Okay, so an entire library’s worth of words have been written about ombré since the style first emerged in the early 2000s. (Fun fact: It’s almost always mispronounced; you want to say it like the word “somber.”) The fact is that even though it’s been the most popular hair trend of the new century, it’s got an underrated cousin called balayage: a look that promises less maintenance and a more natural look with ease.
What Is Balayage?
Balayage is a technique that emerged out of France, and the term means to “sweep” or “paint.” It’s a style of dying hair that’s done entirely freehand, without foil or clips, giving you a more subtle look akin to the natural lightening effects of living life as a beach bum. Though technically you can opt for almost any color change (blonde to purple, anyone?), the most common look features a subtle lightening of your hair’s natural shade from root to tip.
There are more than a few benefits to opting for balayage, and probably the single biggest reason is that it’s low-maintenance when compared to other dyed hair looks. Because the transition of balayage is characterized by a more subtle transition from your natural color, as it grows out, it does so less noticeably. All this amounts to a longer-lasting look with fewer trips to the salon for touch-ups. Depending on your natural hair color and the level of lightening you choose, you can potentially let your hair grow out entirely before needing to have it re-colored.
Another benefit of the style is that it’s much more forgiving when it comes to shorter-hair-length styles. Because of the more “natural” appearance of the color transition, a good balayage-trained stylist can make even a short pixie cut appear naturally lightened at the tips.
How Is It Applied?
Like the meaning of the name suggests, the dye is applied freehand in a method akin to painting your hair. It’s a technique that contributes to the style’s appeal because it makes it highly customizable to the individual. A good stylist trained in balayage can approach your coloring almost like a makeup artist: taking into account your skin tone, best features, and how to lighten and frame your face perfectly.
Like a lot of hair styles that involve chemical dyes, the best results stem from properly preparing your hair before the salon visit. Much like ombré, the most sensitive and vulnerable tips of your hair recieve the most intense level of treatment. It’s worth planning your balayage session around a new trim or cut, since the most susceptible follicles will be cut down after the dying process for a clean, natural look.
Like we said, one of the benefits of balayage is that it’s pretty low-maintenance and natural-looking over the long run. That being said, there are a few things you can do to keep your look in the best shape possible.
- Invest in a color-saving shampoo and conditioner; this will help protect the integrity of the dye, especially where it begins to transition from your natural color.
- Because it’s a look most closely associated with the sun-bleached look of coastal life, it pays to get in a little time in the sun to help the natural blending process. An added tip? Check out products that include natural sea salts for that perfectly coiffed “I woke up on the beach” look.
Like so many “it” styles, the emergence of balayage from unknown hairstyle to the popular choice started with its adoption by the A list. Celebrities like Rihanna and Jessica Alba use balayage as a method for creating stunning looks that don’t require constant trips to the salon for touch-ups. Though ombré still takes top billing as the current look, you can be sure that balayage will be the hottest new style by the time summer rolls around.