for medium-length hair.
If you have booked in for a balayage service, be aware that you will be in that salon chair for many hours. The process of hand-painting the bleach up and down in small sections takes a good 45 to 60 minutes, or more, depending on the thickness and length of your hair.
Then, you have to wait for the colour to process. Once this has done, it’s time to be guided to the basin for the bleach to be rinsed out, toners to be added, left to sit and wash out, and the same for a treatment. After this, it’s time to make any trims to style cuts you want, dry and style your hair.
The balayage process takes a lot of time, product, patience and skill. Like any professional, hairdressers want to be paid fairly for their efforts, and rightly so.
Who is the ideal candidate for balayage?
- Want to be blonde from root to tip.
- Hate roots showing, at all.
- Have damaged hair.
- Recently cut your hair very short, as in a few millimetres.
Do not get balayage. However, if you have fairly healthy hair, want a change but still a natural look and want something pretty easy to maintain, have a chat with your hairdresser.
When should I touch up balayage?
The average time left between balayage touch ups is 8 to 12 weeks. However, how fast your hair grows, the look you like and the original style of the service can all increase this time, even by up to 6 months.
As the purpose of this style of hair colouring is to leave some of the roots exposed without harsh lines, new hair can grow without it looking obvious. It’s worth keeping in mind touch up appointments generally only touch up where they need to at the tops, so leaving it too long may require a full head, which will cost more.
Can balayage cover grey hairs?
While it can be tricky to bleach and colour greys, balayage allows the hairdresser to target lighter areas. This can be handy if your greys are growing in a bit patchy as they hairdresser can make your hair look more natural all over.
You may also want to think about toning your hair to an ashy blonde. As this colour is quite similar to a grey, it can help blend in those often unwanted hairs. Even youngsters without a grey in sight are opting for an ashy toner wash!
Where can I get balayage done near me?
Where there is a hair salon, there is normally balayage. However, be careful where you go, as like we mentioned, a good hairdresser is worth their weight in gold, especially with balayage.
Bad colour application can result in chunky sections of blonde or a harsh line, which is definitely not what you want. You want someone who is used to full colour transformations and can show you photos of their work, or even better, check out their reviews on localsearch.com.au and on social media.
At the bottom of this article, you’ll find a handy search bar. If you pop in your suburb, we’ll take you to a list of local hairdressers so you can do all the digging and research you need to find your nearest balayage specialist.
How to Maintain Balayage Hair
A good hairdresser is worth their weight in gold when it comes to balayage. When they have a good technique, they can make your regrowth actually work with your new style, and not against. This means as your hair grows, it will simply look like the ends are kissed by the sun, and not the roots, meaning less visits to the salon.
However, your at-home care is crucial for maintaining your colour. You’ll want to be regularly toning to keep out those brassy tones (unless that’s the look you’re going for), and using a quality treatment to maintain the health of your hair. Again, your hairdresser can help you figure out the best products for your hair type.
3 Top Tips for Maintaining Balayage Hair
1. For the best results, have healthy hair.
We’ve all heard the horror stories and seen the videos of hair snapping off after bleaching. This is one of two things:
- The person applying the bleach had no idea what they were doing.
- The hair was not in good enough condition to be bleached.
Do not let this scare you out of trying something new with your hair. As long as you are going to a reputable hairdresser in your area, they will let you know before bleaching your hair if it’s in good enough condition to do so. If it’s not, then they can help you get it to where it needs to be to start your lightening journey.
2. Use quality shampoos, conditions, treatments and toners.
Balayage will typically mean you’ve had bleach applied to your hair. Bleached hair required work to stay and look healthy.
Hair products bought in grocery or department stores tend to use cheap ingredients or substitutes that make your hair look good, but will build up and cause problems over time. It’s quite common for this build up to actually impede the success of your bleaching and colouring.
When your hairdresser suggests a shampoo, conditioner, treatment and/or toner, it’s for a reason. While it’s common to think they’re just trying to upsell you, they really do have your best interest at heart, and would hate to see you damage all their hard work.
3. Book in your balayage refreshes every 8 to 12 weeks.
A good hairdresser will be able to extend the life of your balayage, even to the point where you don’t need to do a full head for months at a time. Even so, you should not neglect regular trims, professional treatments and toners.
Checking in with your hairdresser every 8 to 12 weeks after balayage will ensure your hair keeps looking beautiful between actual colour sessions. It will also help you know if you could receive better results by switching at-home products.
Balayage Inspiration Photos
Pink & Red Ombré Hair
While the most commonly seen ombré is stretching a natural colour into the opposite shade on the spectrum, it can also be done with bold colours. By using an ombré technique with unnatural hair colours, it tends to make it a little less like a wig.
Check out this transition from a fuschia to cherry red created by CharlieCashHair on Instagram.
Natural to Pastel Balayage
Like bold colours, the balayage technique can be used to make pastel colours look a little more like your own hair. In the below photo from Instagram, Carolina Martinez from Mc Beauty Styles has used her client’s natural hair colour with pastel peach highlights to create this stunning look.
As mentioned, balayage can also help extend the amount of time between visits to the hairdresser as roots growing out don’t look out of place.
Sun-Kissed Blonde to Brunette Balayage
When you look like you’ve just come back from a holiday on a tropical island that’s sun-kissed your hair, you’ve got good balayage. When you combine the colouring technique with some layers, it also makes you look like you’ve got a lot more hair than you actually do too!