Brush Strokes

Balayage

Balayage is a French word that means “sweeping.” The technique was developed in France in the 1970s and called balayage because of the long, sweeping strokes used to apply the lightener or color to hair.

Portrait of a young person

How to Pronounce Balayage: bah-lee-ahj

Choosing a Shade:

The options are seemingly endless when it comes to picking a shade. Balayage can be very versatile, making it a good option for most people,  For less upkeep, keep your base shade as close to your natural color as possible. If you're okay with more maintenance, you can go lighter.

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Image by Tim Mossholder

Maintenance Level:

If you're turning to balayage just to add a touch of extra warmth and dimension, going in two to three times a year should be more than enough. However, if you're relying on balayage to break up your natural base color or significantly lighten your hair, you should expect to go into the salon every six to eight weeks. 

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he balayage technique is used to achieve a very naturally blended, lightened look

Cost

At Belt Salon balayage starts at $125 and goes up depending on the length, color, and condition of your hair.   There also may be variations based on how light you want to go.  We always offer free consultations where you can come in and have a one-on-one visit with a Belt Salon artist. 

Image by Paloma LaMadreInspirada

 

 

 

 

 

What Is Balayage?

 

Balayage is a color application technique rather than a specific color itself.  The word translates to "sweep" or "paint" in French. Bright around the face, blended at the roots, lighter ends, and effortlessly natural are all descriptors of balayage hair.  Think undone, cool surfer girl hair,  almost like you spent a summer at the beach.  The balayage technique is used to achieve a very naturally blended, lightened look, and while we typically associate balayage with becoming blonde, the same technique can be used to create caramel, espresso, or even pastel strands.

 

Unlike traditional highlights, which use foils, balayage involves painting onto the hair with a brush dipped in a lightener.  It's a freehand highlighting technique.  By using a sweeping motion, it creates a soft, multidimensional and natural-looking highlight. Stylists use their brushes to paint sweeps of vertical highlights onto the hair with strips of cotton or saran wrap layered between each section, which protects the application by avoiding any color bleeding or spotting.

 

Balayage vs. Ombré vs. Foil Highlights

Despite balayage coming on the scene in the '70s, it didn't surge in popularity in the US until around 2010. Balayage gives a multidimensional highlight, which can appear more natural because it creates different levels of lightness. Traditional foils give a more uniform and even finish, creating a single-dimensional highlight. Choosing a technique all depends on the client's hair and what their desired look is. For most 'high contrast' looks, a foil is used in some sort of way to lock in heat and ensure lightness. But the highlighting options don't stop there. Like balayage and traditional highlights, ombré, a French term meaning "shaded" or "graduated in tone," is a common request for lightened hair. However, whereas balayage is used to achieve more of an all-over color from roots to ends, ombré appears to be a perfectly grown-out hair color. Its color gradient typically goes from darker roots to lightened ends with little to no color applied near the roots. 

 

The Benefits of Balayage

  • Looks more natural than traditional highlights: The nature of balayage is to paint specifically selected strands and blend them with your natural base. As such, balayage looks much softer than traditional foil highlights, which tend to have more obvious lines of demarcation.

  • Low-maintenance: Because the lightened strokes are painted on so softly to achieve that natural look, they leave no trace of harsh, blunt lines or obvious regrowth, allowing for more time between your appointments.

  • Color is less likely to "bleed": With balayage, stylists use a barrier between their sections to prevent the layers of bleach from touching. The benefit of using cotton or saran wrap in between sections is to prevent the lightener from bleeding, which could create a blotchy dye job.  

  • Less damage: Because balayage doesn't involve saturating your entire head of hair in bleach (as is the case with double-process), you use less bleach and thus get a lightened look with significantly less damage to your hair.

 

The Drawbacks of Balayage

Your natural hair color and its tones (e.g., warm, neutral, or cool) will influence the results of your balayage. Sometimes people with very dark hair can pull red/orange warm tones when getting balayage done.  If you’re someone who doesn’t like warm tones, then balayage is probably not for you. The hair can turn brassy more quickly than traditional highlights (depending on your natural hair color).  Even with the slightest drop of warmth in your color, it could be difficult to achieve your desired tone with balayage. 

 

While a toner can quickly fix unwanted warmth, it is prone to fading out and leaving you with that undesirable brassiness. You may decide that keeping up with more frequent toners between balayage appointments is worth it, but remember that will require more upkeep, as well. 

 

Is Balayage Safe For Natural Hair?

Compared to other, more traditional approaches to lightening the hair,  balayage is a little easier on all hair types, especially curly-haired girls who put their curl patterns at risk when choosing to go lighter. There is no heat being retained inside of any foils forcing your hair to lift quicker, which can sometimes cause damage if over-processed. 

How to Prepare for Balayage

  1. Always bring multiple photos representing your goal: There are so many techniques and names for things that all have different meanings to stylists. Photos make it easier to get everyone on the same page to agree on things by visually pointing out certain details.

  2. Come with clean hair.

  3. Try an Aveda conditioning treatment a few days beforehand. 

  4. Wear your go-to hairstyle: When it comes to balayage, your colorist will paint differently depending on whether you wear your hair curly or straight. So arriving with your hair styled how you would normally wear it helps colorists to better place highlights.

 

What to Expect During the Process

With balayage, your Belt Salon stylist hand-selects which sections or strands of hair will have lightener applied to them. Typically, lightener is more highly concentrated on the face-framing pieces of the hair, the ends, and the top layer of hair for a more dimensional look. Depending on your base color and your desired end result, your stylist will typically leave out a few sections of the hair and not dye or lighten them. This helps create that soft, dimensional, blended look that balayage is so famous for.

Balayage is usually executed with bleach, and will typically involve a round of toner or gloss as well. It's recommended to see your stylist for a consultation first before booking your balayage appointment so that you both have plenty of time to discuss the best fit for you before the bleaching day.

 

Every appointment is a little different based on the current state of your hair and what you'd like your end result to look like, but here's a general framework for what you can expect at your balayage appointment, which can take anywhere from three to five hours.

  1. Your Belt Salon stylist will evaluate your hair: Even if you've already come in for a consultation, your colorist will begin by evaluating your hair and inspiration photos. They'll likely ask you questions about how often you heat style, which way you part your hair, how you usually style it, how often you're committed to returning for touch-ups, and if you're open to having a trim before deciding on the final color plan for the day.

  2. Sectioning and hand-painting your hair: Once you and your Belt Salon stylist have decided on a final color plan together based on your goals and lifestyle, they'll mix up some lightener and bring it over to the station where you're seated. This is your chance to go to the bathroom, make sure you have a beverage, and that your phone/book/magazine is out in your lap because once the painting process begins, you'll be seated in your chair for one to two hours, depending on how much hair you have and how much lighter you're going. Your stylist will work section by section, painting specifically selected strands from a section of hair and then covering that section with cotton or saran wrap so the lightener doesn't bleed into unwanted hair sections. The lighter you're going, the smaller the sections will be and the more strands from each section they will choose to paint.

  3. Sitting under the dryer: Your stylist will likely have you sit under a dryer to expedite the lightening process. Lightener starts working on contact, so your hair has been slowly lightening as lightener was applied to each section. For this reason, your stylist might only apply the dryer to the second half of your head (since the lightener had been sitting on the first side of your hair for longer). Or, if you have fragile hair or are going for more subtle highlights, your colorist might skip the dryer altogether and just have you sit in the chair without any heat while the lightener works its magic. Either way, you could be waiting for the lightener to process for anywhere from 15-45 minutes. Your colorist will come by a few times during this time period and check on how your hair is reacting to make sure your strands don't over-lighten.

  4. Rinsing: Once your stylist decides your strands have lightened to the right shade, you'll head over to the bowl to be rinsed out. It isn't uncommon for your stylist's assistant to do this part, and rest assured that they're specifically trained to execute these steps to perfection.

  5. Applying gloss: While your hair is lightened by the bleach when your stylist hand-paints, chances are it's not the exact tone you're looking for. Perhaps your inspiration photos featured a golden blonde, but your base color is naturally ashier. In this step, your stylist (or their assistant) will apply toner to help blend your natural base and new highlights together and achieve the overall tone you're going for, be it more golden or icier. Once a moisture-restoring gloss is applied evenly throughout the hair, it usually has to sit for about 10 minutes. Your stylist will check the color after this time frame and confirm if it should be rinsed out or if the formula should sit for a bit longer. Once you're ready, you'll be shampooed and conditioned.

  6. Trimming and blow-drying: Once you've received a tone or gloss, you're ready to be trimmed and blow-dried. If you're having a significant haircut the same day you're getting balayage, your stylist will likely trim your hair while it's dry before lightener is applied so your colorist doesn't have to waste time lightening hair that's just going to be cut away. But if you're just getting a trim, it will take place after your hair is lightened.

 

Aftercare

While balayage does allow for fewer salon appointments spread farther apart, there are some things to keep in mind between appointments to help keep your hair healthy and your color looking its best.  We suggest doing a gloss or a hairline touchup. Toning in between will help keep the desired tone intact, while hairline touch-ups will help maintain brightness.

 

Outside of the salon,  moisture shampoos and conditioners are a must. The ends get so saturated with balayage application that the color on the ends can feel drier faster.  Your stylist will recommend the appropriate Aveda products you will need to maintain your hair and will recommend how frequently to use them.

 

 

 

Image by Shari Sirotnak

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Belt salon is conveniently located off of I-75 on Moccasin Wallow Road.  We are close to Parrish, North River Ranch, Ruskin, Brandon, and St. Petersburg. We look forward to meeting you.