Balayage, the hottest hair colour trend right now, is your ticket to dream hair. The name might sound intimidatingly sophisticated, but translated from French it simply means ‘to sweep’ or ‘to paint’. The balayage technique is just that, using brush strokes to paint colour onto the mid-lengths and ends of hair – resulting in a soft, beautiful look which transitions seamlessly from root to sun-kissed ends. Think California beach waves meets Parisian chic. Radiant yet understated.
Better yet, as the colour placement is designed to accentuate the ends of the hair, maintenance is much easier than all over colour and highlights. Yep, you heard that right – show-stopping, gorgeous hair with less upkeep. Read on to discover the difference between balayage and other salon colour techniques, and what L'Oréal Paris products you can use to get the look at home.
Balayage vs highlights: what’s the difference?
Classic in-salon highlights involve placing colour onto woven sections of hair, which are then left to process inside aluminium foils. The mix of lightened hair and base colour create a blended or contrasted look, depending on what you’re going for. Highlights are great if you would like a full-head result, however as the colour is traditionally placed from root to tip – it will need to be maintained every six to eight weeks.
With balayage, colour is painted onto the hair freehand as its very own art form. The graduation of colour helps to add dimension and depth to the hair, and is suited to those who want to rock a low-maintenance, softer style.
Balayage vs ombré: what’s the difference?
While the two have some similarities, the main difference is how dramatic the gradient is. Ombré is also a French word, and in hair terms means from dark to light. With this technique there’s a much clearer distinction between the top of the hair which is usually darker, and the ends which are much lighter. We like to think of ombré as balayage’s more outspoken sister.
Where the two differ is with balayage you’re following less of a rulebook and can paint pieces in areas which help enhance your hair – face-framing accents, for example. If you’re into the contouring trend, then you’ll really get behind the concept of balayage.
What colours can be used for balayage?
The technique was designed to create the kind of effect you see when hair has been lightened naturally by the sun. Because of this, balayage is typically done with colours a few shades lighter than your base. Remember, we’re going for natural; a conservative choice will help achieve that all-important beachy result. One of the best parts of balayage is that you can build it up over time, so don’t feel like you need to go all out on the first stage. Play it safe and add even lighter pieces later.
To get the look, we recommend using L'Oréal Paris Colorista Effects Balayage. It enhances natural shades with a gentle lightener and brush application tool.
While natural tones work well for balayage, there’s nothing stopping you experimenting with baby pink or deep burgundy to carve out an individual style. Try temporary colours like L'Oréal Paris Colorista Washout or Colorista Hair Makeup, or go permanent using Colorista Hair Paint.
Top tip: For lighter hair, we love Colorista Paint in #ROSEGOLD and #STRAWBERRYBLONDE. Use the paint brush to apply onto mid-lengths and ends with sideward stroke motions for a true balayage effect.
Does balayage work on all hair types?
Due to the versatility of the technique, balayage can be adapted to work on nearly all hair types. Whether you’ve got vivacious curls, Rapunzel-like lengths or a fierce pixie crop, balayage is your best friend. It can add more dimension to finer hair for a fuller appearance as well as tackle thicker hair, which can be challenging when it comes to classic highlighting techniques.
balayage on short hair styles is all about a light colour wash on the ends. As there isn’t the same space to create total differentiation in tones, go for a shade just lighter than your base. The aim should be to create a colour just light enough to mimic a holiday hair glow. Check out our other hair colour recommendations for short hair here.
One of our favourite looks is a long bronde bob, and balayage achieves this perfectly. Enhancing the mid-lengths to ends of shoulder-grazing hair creates a modern, lived-in style.
Balayage heaven. For the best in balayage – go super long. Golden tones on tousled waves are the technique’s staple – it’s the look that started this game-changing trend.