Derived from the french expression “to paint”, balayage is a hair colouring technique that has changed the world of hair colouring forever. Before balayage hair colour, women spent hours on the salon chair, heads loaded with aluminium foils and in a half-nap state. But once the technique started to gain popularity among hairstylists and celebrities alike, it became one of the most desirable colouring treatments to ever exist. Why? The answer is simple - it gives you natural-looking, almost sun-kissed hair. The colour is applied with a brush in a freehand technique, on just the gut feeling of the hairstylist, who decides on the placement and transitions of the hair colours involved. And even though the technique was first invented by French colourists back in the 1970s, it holds a lot of promise for modern fashionistas looking for fabulously coloured hair!

Having said all that, there are still many who struggle to understand what the hair trend is all about. Which is why we picked some of the most pressing questions about balayage hair and answered them below.


1. How is balayage different from highlights?

How is balayage different from highlights?

Image courtesy: @etrithair, @roomfiftya

Even though balayage looks like highlights, it differs in some key aspects. While highlights are created by putting sections of hair in foil or meche, balayage is more freehand and doesn’t involve sectioning of hair at all. Because of this main difference, highlights come out as statement stripes on you, rather than the more natural-looking and softer look of the balayage. Also, the casual dyeing approach of balayage gives your stylist more room to experiment with the placement of the colour, framing your face perfectly in the process.


2. What are the different types of balayage?

What are the different types of balayage?

Image courtesy: @themaneartistry

Even though soft blonde and caramel balayage are a classic, there has been a lot of innovation in the technique. For instance, if you do not like flat colour fill, 3-D balayage technique can add more dimensions to it. Instead of using just one colour, two colours are used - with one being a shade darker - to add more depth to the free-flowing colour. The technique also adds more shadows to your mane, making it look thicker and a lot more voluminous when compared to virgin hair.

Similarly, new trends keep popping up with balayage hair colour as well. One of the recent faves is the smokey gold balayage - a mix of ash and espresso tones focused on the face-framing tendrils in the front and the ends of your hair. The colour is seamlessly blended with a lot of glossy finish to make it one of the most luxurious balayage trends we have seen in a while.

Other improvements and innovations, like reverse balayage, are always up for grabs to experiment with; so make sure you pick the right hairstylist who can recommend the correct type of balayage for you.


3. What is the right way to get balayage done?

What is the right way to get balayage done?

There are a couple of benchmarks with balayage, to make sure that it has been done properly. These are some pointers to watch out for:

  • Balayage pieces on the hair should be close to each other, starting subtle at the roots and thickening as you go down to the tips.
  • Balayage colour should be focused on just the surface of chosen sections, and not applied through and through.
  • The colour should appear soft, have the right lift and be devoid of any brassy, orange tones. This requires use of the right quality of products and getting the timing just right.
  • The flow of the colour should be uniform, and a patchy balayage outcome is a sign that the lifting/bleaching process has gone wrong.

Fret not if your balayage doesn’t turn out right - all you need is a bit of colour correction and it can be fixed. Fixes can range from root melts to toning shampoos that either add brightness or darken the colour, and a professional can assess the damage and fix it to get the desired result.


4. What is the difference between balayage and ombré?

What is the difference between balayage and ombré?

Image courtesy: @alexandresillvestre, @salih.tunbul

Since both of them are a highlighting technique, balayage and ombré are often used interchangeably. But technically, while ombré is a technique that looks like a soft gradient of colour from dark to light (root to tip), balayage is placed throughout your mane in areas where your hair might catch light. Sometimes, the two techniques are combined to create a ‘sombré’ effect - a softer, charcoal black or platinum blonde version of pretty ombrés.


5. What are the benefits of balayage?

What are the benefits of balayage?

Apart from looking like a total knockout, balayage hair colour has some practical benefits as well:

  • It is modern, trendy and looks much prettier than foil highlights.
  • It can be customised to many different techniques, like babylights or pearly balayage, that can use a variety of colours and ‘hand painting’ techniques to create something totally unique for you.
  • Balayage is excellent at adapting the natural growth cycle of your hair. This means that the dyeing technique welcomes tonal changes in your hair, without having to get constant touch-ups at the salon.
  • It is also customisable to your haircut, facial features and skin tone. A hairstylist who specializes in balayage and has a good eye for it, can place the colour at just the right places, without disrupting the base colour or cut of your hair.
  • Balayage appointments are quick, ranging from 15-minute dashes done at the backwash to 45-minute processes that involve significant lightening of the hair. It is a low maintenance colour and basic colour-care methods are enough to keep it safe and looking vibrant!

6. How to prepare for a balayage hair colour appointment?

How to prepare for a balayage hair colour appointment?

Image courtesy: @hairstylist.madison

So you’ve decided to get the balayage colour done, what now? Here is how to prepare for your balayage appointment:

i) Pick a salon:

With balayage, picking the right hairstylist is as important as picking the colour - this is because it is the experience and creativity of the stylist that will define how well your dye job looks. You can either go to your usual colourist or do some extra research on stylists who are known to create beautiful balayage; Instagram can come in handy for that!

ii) Consultation:

Don’t expect to just walk into a salon and walk out with a stunning balayage done - you need a consultation at least 48 hours prior to actually getting settled in a chair. This is done to properly educate you about the options (types) and put you through an allergy test to see if you have adverse reactions to the brand of colour used by them.

iii) Collect your inspos:

Whether you like warm tones or cool hues on your hair, make sure to collect enough inspiration images for the kind of dye job you are looking for. Your hairstylist will take all of them into consideration and pick the right set of details to best suit your skin tone.


7. FAQs about balayage hair colour

FAQs about balayage hair colour

Q. Does balayage hair colour work on all hair types?

A. Yes, the balayage hair colour technique can be achieved on all hair types and textures. However, the final look will differ. For instance, naturally curly hair can be sectioned in clumps and the colour applied with more control. The only thing that matters while picking a balayage colour is the base colour, according to which the pre-lightener is picked.

Q. Can balayage hair colour be done on short hair?

A. Yes, balayage hair colouring techniques work on short hair as well. The idea is to maintain the natural flow of colour with similar application techniques as used on longer hair.

Q. How to take care of balayage hair colour?

A. Since the balayage colouring technique is more natural and doesn’t follow set rules, it doesn't require a lot of upkeep. There are no regrowth lines and the colour grows out easily, so all you need to do is follow the usual colour-care routine for balayage. Switch to sulphate-free and colour-safe formulas for your hair, condition after every wash and use a hair mask once a week. Avoid showers with hot water and try to cut down on heat styling as much as possible.

Main image courtesy: @garv