There's no such thing as just dying your hair anymore now that dip-dye, ombre and balayage exist. The latter, balayage, is the subtlest way of lightening your hair. Balayage, in the most basic terms, is the painting of new hair colour in soft streaks to create a natural look that screams sun-kissed hair.
Balayage involves French free-hand painting techniques to brush the colour directly onto your hair. The effect is natural and sun-kissed but very low-maintenance as the colour doesn't start at the roots, which means regrowth is never obvious meaning the look is cost effective too, you won't be legging it to your favourite salon every month for root touch-ups. No wonder celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Alexa Chung and Kaia Gerber have all opted for this look at some point.
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...
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 an inbetweeney kinda colour and the ends completely light. It creates a more dramatic finish: think along the lines of the mermaid-esque colour fades you've doubtless seen crop up on your Instagram feed.
Should I use foils for balayage?
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.'
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. But in a good way, of course.
Celebrity Balayage Inspiration
Name a famous face and the chances are that they'll have dabbled in the art of balayage in the past few years: in fact, it's arguably now more of a rarity to see a blonde or brunette star without some artfully placed highlights painted on their lengths. Click through the gallery below for the best balayage celebrity styles for inspiration from OG balayage adoptees like Rosie Huntington Whiteley, Hailey Bieber and Jamie Chung...
Why do so many celebrities have balayage?
'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,' explains Jack. Makes sense, we guess.
'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 in balayage?
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 mistakes?
'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.'
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...
Can I get grey balayage?
A subtle grey ombre is promising to be autumn's most sought after hue and we are not at all surprised. The look is created using grey and lilac tones and the results are sensational - but can be very difficult to achieve outside of the salon. This high-impact colour requires plenty of upkeep, too. Find out more about the grey ombre look from Not Another Salon's founder Sophia Hilton...
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.
What about bronde balayage?
Balayage is the perfect technique to achieve a bronde (that's an on-trend melange of blonde and brown, in case you hadn't guessed) hue: the free-hand effect will leave you with graduated highlights melting from brunette to lighter blonde.
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 or Innoluxe on your next salon trip.
I have a bob... can I still rock balayage?
A slew of A-listers are switching up their hue for something balayage-inspired and the results are mesmerising. We spoke to the colour experts at Notting Hill's Stil Salon about everything you need to know about getting balayage when you have a bob.
What is flamboyage?
If highlights were on a spectrum, with ombré the most extreme and balayage the most subtle, you’d find flamboyage (no, it’s not a fancy French dessert, just another colouring technique) bang in the middle. Rather than using foils, your stylist will add adhesive strips to the hair, allowing for super-precise application of colour. This gives the finished look a depth and vibrancy, with a range of tones woven through the hair.
The best shampoos for balayage hair
Aveda Blonde Revival Purple Toning Shampoo, £9
Perfect for neutralising brassiness without stripping hair colour, this blonde revival shampoo is perfect for beachy balayage locks.