Balayage hair is on the up and up as a recent trend that keeps on growing. It’s no surprise as it’s a super low maintenance, high impact effect that lasts longer than most other colour treatments. But can you balayage your hair yourself at home? Here’s everything you need to know!
In this guide you’ll learn all about what the difference is between balayage, highlights and ombre hair, find out if balayage hair will suit you, how to balayage hair at home step by step, and how to take care of balayage hair.
What is balayage hair?
Balayage is a technique, not a colour or a style. The word “Balayage” comes from a French word meaning “to sweep”. And indeed, that’s how the colour is applied to your hair – hand painted in small triangular sweeps cascading downwards. There are darker strands left on the bottom to create an added dimension and a natural look.
The beauty is in the blend of colours that glisten like natural highlights to make you and your hair look shinier, healthier and more lustrous.
It’s a hair trend look that looks gorgeous on short hair or long hair and suits any hair type – the multidimensional tones add depth and texture to thick or fine hair. It looks particularly good with blonde shades like dark blonde and brown balayage or caramel balayage. What’s not to like?
Check out the latest looks for ideas and inspiration.
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What’s the difference between balayage hair and ombre hair?
Ombre hair is a style, and also a technique, one where the lower section of hair is lightened which gives a more horizontal, band effect. It looks less natural, but just as fabulous as balayage does.
Because of the banding and the fact that the ends of your hair should be getting trimmed regularly, it’s more high maintenance than balayage and you’ll need to have it done again more often.
What’s the difference between balayage hair and highlights?
Highlights aka foils are a process, (although Balayage can also use foils too). It produces a more patterned, all-over lightness in your hair from root to tip. It’s less natural looking than balayage and these days you’ll find many colourists will suggest transitioning towards balayage for a more up-to-date look.
Balayage is also much less high maintenance than highlights so you’ll need fewer trips to the hairdressers to top it up.
However, you do need to keep lightening already lightened hair with balayage, whereas highlights focus on new growth. So despite the extra processing with highlights, they’re pretty even stevens in terms of damaging your hair.
What hair colours are best for balayage?
Because balayage is a technique, not a colour, in theory you can have a blend of any complementary colours you like!
But it’s most suited and effective with colours that look great with natural highlights, especially browns, reds and blondes – so think ash browns, light natural brown, auburns and chocolates mixed with caramel and light blondes.
In Light Brown Hair Shades you need in your life right now, you’ll find all the colours that work fantastically with balayage hair, and can learn more about if they’ll suit you.
Will balayage hair suit me?
The hair colours used for balayage are extremely versatile. So whether you have cooler or warmer tones, or a light or dark base colour, there should be a blend there for you.
If you’re unsure what tones you have, you can take our quiz! Which will point you in the right direction of the hair colours that are right for you.
Just answer a few quick questions on topics like your skin tone, eye colour and natural hair colour and all will be revealed! Just click on the image below!
Is balayage damaging for my hair?
The way balayage is created and the technique it uses means you’re less likely to end up with brassy, over processed tresses.
Many colourists say that the hand-painting balayage treatment is less damaging than the usual colouring techniques that use foils and heat to set colour. But really, you’re re-lightening already lightened hair which is never good for your poor old locks.
To help strengthen and prepare your hair before, duting and afterwards, we recommend Olaplex No. 3, the little bottle that will replenish your hair bonds and positively change your hair forever.
Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector.
Can I balayage my hair at home?
Yes, you sure can. But disclaimer: you may not get the same effect as a trained professional.
We always advocate talking to a colourist about your own hair as the success of at-home products depend on many factors that are specific to your and your hair.
But if you’re feeling confident, getting balayage hair at home is absolutely achievable!
We recommend buying a kit that’s specifically for this technique, and following the instructions to the letter! You can check out most recommended ones in Best balayage kits for hair dyeing at home. This one came out top.
L’Oréal Preference Balayage
What do I need to get the balayage look for my hair?
- A good paddle hair brush.
- An at-home balayage kit
- A hair dye kit with brushes and bowl.
- An old towel to protect your clothes and surfaces.
- Barrier cream to apply to your ears and hairline to stop the dye getting on your skin.
- A pin tail comb and sectioning hair clips to hold back sections of your hair to apply the lotion more precisely.
- And your balayage hair dye kit of choice! You can read more about each of these in our Best balayage kits reviews.
Best at home balayage kits at a glance.
How to do balayage hair at home.
The balayage technique is an super easy 6-step process!
STEP 1: Section your hair.
Divide your hair into sections using the ‘hot-cross bun’ technique. This means parting your hair down the middle and then width-ways to section your hair into quarters.
STEP 2: Paint the tips of your hair.
Let’s balayage! The easy way to do this and produce a natural looking effect is to paint very tips of your hair brush and run the brush downwards through the mid to end lengths of your hair.
STEP 3: Stagger the strokes.
Make sure you stagger where you start brushing downwards to avoid the dip dye/ombre effect. If you want lighter ends, you can freestyle with the paintbrush to apply it where it’s needed. If you feel there’s too much product anywhere, just wipe it off.
STEP 4: Leave it to develop.
Once all of your sections have been brushed with the dye, leave your hair to develop as instructed on the hair dye box. This should be around 30 mins. Keep an eye on it to avoid going too light. You want the effect to be natural.
STEP 5: Rinse and condition.
Wash it out and condition your hair with a really good nourishing conditioner.
STEP 6: Dry and style!
Dry your hair with a hair dryer and fall in love with your new do. If you find the colour too bright or brassy, you can use a purple shampoo or toner to dull it down.
Watch and learn: How the professionals do it.
To get it absolutely right, it’s useful to watch the pros in action to see how a professional colourist balayages hair, step by step.
How can I care for my balayage hair?
Once you achieve the balayage look you love, you’ll need to maintain it just like any other hair colour. You can check out How to look after coloured hair and keep it luscious for longer for top tips.
The good news is that balayage is a high on gorgeous, low on maintenance look. It wears the growing-out roots look really well, especially if you’re a brunette naturally and go for on-trend browns and deep red tones for your balayage effect.
The secret is to make sure you look after your colour with products that are made specifically for coloured hair. They’ll contain ingredients that are not so harsh on your hair which will help your colour last longer and restore it’s natural lusciousness.
That’s why you need a good colour shampoo and conditioner like John Frieda’s Brunette range that will be gentle on your locks.
Use an at-home keratin treatment.
A keratin treatment repairs the hair bonds that are destroyed by colouring and heat.
Also known as Brazilian hair treatments, they’re a semi-permanent, hair-smoothing, curl-softening professional chemical treatment that make hair straighter, shinier and look healthier.
We’d recommend including a keratin treatment into your balayage hair care plan to lock in the colour and restore the condition of your hair.
Are keratin treatments safe for coloured hair?
Keratin is perfectly safe to use on coloured hair and a long-lasting way to lock the colour and shine in.
Wait at least a couple of weeks for your new colour to set and then follow our own most brilliant guidance to do your keratin treatment at home here: How to do a keratin treatment at home.
Cheat the look with balayage hair extensions.
If you are worried about the condition of your hair, you can’t choose between ombre and balayage, or you’re just not ready to take the plunge yet, balayage extensions are an awesome trick.
We recommend the Googoo Clip in Hair Extensions for versatility and range of available tones. They’re real hair too so won’t have that plasticky edge. At the fraction of the cost of a salon balayage hair do, they’re worth a goo (!) if you’re still feeling unsure.
Just make sure you match your natural hair to the base colour of the extensions so it all blends in.