Derived from the french word meaning to ‘sweep or to paint’, the balayage effect is super natural, with a sun-kissed subtle finish that’s designed to look less bleachy, more beachy, without the noticeable regrowth lines you get with regular foil highlights. ‘Today, the most commonly requested look is that of a natural grown out set of highlights, finishing at the tips with a much brighter, lighter blonde appearance. Seen on the likes of Gigi Hadid and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’ explains Issie.
‘Dip dye, balayage and ombre are all descriptive references for freehand and painted highlighting and lowlighting hair,’ explains Issie, but dip dye and ombre are a much more modern interpretation of the look, and have only become popular in the last few years. The original balayage technique first originated in Paris in the 70’s, when the fashionistas wanted to embrace a sun-kissed, hippie look, and evolved again in the 90’s where it came back into fashion in the form of that super-cool, brushed out California surfer girl. Today, with product innovation and changing fashionability the technique has much evolved, and it's only in the last 5 years that it really hit the mainstream. By 2010 it seemed like just about everyone had jumped on the (not so subtle) bleached tips bandwagon, and it was a much harsher look than the former hand painted styles. Today, balayage has graduated into what we now consider that grown out, super natural looking hair that all the celebs go crazy for.
‘The word dip dye is best used to describe hair that looks like it has been dipped in a pot of paint,’ explains Issie; ‘ombre is a technique where the effect is almost a combination of dipping and balayage, where the colour appears subtly graduated bleeding from darker, medium to light.’ In other words, all three require a freehand technique, but ombre and dip dyed hair have a decidedly more dramatic finish, and involve the top of your hair being dark, and the ends completely light. The graduation between dyed and natural hair is more obvious, and the blonde itself has a denser, more stylized finish. Balayage on the other hand is much more of a natural unkempt look, with both light and dark tones at the end of the hair, mimicking how your hair lightens in the summer.
If you’re hoping to achieve this sought after look, the dye should be placed very close to and fine at the root, leading to chunkier highlights at the end of the hair. Using this technique, the dye is applied on just the surface of the hair section, therefore does not saturate all the way through until you get to the very tip. By doing this, you avoid a heavy streak from the root, and more of a natural, graduated style. The great thing about hand painting hair is that unlike foils, there are no pesky regrowth lines. This means a typical balayage treatment could last for months without you needing to go back for a touch up.
‘Yes you can!’ explains Issie; ‘the technique just needs to be adapted to work in harmony with the shape, balance and styling of the haircut, and to compliment the client’s skin tone, eye colour and face shape’. Today, caramel tones threaded through brunette hair are just as popular as the lighter more dramatic techniques, and there’s few people this face-flattering style doesn’t look good on. Though Issie suggests to achieve the right colour, always try and book in for an in-depth consultation ahead of time, and bring along visual references of shades of colour you like so they can be placed alongside your hair and face to ensure the style will work for you.
- Far quicker than regular foils, a full head of balayage can take as little as 45 minutes to achieve.
Want to go a little more daring than just your regular blonde? Balayage works on a rainbow of shades, so you can get as creative as you want!
A good balayage session should easily last for 3+ months, so lazy girls, this ones for you.
Be sure to book in with an experienced stylist. The balayage technique takes a real specialist to avoid the bleach looking over saturated.
A beginners guide to balayage
What exactly is balayage? Is it just another word for ombre hair? But isn’t that the same as a dip dye? With so much lingo in the industry right now, it’s easy to get confused. And as the colour technique du jour, it’s important to know exactly what you’re asking for next time you settle into the salon chair. To avoid a dip dye disaster, we sat down with Issie Churcher, Head of Technical at the popular HOB Salon chain (and 2015 British Colour Technician of the year no less), to create your beginner’s guide to this popular hair dye technique. It’s balayage decoded. Read on to find out more…
By Rebecca Hoffnung
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