All You May Need to Know About Balayage Hair

Last Updated on January 28, 2023 by Evelyn Davies

Written by Evelyn Davies. Hairdresser. Creative writer. 

What is Balayage?

Balayage Is a French word, meaning sweeping. The technique we use to balayage color hair is a sweeping effect. Like freehand painting. Balayage can vary so I’m here to clarify some terms and misconceptions. You can get partial balayage, reverse balayage, ombre is a different look and highlights are different too. Usually, the balayage effect is darker at the root and lighter at the ends, but balayage can be created with lots of different color transitions.

Balayage Vs Highlights

Balayage can be done in a foil, meche, or paper like a highlight. It can look like we are creating highlights, but they’re different. A balayage in a foil is blended out at the root with the sweeping effect. This can also be called foilyage. Some stylists use backcombing too in this technique. The reason we use foil can be down to a few things.

  • Foils achieve a lighter blonde; you may need the incubation for more lift.
  • Control – This stops lighteners and colors from transferring onto sections of hair.
  • Bleach, some balayage bleach is for a free hand, and some is better in foil.

Highlights are vertical strands weaved in that are consistently the same from root to tip. Done in foil, meche, or paper. Sometimes you can get a dark-to-light effect in your hair from having a buildup of highlight history in the hair. So, we understand why this gets confusing. The picture below shows highlights that have built up to become a dark-to-light effect.

Woman with balayage hair in a saloon

Balayage vs Ombre

Ombre is a French word too. The word means ”shaded”. We use the word ombre in hairdressing to describe the gradual transition of color. All the ends are one tone there’s a more gradient effect. Again, this can be created with lots of colors, but usually, it’s a dark–light tone.

I understand why these terms are confusing but here we have pictures for a visual of an ombre look. As you can see there’s more of a fade and the ends are the same tone. When the hair is a balayage like the first picture the hair has a more vertical stripe from dark to light and multi-tones.

Balayage Highlights

Free-Hand Balayage

This is another technique we hair colorists use. There are a lot of lighteners we use for these effects. Generally, these looks do not get as light as in foils. Free-hand balayage can look a little gentler and more natural. We paint panels with our product and soften the area near the root by using a sweeping effect. We can also do this by painting strands on the root when we top up the balayage.

So again, lots of techniques. I have to say It takes skill knowledge and a creative eye for us to decide what step we need to take on you. Check out this free hand I created for a client.

reverse balayage hair

How Often to Touch-Up Balayage?

Well, this is a question with quite a lot of answers. It all depends on the look you have had, your natural color, and how rooty you like a balayage.

Some clients like to top up every 6-8 weeks, some come in every 6 months, some like to keep a sparkly toner and top it up every 3/4 weeks and some want the ability to grow it out until they fancy a change. The beauty of balayage hair is that it can suit high and low-maintenance looks and can fit into different budgets. If you want to top up regularly, tell your stylist, if you want low-commitment color, also tell your stylist.

How Long Does Balayage Take?

Again, this is a changeable answer. Something I have found with balayage is – It generally takes longer than highlights to create.

From the colorist’s point of view, balayage is a bigger job than highlights. It needs to blend nicely so we have to do more sweepy strokes, especially if we use foil. Now, this isn’t always the case – Sometimes free hand can be a pretty fast application, so it depends on what you want. If you’re thinking – of super fine blended strands and super light then be prepared to be in the salon a long time. Once you throw backcombing in too it adds time to our application.

Have a chat with your stylist in advance, send them your hair goal pictures and be honest about your color history, these factors can affect time in the salon and on balayage. Also, time = money so the bigger the job, the bigger the price tag. Be prepared to spend if you want super light detailed balayage.

What is Reverse Balayage?

This is a technique we use to add dimension and tone, usually darker. I love a bit of reverse balayage.

If your hair has got super light it can end up looking one color and need some low tones to pop out your light. I love this because personally, I think balayage’s should have that dimensional look to give them a natural feel. I even love it when we use this technique with fashion colors pastels and brights, you can add multi tones by working different shades through instead of lifting the hair.

balayage highlights on red hair

Partial Balayage – What Is It?

So, this is also a balayage technique but we don’t do the full head of hair.

Maybe you want to balayage around the face only like a natural money piece, or maybe you just want some lighter tones up top. The partial balayage is great for topping up a full balayage or creating a small change in the hair. Some people like to lift up edges only and some like a scattered effect. I hope this has cleared up a lot of your balayage questions and will help you decide on your new look. Happy coloring.

Professional hairstyle with balayage hair color

About the author

Evelyn Davies writer
Evelyn Davies

Our writer Evelyn Davies is a traveling hairdresser with lots of hairdressing experience from all over the world. She also writes informative hair care blogs and has extensive knowledge of the industry. Evelyn has experience working as an artistic educator in the UK along with media hairdressing and writing for magazines. She has also owned her own salon for 4 years. On top of that, she now works freelance hairdressing in Amsterdam. Interested in business, the environmental impact of hairdressing, hair-related media, and all things hair. She also loves the outdoors, surfing, hiking, travel, and well-being.

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