Looking to change up your hair color this season? Balayage hair may be the perfect option for you. We caught up with celebrity hairstylist Bianca Hillier, “The Queen of Color,” to learn all about the basics of balayage. Hillier is known for creating customized, beachy balayage hair and is responsible for Rocky Barnes’ gorgeous sunkissed highlights. She actually teaches her own master class about how to perfectly perform balayage hair, so she’s clearly an expert at this popular technique. Let’s listen in!
Get hair, health, and science news delivered right to your inbox.
What is balayage?
“Balayage is not just a look, it is a technique used to highlight,” Hillier explains. The origins of the word are actually in France, but it first became popular as a color technique in the ‘90s. “It is a French term meaning sweeping,” she shares. “Think of it as paint sweeping onto the hair.” Since stylists actually paint the color on your hair using a precision brush, balayage allows you to get highlights without using foils while spending less time in the salon.
How does balayage hair color compare to traditional foil highlights?
“Balayage is a sheer ribboning highlight that sits on top of the hair for a more translucent, sun-kissed finish,” Hillier explains. “A foil or weaved highlight is streaky and a more dense colour due to the heat conducted by the foil, allowing the chemicals to penetrate through the hair,” she says. Instead of wrapping colored sections in foils, stylists sometimes use cotton strips to keep the painted pieces divided and separated from the rest of the hair while doing the balayage technique.
Besides taking less time at the salon when you opt for balayage hair, growing out your color at home can be easier, too. “Since the chemicals act faster with heat in a foil, foil highlights creates more of a stripe-like appearance, which means a more noticeable grow out.” she reveals. “Balayage is fluid and sheer, enabling the hair to grow in with a more flawless line of demarcation.”
What’s the difference between balayage technique and ombré?
With balayage hair, your stylist is using color to make parts of your hair lighter and create a seamless effect, whereas ombré involves using two different colors. “Balayage is a technique used to highlight,” she says. “Ombré is a look referencing a dark to light gradient.” Ombré hair is typically darker on the top of the head and lighter at the bottom which looks more dramatic than balayage hair.
Who can get balayage?
Blonde balayage may be the most popular style of the color, but anyone looking for multidimensional color can consider balayage, according to Hillier. “Balayage can be done on all hair types, but it may not be the best or easiest approach, depending on what you’re starting with and what the desired results are,” she advises. Balayage is often seen on straight hair, but people with curly or wavy hair can get it as well. Sometimes Hillier paints balayage on clients’ natural curly hair, and other times, she straightens it before beginning color. Your best bet is booking a consultation and talking to your hairstylist in person to find out if the balayage technique is right for your locks.
What to do before and after balayage
It’s a good idea to get a trim to perfect your shape before you get any color done. “I always suggest getting a haircut prior to any balayage service,” Hillier shares. “Balayage placement is done according to how the hair falls. If a beautiful 6-inch ribboning tip gets a 2-inch haircut, then there will be dark holes in the color pattern especially if layers are newly created.”
Once you ensure you’re happy with your current haircut, then it’s time to book your balayage treatment. It’s also helpful to bring in some inspiration. Find photos of celebrities with balayage treatments you like to make sure you and your stylist share the same vision prior to getting started. Another tip: before your stylist begins applying color, show them where you usually part your hair so they’re applying it to the way you typically wear your it.
Wondering how often you’ll have to visit your stylist to maintain your balayage hair? It really depends on the individual person and their unique hair. “Several variables dictate the maintenance scheduling such as, how often the client washes their hair, what products are used to shampoo and condition, how often they are thermal styling, what tools are used to thermally style the hair, the integrity of the hair and more,” she says. “Some clients may need to come in every 8 weeks, while others can wait 6 or 9 months.”
If you decide to get balayage hair yourself, taking a natural hair wellness supplement like Nutrafol’s Core for Women can help keep your strands healthy and growing and counteract any damage done by coloring.