The balayage (pronounced bah-lee-AHZGE) technique of highlighting has been around since the ’80s, but it went underground for quite a while. But ever since the introduction of Sex and the City and the ensuing stardom of SJP, balayage has been a much sought after look that unless you’re with the right stylist, is very difficult to achieve.
So what is it? The direct french translation means “to sweep,” so in essence it’s hand-painting color onto the hair in a sweeping motion. Balayage creates an extremely natural, “sun-kissed” color pattern in the hair. It concentrated the color on the mid-section and ends of the hair, but unlike ombre highlights, the color is also swept up directly to the roots in a soft, dissipation fashion. This then creates a darker root area, but also creates a very beautiful, natural grow out that traditional foil highlights do not allow. At this point let’s take the Pepsi Challenge with the three main highlighting techniques so you can see the major differences……
As you can see, these models (and mostly famous ladies) have this ultra-natural look. Lots of dimension and shine, the highlights look more like ribbons of color as opposed to stripes, and it works beautifully for all hair colors. The placement of these highlights are determined by the way the hair naturally falls, the haircut, and how it will be styled. Multiple colors can be used in these looks — just don’t be surprised when your colorist doesn’t use any foils at all and then chooses to wrap your head up in saran wrap! This technique looks very thick and chunky during the process, but I promise it looks very soft and natural in its finished product. Balayage is a lower-maintenance haircolor service, and it a little more low-maintenance for brunettes than it is for blondes. Unless you’re having your base color touched up to mask greys, typical retouch appointments are approximately 2 months for blondes and 2-3 months for brunettes.
The ombre technique is combination of balayage and foils. Here the color is concentrated on the mid-shaft and ends of the hair, and the top layer of the hair is left to a solid color. Ombres are meant to look like very grown out balayage highlights. The highlighted strands are selected based upon the same balayage criteria except that the color is typically placed starting in the eye-to-cheekbone area of the face. The color is hand-painted upon the hair, but it is also wrapped in a foil to create a distinct color separation between colored and non-colored hair. This technique also looks great on all hair colors, and is the lowest maintenance of all the color services. Again, unless you’re hiding those pesky greys, clients are typically looking at 1-2 colors per year!
As you can see, the use of the traditional foil technique creates very separate, delineated swatches of color. This technique creates dramatic color patterns and will allow a stylist to use as many colors as s/he would like without fear of “muddying” the colors. Sections of hair are either sliced or weaved, painted with color, and placed entirely in foils. This is the highest maintenance color technique used and typically retouches need to be scheduled about every two months regardless if you’re fighting greys or not.
So before you book your next color, maybe you might want to consider asking your stylist to change up his/her technique even if you’d like to stick to the same color palette. Changing your highlight placement will make a significant change to your overall look as well as to your wallet! Just be sure to ask your stylist if s/he is trained in either balayage and/or ombre techniques — because if they aren’t, tragedy could very well strike all over your head!