Here Are 7 Important Things You Need To Know About Balayage Highlights


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In addition to National Summer Sun Safety Month, National Twins Day and Simplify Your Life Week (we’re all in for that last one), August celebrates the glory of sun-drenched, luminous highlights with National Balayage Week. To kick off this last auspicious occasion, “highlighting” one of the most popular hair color trends ever, here are seven fun facts and tips about the art, craft and care of balayage highlights.

Balayage Originated In France

Leave it to the French to create such a sexy and beautiful hair color effect. It was there that hairdressers originated the method of painting lightener or color directly onto the surface of the hair, foregoing the use of foil or pulling the hair through a cap. In fact, the word balayage means “sweep” or “sweeping” in French because the hair artist sweeps the hair color along the strand in a fluid motion.

Balayage Hair Mimics The Sun

If you’re looking for a natural lightening effect that looks as if you’ve summered in Malibu or the French Riviera, balayage highlights is the way to go. Inspired by his Southern California hometown, Biolage Celebrity Stylist George Papanikolas is one of the pioneers of balayage technique in the U.S. “Balayage highlights should look sun-kissed,” he explains, “as if you’ve spent the summer on the beach instead of a few hours in the salon.”

Balayage Hair Color Is Relatively Low Maintenance

The difference between balayage highlights and traditional highlights is the fact that the latter start right at the roots, whereas balayage highlights are typically placed from a quarter to a third of the way down from the roots, through to the ends. “This type of placement mimics the way hair lightens naturally,” says Papanikolas, “with the newer growth at the top appearing darker and the older hair on the ends becoming lighter due to exposure to sunlight, heat styling and the overall effects of time.” So because balayage doesn’t start at the roots, it looks great as it grows out, which means your touchups can be much less frequent than with conventional highlights.

Balayage Does Minimal Damage

With classic foil highlights, the lightener is applied roots to ends and the entire highlighted section is saturated and then wrapped in foil where body heat accelerates processing. With balayage, because the lightener or hair color is swept onto the surface of each section of hair, beginning further down the strand, and touchups are less frequent, your hair stays healthier overall.

Deep Treatment Masks Keep Balayage In Top Condition

That said, balayage is still a chemical hair color process, and chemically-treated hair will always stay healthier with regular conditioning treatments. Currently, Papanikolas’ go-to for all his balayage clients are the Biolage Advanced Deep Treatment Masks. There is a full range of deep-conditioning formulas for every type of hair damage, including the new Biolage Advanced Recovery Deep Treatment Pack which is formulated specifically for chemically-damaged hair. “The Recovery Pack is ideal for lightened hair because it contains concentrated amino acids that balance moisture and actually target the most damaged areas,” explains Papanikolas. “My clients love it because they see results instantly.”

Another balayage hair care tip? Use a shampoo formulated for color treated hair, and to prevent your highlights from yellowing, reach for a purple shampoo once a week or so to prevent unwanted warmth. Papanikolas recommends COLOR LAST Purple Shampoo which neutralizes brass and warm tones while also conditioning and protecting hair from breakage.

With Balayage, Placement Is Everything

Balayage isn’t a DIY proposition. Because it’s such an artistic form of hair color, it’s best left to the pros. For example, the placement of balayage sections is completely bespoke—customized for your hair type, hair texture, hair color and face shape. “In general,” says Papanikolas, “balayage highlights should serve as a halo around the face for the most natural-looking dimension.” Balayage highlights are placed in a V-shape that is narrow at the top and gradually widens as it progresses along each section of the hair, with the ends saturated completely. And on curly hair or wavy hair, balayage is painted onto the crest of the undulations, where natural hair would most likely grab natural light. For an extra “pop,” many stylists apply what they call “the money piece”—a few wider highlights that frame and illuminate the face on one or both sides. In short, your stylist will choose the placements that best complement your haircut, skin tone, hair texture and facial structure for the most flattering and natural-looking outcome.

Blonde Hair? Red Hair? Brunette Hair? There’s A Balayage For That

Most people automatically picture blonde balayage when they hear the term balayage, and blonde balayage is indeed gorgeous, combining multiple shades of buttery tones to achieve a dimensional effect. But blonde balayage is just the beginning. “Just about anyone can wear balayage highlights,” says Papanikolas. You can combine light brown highlights and blonde highlights to create a gorgeous, café au lait “bronde” look; you can add caramel hightlights to brunette hair for a pretty brown balayage and you can even sport strawberry, copper or golden balayage highlights in your red hair. Indeed when it comes to balayage options, the sky is the limit!

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