Balayage Hair Explained

The word “balayage” is a French word meaning “to sweep” or “to paint.” It is a technique for dyeing hair in which the dye is hand painted onto the hair to give it a natural, gradual transition with no obvious or harsh lines. Balayage uses various tones of light and dark to create multiple dimensions of colour, leaving the hair with a blended, natural, sun-kissed glow.

The most appealing thing about balayage is that the colour can be customized completely to your hair colour and hair type. By strategically freehand painting the hair, you can highlight or even detract from certain features of your face, and you can be sure that no one else out there has the exact same hair colour as you.

Where It all Began

Balayage hair had its fabulous beginnings in 1970s France, at the exclusive Carita Salon in Paris. At the time, the industry standard was to dye hair using frosting caps and foils. Balayage was a revolutionary new technique, using strips of cotton to separate dyed hair from un-dyed hair, leading to that effortless, sun-kissed look.

Balayage Or Highlights?

Gone are the days of those old-fashioned foil highlights. Today, it’s all about looking sleek, modern, and effortless. Unlike traditional foil highlights, balayage is freehand painted directly onto the surface of the hair and is not saturated right through the section. 

Because balayage is painted by hand, the highlights are less consistent. This results in the softer progression of the dye, leaving a beautiful, natural multi-toned colour. This also ensures that the highlights work in tandem with your haircut and natural growth patterns. 

Ombré Or Balayage?

You may be thinking that the balayage technique sounds similar to the other highlighting styles that have been popularised recently. While this is sort of true, there are some key differences.

Ombre is a French word, which means “shadow”—it’s a process that dyes the hair in a gradation from dark to light. The outcome is usually darker hair from the roots to the mid-shaft and a transition to a lighter colour from the mid-shaft through to the ends. If not done correctly, however, you could end up with a harsh and unblended look, which is why it’s so important to go to an experienced hairstylist for a dye job like this. With this technique, there are no darker pieces left at the bottom of the hair. It is noticeable colour blocking from dark to light, with a smooth transition in between. This technique is meant to look like the hair has been dip-dyed. 

Balayage means to “paint” or “sweep”—it’s a dyeing process that results in natural-looking highlights. For balayage, colour is swept through small, triangular sections of hair onto a board or foil, resulting in a seamless blend of the highlights and your natural hair colour. With balayage, there is no clear fade line between the darker and lighter colours. As well, darker pieces are left at the bottom to give the hair that extra depth and dimension. Balayage hair also requires less maintenance due to this natural transition. 

With balayage, the hair colourist paints the dye directly onto the hair strands, leaving a natural blend. On the other hand, a more drastic colour transition can be achieved by bleaching the bottom half of your hair and dyeing a lighter shade on top using foils, a more traditional dyeing method, to achieve that soft blend between the two colours.

Is Balayage For You?

The creative possibilities are endless with balayage—you just need to decide how big of a change you’d like and how daring you’re feeling. Balayage is a more gentle foray into the world of dyeing, if you have never had your hair dyed. It is also a good idea to look at how you usually style your hair, as this may dictate whether you opt for balayage or its counterpart. Consult with your hair colourist before your appointment to ensure that you are making a decision that feels right for you and your lifestyle.

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