Balayage Hair: Everything You Need To Know

Balayage Decoded: From Trying The Trend At Home To Who It Suits

Balayage. No, it's not a kind of French soup, nor the name of an obscure artist you never quite 'got'. But it does have quite a lot to do with France - and with painting, in fact.

The hair colouring trend du jour, balayage, uses free-hand painting techniques, with your colourist brushing the colour directly onto your hair.

The effect is a more natural, sun-kissed and breezy dye job and can even be used on dark hair.

Still confused? We grilled Jack Howard, hair colourist supremo at Paul Edmonds and the man who brought balayage to the UK on the ins and outs of it.

What is balayage?

'Balayage is a French word meaning to sweep or to paint,' Jack explained. 'It allows for a natural-looking effect, with subtle, less noticeable regrowth lines thans with regular foil highlights.'

'The balayage pieces should be very close and fine at the root, leading to a thicker highlight at the ends of the hair. Balayage is applied just on the surface of the section of hair, and not saturated all the way through the section until the very tips, otherwise you would have a streak of colour that would look far too harsh.'

Jack went on to explain, 'It gives the hair a natural, untouched appearance. It’s all about giving the impression you’ve been in the Caribbean for a month or two and have picked up some natural sun-kissed highlights!' Sounds good to us...

Why not use foils?

Jack is adamant that foils aren't the way forward. He told us. 'Since I came back to the UK in 2010 after years working in the States, I have been saying that foil highlights are dying out - it’s such an 80s look and certainly not something the modern woman wants.'

'Balayage is still a highlighting technique, so it’s not the death of highlights per se. But I prefer the bespoke feel you get from freehand colouring as opposed to a line-up of perfectly-placed foils.'


What is the difference between balayage and ombre?

Ombre is the transition to a light shade from a dark shade. Ombre is a lot more extreme and it involves the top end of your hair being completely dark, the middle a inbetweeney kinda colour and the ends completely light.

However, balayage is more of a natural look and still has dark tones at the end of the hair. It mimics how your hair would naturually get lighter in the sun (if only we had sun) and looks slightly more unkempt.

Why do so many A Listers have balayage done?

'As well as looking much more sophisticated and natural, the big appeal of balayage is that it’s bespoke – a colourist skilled in balayage will look at your face and place the lights to perfectly flatter and light your features. That's why if you look at most A-listers, you rarely see a classic foil highlight - you see balayage.

'The stylist can also place the colour wherever suits the way you wear your hair. I give a lot of my longer haired ladies ‘ponytail lights’ – balayage placed underneath the hair so that when they wear it up in a pony, it’s not flat, one dimensional colour underneath.'

How long does balayage take to do?

Turns out, it's pretty speedy work. Jack said, 'Normally a full head takes 45 mins or so to apply, so it's quicker than normal foils for me, but I have been doing it for nearly 20 years and I find when I'm teaching it to hairdressers, speed only comes with practice.'

He added, 'The only time it takes longer is when you’re converting someone who's had foil highlights to balayage - then you might need to do a root stretch tint first (when you apply tint to the root to fade out the highlighted colour gradually, so you don't see a harsh line). Otherwise it's quick, easy and low maintenance.'

What colours are used?

Jack said there's room to get creative. 'You can use whatever colours you want - I usually use one or two. Because the colour is feathered lightly at the root and the ends are saturated with colour, you get a rich, textured look.'


How long does Balayage last?

Good news, lazy girls. Jack told us, 'A little balayage goes a long way, so it definitely costs less over time. You don't need to visit the salon every 6 weeks as you do with foils - you only need to see your colourist every 12-14 weeks as the highlights will grow out naturally.'

'The exception is if you’re covering grey - then you would need to do a root tint first (sometimes, depending on the colour, you can do it all at once). If you want to keep your greys covered, you'd need to come back to the salon every 4-6 weeks for regrowth touch-up and a balayage appointment every 12-16 weeks.'

What are some common balayage blunders?

'There are a few. It's a surface technique (unlike foil highlights, where the colour is saturated from root to tip), so when hairdressers over-saturate it can look very heavy. If the product isn't applied evenly, you get a mottled effect and, too heavy an application loses the softness and the contrast which makes balayage so beautiful. You just need to see someone who knows what they're doing.'

Can you balayage your own hair?

'Yes you can, though it's definitely worth going to a colour specialist if you are a bleach-novice or have really dark hair.'

And if that's not enough, find out more on balayage below...

How to do DIY balayage highlights at home: a step by step guide

Or, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a bleach maverick then this is how you can do balayage yourself at home. It's easier than it looks we promise!

Balayage: How To Make It Work For Every Hair Type

Balayage is not just for mousey brown hair. "Any age, any hair colour, any hair type can benefit from the fresh, youthful look balayage gives. From teenage girls to Jane Fonda at 75, to dark hair to grey, to curly to straight – they all look amazing with balayage!" Click to read how baalyage can work for your hair colour.

The Best Salons To Go To For Balayage Colour In London

Grazia have rounded up the best salons in London (and a classic from Manchester) which will give you the balayage locks of your dreams.

Can I get blush pink balayage?

Fed up of the usual blonde-hued balayage and want something a little different? Introducing a pastel pink muli-tonal balayage which is as dreamy as it sounds...

What about grey balayage?

Promising to be this Autumns most sought after hue and we are not surprised. The look is created using grey and lilac tones and the results are sensational - find out more about the grey ombre look here.

What is tiger eye balayage?

The perfect twist on balayage for brunettes, the tiger eye trend takes its name from the Tiger's Eye rock, echoing its bronze, gold and brown stripes to give darker hair an effortless lift. Learn more about the tiger eye balayage technique here and find out what happened when one Grazia staffer tried the trend.

Does balayage damage your hair?

Most colourists would agree that balayage is arguably less damaging than conventional colouring techniques which use foils and heat to set the colour, meaning you're less likely to end up with brassy, over-processed hair. Bleach, however, can prove drying on your ends: be sure to consult our guide to treating dry, damaged hair to keep your lengths in optimum condition, and consider asking your hairdresser about Olaplex on your next salon trip.

I have a bob... can I still rock balayage?

If it's good enough for Lily James et al... A slew of A-Lister's are switching up their hue for something balayage-inspired and the results are mesmerising. We speak to Stil Salon on everything you need to know about getting balayage when you have a bob.

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