Balayage: How Do You Say It, Let Alone What Is It?


The balayage (pronounced bah-lee-AHZGE) technique of highlighting has been around since the ’80s...but it came, it went, and stayed underground for quite a while. But when the Sex and the City craze (and Sarah Jessical Parker's rise to fame) hit in the late '90s, balayage became all the rage. Now, almost 20 years later, balayage is -- hands down --the most in-demand salon color technique!

So what is it? The direct french translation means “to sweep”; in essence it’s hand-painting color onto the hair in a sweeping motion. Balayage creates an extremely natural, “sun-kissed” color pattern in the hair. It concentrates the color on the mid-section and ends of the hair, but unlike ombre highlights, the color is also swept up directly to the roots in a soft, diffused fashion. This creates a darker root area, but also creates a very beautiful, natural grow out that traditional foil highlights do not allow.

This ultra-natural look gives the hair tons of dimension! The highlights look like ribbons of color as opposed to stripes, and it works beautifully for all hair colors. The placement of these highlights are determined by the way the hair naturally falls, the haircut, and how it will be styled. Hair density and length also play major roles. Multiple colors can be used in these looks — just don’t be surprised when your colorist doesn’t use any foils at all and then chooses to wrap your head up in saran wrap! This technique looks very thick and chunky during the process, but I promise it looks very soft and natural in its finished product. Balayage is a lower-maintenance hair color service, and it a little more low-maintenance for brunettes than it is for blondes. Unless you’re having your base color touched up to mask grays, typical retouch appointments are approximately 3-4 months for blondes and 4+ months for brunettes. Believe it or not, I do have balayage clients I see only 1-2 times per year and it still looks great. Talk about being easier on your pocketbook!

So before you book your next color, maybe you might want to consider asking your stylist to change up his/her technique even if you’d like to stick to the same color palette. Changing your highlight placement will make a significant change to your overall look as well as to your wallet! Just be sure to ask your stylist if s/he is trained in balayage techniques — because if they aren’t, tragedy could very well strike all over your head!

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