What Is Balayage?

If you are looking for a super low-maintenance and effortlessly cool hair color, the balayage highlighting technique might be the perfect option for you. Balayage comes from the French word ‘balayer,’ which means ‘to sweep.’ This reflects how hairstylists paint the color onto hair in sweeping strokes to create a graduated look void of harsh lines.

Rather than using foil like in conventional highlighting, the hairdresser will paint the color directly onto the hair. This technique creates a more natural and blended look. Since it’s softer, re-growth is less noticeable, and stripes are a thing of the past.

Your colorist will analyze our current color and choose tones that naturally complement it, such as caramels and blondes. The color graduates from dark to light, mimicking the way the sun naturally bleaches hair.

In essence, balayage effortlessly emulates the lightning process of the sun and offers a simple sun-kissed look. Here we explore everything you need to know about this exciting hair trend.

Why Is Balayage So Popular?

One of the primary reasons why the balayage hair trend is so popular is because it’s so low maintenance. While traditional highlights usually need topping up every few months, the re-growth with balayage is less noticeable, meaning that you don’t have to splurge out at the hairdresser too often.

As Stylist Joe Warren divulges, “Clients love the technique because it gives a natural sun-kissed look to the hair and the maintenance is much easier than traditional foils.”

Added to this, the technique creates a personalized finish. Each balayage is unique, offering a multi-toned, natural-looking end result. Whether you opt for rich caramel, ashy blonde, dark blonde, or shades with strawberry hues, the options are myriad and bespoke.

woman with balayage hair

How Is Balayage Achieved?

Balayage is a freehand highlighting method. Celeb colorist Lisa Satorn shares; “By using a sweeping motion, it creates a soft, multi-dimensional and natural-looking highlight.”

The stylist paints the color onto the hair using sweeping strokes to achieve the balayage effect. Strips of cotton or saran are wrapped between the different hair layers, preventing color spotting or bleeding. However, unlike highlights, there is a more natural flow. This lack of symmetry creates a natural, comprehensive look, much as you might achieve after a summer spent at the beach.

Often, the lighter shades are applied around the strands of hair that frame the face and the ends. The colorist might also focus on the top layer of hair to create a natural, more multi-dimensional look. They will purposefully leave parts of the hair without color to add further movement and a natural effect.

How Is Balayage Different From Highlights Or Ombre?

While balayage is a technique that uses freehand, bespoke painting, conventional highlights, and ombre use a different technique to achieve hair lightning effects.

All the techniques work to lighten parts of the hair, however, the process and end result are different for each approach.

Traditional highlights

Traditional highlights use foils to separate the different strands of hair (thick or thin, style depending), and the color is then applied to the different sections in an often uniform way. Highlights usually start much closer to the roots, and bright lines of color are woven throughout the hair.

While still popular, many prefer the natural look of balayage, preferring natural, darker hair close to the roots and lighter ends. Others opt for baby lights, which are thinner highlights set to mimic the light streaks in younger hair. These are less stripey in appearance and lend themselves to a more natural look.

Be sure to chat with your colorist about the various methods and which will work best for your hair, style preference, and budget. They can create a tailormade solution for your particular needs.


Ombre, on the other hand, has a more solid end result. Ombre is also a French word, meaning “color that is shaded or graduated in tone.” It also takes hair from dark to light but is more horizontal in its placement, whereas balayage is more vertical. Ombre is often two-toned in nature, offering a more dramatic juxtaposition between the dark hair and the light hair.

In essence, ombre is more of a hairstyle, whereas balayage is more of a stylized technique. Balayage offers a more natural look, thanks to the softer lines and varying tones whereas ombre has a more distinct divide between the light and dark sections of hair.

How Much Does Balayage Cost?

The cost of a balayage appointment will vary depending on your location and which salon you go to. Appointments are usually more expensive in bigger cities, with balayage costing up to $400 in some New York salons.

However, other salons in smaller parts of the country might have appointments for as low as $150. Be sure to choose a reputable salon with fantastic reviews, as the technique can go wrong if done by an inexperienced stylist.

As a rule of thumb, it is good to book a consultation before choosing this technique. You and your stylist can discuss how many appointments will be needed each year to maintain the look. Often, you can get away with a partial color in between full balayage sessions. This can save you some money, all the while ensuring that the color is maintained. Chat with your stylist to create a bespoke plan.

Can Every Hair Type Try Balayage?

Balayage works on every type of hair and hair color since the technique is just about painting color onto the hair. Whether your hair is dark or light, straight or curly, long or short, balayage can offer fantastic dimensions and add dynamism and life to your crown.

Since it is a lightening technique, different hair colors will result in various shades, enhancing and lightening your natural hair color. Since balayage doesn’t cover hair strands with foil, it is also less harsh on hair and won’t result in excessive heat damage, making it the perfect hair coloring technique if you’re looking to grow out your hair.

How to Maintain Your Balayage

Maintaining your balayage largely depends on personal preference. While some clients might come for a top-up every 3-4 months, others can get away with a refresh every six months or longer. This will largely depend on the colors you choose and various factors, like natural sunlight or chlorine, that might impact the color. If your colorist has used toners, in time, the color might be more brassy in appearance, and you might want to tone things down again. It’s a really personal decision and will depend on whether you can embrace the possible brassy shades between appointments.

If you use the balayage technique to gradually go lighter without using a solid color and damaging your hair, you will probably need 3 to 4 sessions a year. You can discuss your plan of action with your stylist and curate a plan that suits your style preferences and budget.

At-home maintenance

You can also take care of your hai in-between appointments, ensuring that it’s adequately moisturized and conditioned. Choose quality leave-in conditioners and treat your hair with Argan oil if it feels dry or frazzled. Unfortunately, colored blonde hair can be prone to breakage, so it’s super important to keep the hair as healthy as possible between appointments. This means you should invest in a good-quality blow dryer (or hot air brush if you want to cut your styling time in half) that won’t further dry out and damage your hair. When it comes to other heat tools, such as hair straighteners or curling irons, it’s best to leave them for special occasions only.

Luckily, a quality colorist will take care of your hair, ensuring minimal damage to the strands. They might also suggest a deep conditioning treatment after the color has been applied and might advise that you regularly trim the ends of your hair to avoid any splitage.

Purple shampoo is also a great choice if you want to retain a silvery blonde, and for healthy hair, you might opt for regular trims every two months.

The Balayage Trend is Here to Stay

If you are ready to change your look and want a low-maintenance, bespoke color, be sure to check out balayage options at your local salon. This technique is much less maintenance than other highlighting techniques, offering a subtle, dynamic, and multi-dimensional finish. Whether you opt for highlights, balayage, or ombre, choose a colorist and a salon with fantastic reviews and reputable reviews.

Since it works on every type of hair and color, it’s a truly accessible technique. Excitingly, you can also use the technique for brightly colored styles. If you want to experiment with dreamy pastels, bright pops of color, and electric shades, you can opt for colorful balayage options too.

Have you ever tried balayage? We would love to hear about your experiences and your color choices. Did you prefer it to conventional highlights or ombre? Let us know!