What Is Balayage? Our Q&A With Luke Hersheson on This Stylish Colouring Technique

We know that the world of hair dyeing can feel like a minefield. From highlights to lowlights and splashlights, it's difficult to know where to begin and what to ask for. Today, we're tackling balayage and answering all your burning questions about this chic hair colouring technique, along with a little help from Luke Hersheson.

woman having the back of her hair ruffled to show blonde balayage

What is balayage?
"Balayage" (taken from the French word for "sweeping") is a 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.

What's the difference between balayage and highlights?
Balayage is a softer, more natural looking result than traditional foil highlights. Re-growth lines are less noticeable, and the lines are more delicate, creating a sun-kissed look that recreates a few weeks in the sun. 

What's the difference between balayage and ombre?
Both ombre (meaning "shade") and sombre (meaning "dark") are two-toned looks that are darker at the roots, fading to lighter at the ends. With ombre, you can often detect quite a stark difference in tone, while sombre is more natural and blends more seamlessly. 

blonde woman leaning her head over a basin and having her hair shampooed by a stylist

Do I have to grow out existing foil colour before balayage?
The ease of balayage is it can go 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 hair before, balayage is the ideal option for upgrading your hair colour. Although blonde balayage is the go-to shade, 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.

How long does it take to do in the 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.

back of the head of a woman with wavy blonde balayaged hair

What do I ask my stylist for?

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. A good colourist will be able to find the right hue for you. 
Pull together some images 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 tone: 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 the colour, cool shades like blues or purples will suit best. 
  • Balayage for dark skin tone: shades of warm or ashy blonde, caramel and light colours beautifully complement darker skin tones. 
How to balayage at home

If you can’t get to a stylist at the moment but are 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 (e.g. 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 so as 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 an 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.

How long does balayage last and how can I maintain it?

As this technique 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 the Sheer Blonde Highlight Moisturising Shampoo. It hydrates the hair and reactivates dull, faded highlights.

Avoid the tone turning brassy with a purple shampoo such as the John Frieda Violet Crush Intensive Purple Shampoowhich you can use weekly to maintain that salon-fresh colour. Check out our article on how to use purple shampoo if you're unfamiliar with the magic of the kind of shampoo. 
As balayage involves bleaching hair, it’s essential to maintain healthy hair with a weekly deep conditioning treatment. Apply a repairing mask such as the Frizz Ease Miraculous Recovery Deep Conditioner, concentrating on the ends to return severely distressed hair to a healthy, smooth state.
Our Be Inspired Blog is chockful of other interesting articles - from home hair hydration to fizz taming saviours - to help you up your hair care game while at home. 

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