Woman at the hairdresser after having balayage done to her blonde hair

We know that the world of hair dyeing can feel like a minefield. From highlights to lowlights, splashlights, babylights and ombre, it's difficult to know where to begin and what to ask for.

If you’re unsure about balayage, we can answer all your burning questions about this super-chic hair colouring technique.

What is balayage?

Balayage (taken from the French word for ‘sweeping’) is a subtle freehand colouring technique. Colour is painted directly onto designated sections of the hair without using foil. The result is a more natural, sun-kissed hue, without any harsh contrast between colours.

Your balayage colour can be made bespoke for you, and it’s a great way to overhaul your look without making too many bold changes.

What's the difference between balayage and highlights?

Balayage is a softer, more natural looking result than traditional foil highlights. Regrowth lines are less noticeable, and the lines are more delicate, creating a golden, sun-kissed look that recreates a few weeks spent somewhere warm.

What's the difference between balayage and ombre?

Balayage is a blended look – it’s a soft, subtle way of adding graduated colour, and there should be no harsh lines or blocks of colour.

Ombre hair has a more defined contrast between the roots and the ends of your hair - and added colour starts midway down your strands. Both ombre (meaning ‘shade’ in French) and sombre (meaning ‘dark’ in French) are two-toned looks that are darker at the roots, fading to lighter colours at the ends. With ombre, you can often detect quite a stark difference in tone, while sombre is more natural and blends more seamlessly - but they’re both still more dramatic than balayage.

Blonde woman with balayage outside in the sun

What’s the difference between full and partial balayage?

A full balayage means all of your hair will be lightened using this technique. A partial balayage is applied to just the top and outer layers of your hair, so the layers underneath remain your natural colour.

What is reverse balayage?

Reverse balayage is when your stylist uses dark colours to add lowlights near your roots and throughout your strands to add depth and texture to your colour. If your blonde balayage has become brassy or you fancy a change, reverse balayage can tone it down, adding depth back at the root to counteract the blonde.

Do I have to grow out existing foil colour before having balayage?

No - the beauty of balayage is that it’s low-maintenance, and can be applied over existing colour. The technique itself is about working with the colour of your hair, as highlights are applied from the mid-lengths downwards. A colourist can also refresh roots with natural balayage colour and cover up any greys.

Do I have to have blonde balayage?

Not at all. If you’ve never coloured your hair before, balayage is the ideal option for upgrading your hair colour. Although butter blonde, ash or honey balayage are the go-to blonde shades, you can experiment with most colours and incorporate a mix of multi-tonal shades to add depth and texture to hair for an effortlessly cool look.

Woman with dark roots and long blonde wavy hair

How long does balayage take in a salon?

As balayage involves lightly hand-painting the surface of the hair, it depends on how many highlights you are opting for. A simple few highlights can take 45 minutes, whereas a layered balayage can take up to three hours.

Book in for a consultation with your colourist to discuss the best option for you, and they can advise how long the process will take.

How much does professional balayage cost?

Depending on where you go and the stylist you choose, professional balayage can be expensive. Make sure that you discuss the full cost with your hairdresser and colourist beforehand, and make sure you factor in the cost of your haircut and any extras, such as a blow-dry.

Expect to pay upwards of £175, depending on where your salon is based and your stylist’s level of experience.

Does balayage work on grey hair?

Balayage is suitable for grey hair, as it works on all hair colours - but it won’t cover grey hair. Balayage will only help the grey to blend in, allowing you to embrace and work with your grey hair. If you’re looking for full grey coverage, balayage may not be the best choice for you.

Does balayage damage hair?

Balayage isn’t as potentially-damaging as bleaching your hair, or getting your roots done every six weeks, as foils and heat aren’t used. However, it’s still a chemical treatment, so it’s best to take care of your hair after having it coloured.

Our Detox and Repair range is perfect for giving dry, distressed hair a deeply-hydrating boost to leave it silky and ready to style.

Back of a woman's head showing curly blonde balayage

What to ask your stylist for to get the balayage you want

The best balayage starts with a good cut - which ultimately creates an ideal base for adding balayage to suit your features better. Your stylist will be able to advise the best cut and shape for your face, as well as the perfect colour to suit your skin tone.

Before your appointment, pull together a range of pictures to show your stylist what you are looking for, and they will be able to work out what is best.
  • Balayage for pale skin: Blonde, red and light brown or dark brown balayage will work best
  • Balayage for medium skin tones: Avoid any light colours that can wash out the skin. Stick to warm blondes and soft browns if you want a lighter hue. The ideal colours for you would be chocolate browns and reds. If you want to experiment with colour, cool shades like blues or purples will suit best
  • Balayage for dark skin tones: Shades of warm or ashy blonde, caramel and light colours beautifully complement darker skin tones

How to do balayage at home

If you can’t get to a stylist but you’re still keen to add splashes of sun-kissed hues to your tresses, you might consider colouring your hair at home.
  • Choose a shade from our Precision Foam Colour range that best suits your current hair and skin tone. For an even application, split your hair into sections by putting the top of your hair up and bringing the rest to the front
  • You’ll need to apply the dye to the bristles of your hairbrush and then sweep the brush through the middle to the ends of your hair, repeating this on all the remaining sections and starting at varying points to avoid a dip dye look. You can also apply the colour using your fingers for a more natural look
  • Next, let your colour develop for 20 minutes and then rinse. Use our After Colour Conditioner to seal the new colour
We recommend conducting a skin allergy test 48 hours before colouring, even if you have used hair dyes before. Hair colourants can cause severe allergic reactions, so make sure you read and follow instructions.

Beautiful blonde woman with long, wavy hair

How long does balayage last?

Balayaged hair can last between 3-4 months, depending on the colour of your roots, how quickly your hair grows, and how your treat your hair in between salon visits.

Balayage means you aren’t left with visible roots, and blends seamlessly into your own hair so it looks natural. However, your new colour will grow out as quickly as any other colour would - at the same rate as your hair.

How to look after balayaged hair

As balayage grows out naturally, it takes a lot less maintenance than a traditional full head of colour. If you're wondering how to maintain balayage, look after it with products to cleanse and reveal beautiful highlights.

Our best shampoo for blonde balayage is our Sheer Blonde Highlight Activating Moisturising Shampoo. It hydrates hair and reactivates dull, faded highlights; pair with our Sheer Blonde Highlight Activating Conditioner for best results.

Avoid brassiness by washing with a purple shampoo like our Violet Crush Intensive Purple Shampoo, which you can use weekly to maintain your salon-fresh colour. Here’s how to use purple shampoo to prevent brassiness and those dreaded orange tones.

Our Pro Colour Revive range is expertly-formulated for dyed hair, and can help prolong your colour for up to 40 washes if you use our Pro Colour Revive Protecting Shampoo and Pro Colour Revive Protecting Conditioner together. It's pH balanced, non-colour depositing and made with antioxidants to strengthen your hair, lock in colour and leave it smooth and ready to style.

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