Balayage hair colors are eternal and perfect. Let no one ever tell you otherwise. While balayage technically is a hand painting technique used to achieve it, at this point it just as strongly correlates with a specific way of dispersing color through the hair.
Balayage is an easy-to-maintain hair color option that looks youthful, chic, and effortless. Balayage hair colors have a magical way of adding intense dimension and depth to a hairstyle, and look incredible when paired with soft curls. The gorgeous effect and ease of maintenance are the main reasons why balayage highlights are an excellent choice.
In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know if you’re thinking of switching over the balayage hair color, including what a balayage is (and what it isn’t), how to get perfect balayage highlights, and how to make sure it looks incredible for a long time, no matter what kind of hair situation you’re starting with.
Balayage Hair Colors: Contents
- What Is Balayage Hair?
- Differences Between Ombre, Sombre, and Balayage Hairstyles
- Balayaging at the Salon
- How to DIY Balayage Highlights at Home
- When Balayaging Always Keep in Mind
- How to Balayage Dark Hair
- How to Balayage Blonde Hair
- Caring For and Maintaining Balayage Hair Colors
- How Much Does a Salon Balayage Cost?
- How Long Do Balayage Hair Colors Last?
- Balayage Hair Color Ideas
Standing for sweeping or painting in French, balayage hair refers to the hand painting technique used to achieve that natural, graduated hair color effect that is quite possibly the perfect hair color trend for any season, but especially for spring and summer.
Balayage hairstyles are achieved through clever hair dye application. In balayage hair colors, hair dye is applied to the hair by hand in a natural, sun-kissed style to create the effect that the hair has been naturally tinted by the sun.
The hair dye is applied (in the best salons, through a hand painting technique) to the ends of the hair in streaks, with the longest streaks framing the face and creating the effect that more of the hair has been dyed than is actually true. Since the hair dye is only applied to the outer layers of the hair, balayage hairstyles are high impact aesthetically, but take almost no toll on the health of the hair.
The ombre was all the rage a few years back, as the go-to low maintenance hair color choice. In an ombre, the roots are kept their natural color, while the ends are dyed a different, normally lighter color. The separation between the darker roots and light ends is stark – so stark that it wouldn’t be a misnomer to call an ombre a color blocking hairstyle.
A sombre is a portmanteau of “subtle” and “ombre”. While it still follows the same rule of darker roots and lighter ends, the separation between the two is much less stark or jarring.
The light color starts gradually, a little higher up, so dark hair becomes streaked with a lighter color, until it is solidly dyed the lighter color at the ends. The effect is a subtle, well-blended hair color.
A balayage, as previously explained, is all about using a small amount of hair dye but achieving a striking effect. Only the outer layers of the hair are dyed, and the dye is kept mostly to the tips of the hair, along with a few stray streaks, and highlights sitting higher along the layers of the hair that frame the face.
Like with a sombre and ombre, the roots are kept their natural shade, so when the hair grows out there is no need for an immediate dye job.
Balayage hairstyles do require some expertise, so balayaging your hair at the salon might be the easiest choice if you’re not an avid hair DIYer. However, not all colorists can achieve a perfect balayage, and sometimes other extenuating circumstances might impact how well your hair will turn out. As always, I have some advice!
Do Your Research
Whatever you do, don’t walk into the first hair salon you see! Go online, and read reviews of different hair colorists in your area. You can start with an easy Google search like “best balayage in [your town’s name]”, and then simply read reviews.
If you already have a salon or colorist in mind, read reviews online, and look up their online gallery or Instagram profile. Pictures of their work are a great help, because they’ll show you what their unique style is (after all, no color technician balayages the same way).
Get That Consult
You do not have to commit to a hair coloring session the second you sit in the stylist’s chair. In fact, you shouldn’t! Booking a consultation is critical, because it gives you the chance to speak with the stylist, tell them what you want, and get their input.
During the consult, you might discover excellent ideas, or you might realize that this specific color technician doesn’t understand your vision or doesn’t jive with your particular style.
Feel free to bring a few examples of the kind of balayage hairstyles you like, to give the hairstylist a clearer idea of your vision. Make sure to tell your stylist your hair color history, and your usual hair styling choices. These will both impact how the stylist will balayage your hair.
Be Ready for the Time Commitment
A hair coloring appointment is usually not a short thing – be ready to spend at least an hour at the salon (and longer if you’re starting with dyed hair, or if you’re looking for complex balayage hair colors). Your colorist might also suggest a few appointments to slowly take your hair towards a healthy but outstanding balayage.
Balayage hairstyles are not easy to achieve, because the balayage technique requires a blend of expertise and instinct. After all, it has to look natural and a little random, but still classy and well put together.
If you want to take the plunge, and try and give yourself a balayage at home, just follow these tips:
1. Prep – Pick Your Poison
Come up with a course of action. Decide how light you want your balayage to be, and where you want the balayage highlights to start. Select a lightening hair dye in the appropriate shade (remember that results are not always predictable, especially if you are dyeing hair that has already been treated).
Clairol Frost & Tip Nice N’ Easy Maximum Blonde Highlights, from Ulta, is a safe choice from at home balayage hair colors, because it bleaches the hair well and rarely leaves behind an orange tint. It’s also a good first stage lift that can be followed with a darker blonde dye or a toner.
2. Prep – Don’t Wash!
It’s fairly well known that unwashed hair dyes much better. In addition to unwashed hair holding hair dye and bleach better, it is also a healthier choice. The natural oils that the scalp produces are evenly distributed, creating a protective layer over each strand of hair, and preventing it from being damaged by the bleach.
3. Prep – Mix It Up
It is always best to follow the directions on the box. In the case of the Clairol Frost & Tip hair dye, this means mixing a powder and developer in an already included mixing tray. Give the color time to develop.
4. Prep – Getting Ready to Dye!
Put on a shirt that you don’t mind getting a little bit stained. Button-up shirts are a good choice, since you won’t have to pull them over your head.
Find a comfortable place to sit, preferably in front of a mirror, and have a towel (once again, that you don’t mind getting stained) sitting nearby so you can use it for wiping your hands.
Lay out the mixing tray, and a small hair brush in case one is not included in your hair dye kit. Most importantly, get your latex gloves on.
5. Part Your Hair
Make sure your hair is thoroughly brushed, and has no tangles. It is always best to start from the inner part of the hair, so part your hair at the crown and pull it into a semi updo. Pull half of the loose part of your hair forward over one shoulder.
6. Get to Work!
You can choose to use your gloved hands, or a brush to apply the dye. Choose a strand of hair, and apply the dye starting right below the tip, and pulling it downwards so it fully covers the tip.
Then, while holding the strand in a pinching motion, pull the dye upwards a bit, in a way that is a bit like teasing (but gentler). This will create that soft, natural balayage effect.
7. Keep It Going, But Messily
Continue applying the dye to more and more hair strands. It’s your choice whether you want to cover almost all of your hair tips, or just a few.
It’s important that you vary the thickness of each strand of hair your apply dye to, and that you pull the dye up occasionally higher and other times lower. This will look much more natural and messy, like true balayage hairstyles.
Brush the other half of your hair over your shoulder, and repeat the same steps.
8. Face Framing Strands
Release from the semi up the strands of hair that would normally frame your face, and separate them into a few sections. Personally, I like the strands closest to the face to have a highlight that starts higher up, and then progressively gets lower as those strands blend into the rest of the hair (but you do you).
Apply a generous amount of hair dye as close to your roots as you desire, and work it all the way down to the tips, making sure the full strand is adequately covered and that there won’t be any patchy areas. Repeat this with the rest of the face framing hair strands.
9. Finishing the Crown
You may choose to pull the part of your hair you have already dyed into a low ponytail, if you’re worried about getting confused. Alternatively, you can just go ahead and let all of your hair loose.
Much in the same way that you dyed the inner part of your hair, begin dyeing the outer part of your hair. This time, however, pull the dye up a little bit higher then you would have on the inner part of the hair.
Play around, and only dye as much as you want. You could create a sombre effect, or only dye a few pieces of hair here and there for a super subtle balayage.
10. Let it Rest
Now it’s time to wait for the dye to take hold. You may choose to twist it all up into an updo, or to cover it with a shower cap.
Follow the directions on the box, but make sure not to let the dye sit for longer than 45 minutes, or you risk damaging your hair. Sit back, relax, maybe put on some Netflix.
11. Wash It Out
It is usually best to use the conditioner included in your hair dye kit, when washing out the dye. Avoid using shampoo. Once you’re done washing, style your hair as usual, and admire your gorgeous new balayage hair!
• Anytime when you are dealing with bleach, you run the risk of your hair not coming out the perfect color. Brass and green hair are unfortunately all too common results of bleaching hair, even when done by talented professionals.
• Balayage hair colors can sometimes come out too random and awkward: look for a hair colorist with a lot of experience balayaging hair, so that the results turn out perfect.
• Allergic reactions to hair dye are all too common. Perform a patch test by applying a small amount of mixed dye to a small area of your skin, where a tint or rash won’t be too big an issue. If no allergic reaction occurs, you can go ahead and use that hair color.
• Balayage is a hair coloring choice that can look amazing or awful depending on the styling. Curls and waves are normally best paired with balayage highlights, while pin straight hair only looks good with an amazing and thoughtful balayage.
Balayage hairstyles work really well for those with dark hair, since they soften and brighten it without forcing you to use massive amounts of bleach. If you want to balayage your dark hair, make sure to take it slowly, and start with a blonde dye that is not too strong.
Opt for a lighter brown or a darker blonde the first time you add balayage highlights – you can always lighten it further later on. Since you’re starting off with dark hair, a bit of bleach will be inevitable, but you can always punch it up with other colors, like reds, pastels, greys, and even wild mermaid colors.
Those with blonde hair have a few options as to how they can rock balayage hair colors.
The easiest one is by brightening their blonde hair. Simply add balayage streaks of a lighter shade of blonde or platinum, for an ultra shiny and high dimension blonde bombshell look.
If you are hoping for a more traditional balayage look, with darker roots and lighter streaks and tips, you can actually achieve the balayage effect by dyeing your roots a darker color. While this defeats functional purpose for balayage hairstyles (i.e. low maintenance and virgin roots), the effect is so cool that we understand why you might want it.
Additionally, those with blonde hair can also try a reverse balayage – in other words, using the traditional balayage hair coloring techniques, but with darker colors. Since the hair is naturally light, darkening the tips would hardly cause any damage, and the effect is quite unique, adding a touch of mystique to the blonde.
Lastly, a way to make the best of naturally blonde hair is by playing with ultra trendy unnatural hair colors. Both permanent and semi-permanent hair dye options exist, so if you’ve always wanted to try something out of the box, balayage hairstyles can be a great way to experiment. Both pastel and metallic hair dyes work really well as balayage hair colors, especially with blonde hair.
Isn’t the whole point of balayage that it doesn’t require too much maintenance? Well, while bi-monthly salon visits are not necessary, there are still a few steps you can take to keep your balayage hair colors looking bright and fresh, and the rest of your hair gleaming with health.
• Try to limit how often you wash your hair. Over washing will either fade or dull your beautiful balayage highlights. After dyeing your hair, try to wait at least a full day (waiting 3 days is best) before washing your hair.
• If you haven’t done so yet, make the switch to a sulfate-free shampoo. The Perfect Blonde Shampoo by Pravana (available at Ulta) will do the perfect job of keeping your blonde tips bright and beautiful.
• Get in the habit of deep conditioning and masking your hair, at least once a week – especially the dyed ends. Some masks, like the Christophe Robin Shade Variation Nutritive Mask, from Sephora, can multi task by both nourishing and hydrating the hair, and by amping up the color a bit.
• If your hair gets greasy, instead of washing it mop up the grease with a dry shampoo powder, like Living Proof Perfect Hair Day (PhD) Dry Shampoo, from Ulta, which smells beautiful, and takes away excess oils without leaving a residue.
• Before styling your balayage hair, make sure to use a heat protectant spray, especially on the dyed parts of your hair, which are now much more susceptible to damage. You can try Redken Pillow Proof Primer Spray, available at Ulta, for that protective layer.
Prices vary very widely from salon to salon, but you can expect to spend a minimum of $100 on a balayaging session. You might be able to work out some sort of maintenance schedule with your hair stylist that will reduce costs.
It’s difficult to predict how hair will respond to balayage hair colors over time, and this also depends on what kind of color you started with.
Once the hair has been bleached, it will not get darker, so this mostly depends on how quickly your hair grows out, and whether you were wanting your balayage highlights to stay at a specific shade. On average, 3 months is long enough between touch-ups.
So you think you’re ready for that gorgeous balayage look? We have a ton of examples off of the different balayage highlights you could try!
1. Extreme Balayage Ombre
This take on balayage hair colors is on the heavy-handed side. The ends are fully dyed a cool blonde shade, and the blending of the natural dark roots and the highlights begins very high near the scalp, giving a look that will require more maintenance, but is quite striking.
2. Coppery Blonde Balayage Bob
This is a perfect spin on balayage highlights for anyone who likes a lot of warmth in their hair. Dark brown roots blend into a coppery gold that cools down at the tips, in a bob that has a lot of warmth and dimension.
3. Slate Blonde Balayage
This is another extreme balayage hair color idea that would be ideal for those with naturally light hair that want to interject an icy, high fashion twist into their look. Dark blonde roots, lots of bleach, and a metallic finish make for a look fit for a slate queen.
4. Platinum Crisp Balayage
This is another example of balayage highlights for natural blondes from Hair & Harlow, this time with lots of platinum curls. Interestingly, a hint of the natural blonde works its way almost all the way down into the tips.
5. Classic Cool Ombre Balayage
This is a classic balayage hair color that would work on nearly anyone. The bottom half of the hair is dyed a golden sombre, with the balayage hand painting technique ensuring a subtle shift from roots to highlights.
6. Caramel Balayage
This delicious balayage is like a caramel latte, with naturally espresso roots warmed up by the reddish blonde balayage highlights.
7. Multi Metal Balayage
Balayage hairstyles are a great way of rocking metallic hair colors, because they allow you to keep your roots healthy and natural, while still turning heads with that metallic sheen. This picture is an example, with a blend of pure titanium and a bit of blonde highlights.
8. Dark Chocolate and Blonde Balayage Lob
In this balayage, tradition is slightly broken since some of the golden blonde streaks make it all the way to the roots. However, once the long bob grows out a bit, it’ll look like a traditional balayage, with ombre’d ends.
9. Bombshell Blonde Balayage
This take on balayage hairstyles is actually much more representative of the hand painting technique, since the blonde covers almost all of the hair, only leaving the roots a natural chocolate brown.
10. Rose Gold Balayage
Balayage hair colors don’t have to be natural. In this look, gleaming shades of rose gold hair blend with blonde to showcase what a balayage showcases best: texture, volume, and dimension.
11. Subtle Chocolate Balayage
This is one of those balayage highlights that own my heart. Dark chocolate tresses have been very lightly accented with caramel hand painted strands to give just a hint of warmth.
12. Rose Gold Balayage Lob
Balayage hairstyles are a great way to give presence and volume to understated haircuts like long bobs. Here, natural dark roots contrast beautifully against blonde and rose gold balayage highlights.
13. Caramel and Chocolate Balayage
A side effect of balayage hair colors looking so natural is that they remind me so much of food. In this case, a melted chocolate and caramel effect is achieved with coppery curls and dark roots.
14. Beachy Subtle Balayage
Another look with chocolate and caramel balayage hair colors, but this time it’s much more subtle and breezy, which works well with the tousled, wavy hair styling.
15. Warm Copper Balayage
This is one of those classic balayage hairstyles, with differently sized streaks of color adding dimension to nearly black hair. The uniquely warm shade of mahogany in the highlights is sophisticated and unusual.
16. Blonde Cascade Balayage
This hairstyle shows that balayage hair colors do not get in the way of gorgeous princess hair. These long, lush curls only seem brighter and richer thanks to the contrast of darker roots.
17. Feathery Balayage Curls
Balayage hairstyles work best with curls, and thankfully it doesn’t matter if the curls are loose or tight, small or big. In this case, feathery curls work nicely with the tighter blonde streaking in this balayage.
18. Shades of Brown Balayage
While blonde and brown might be tradition for balayage hair colors, a tawny brown works just as well with naturally espresso hair. You can see that the dark color runs all the way down to the tips, even though a lot of the hair has been lightened.
19. Golden Dimension Balayage
The secret to astounding balayage highlights is a lot of natural shine. These golden blonde curls pop all the more thanks to expert curling and a lot of hair serum.
20. Coral Reef Balayage
This is a great example of how balayage highlights can be changed and upgraded overtime. What started as natural toned balayage was elevated with a wash of different shades of blonde, copper, and magenta to create a warm coral look worthy of any mermaid.
21. Rich Brown Balayage
Depending on the styling, balayage hairstyles can look effortless or super clean. Lush curls all going in one direction look super organized up against the caramel balayage highlights.
22. Ginger & Spice Balayage
If you’ve always wanted to go redhead, but were worried about the drastic change, balayage hair colors can give you a taste. Dark brown hair with lots of red streaks is fun and fiery.
23. Azure Wash Balayage
Unnatural balayage hair colors like this gorgeous blue don’t stick around long, but that just means you can play with a lot more colors once it fades! Balayage hairstyles are a great way to experiment with color, without getting too crazy.
24. Princess Peach Balayage
These ultra long tresses in shades of pastel peach and pink are a more extreme take on ombre balayage hair colors. Interestingly, this look retains a bit of elusive darkness because the highlights on the face-framing bangs on long hair don’t go up too high.
25. Steel Blue Balayage Gradient
This hand painted blue balayage is an ultra clean version of balayage highlights. The tips have been dyed a brighter blue, with shades of steel grey acting as transition colors between the dark roots and the ends.
26. Smokey Lavender Balayage
No one does a colorful balayage quite like Guy Tang. This blend of smoky silver hair color and deep lavender is expertly hand painted for beautiful depth and dimension.
27. Magenta Magic Balayage
There is a lot of freedom with balayage hair colors. Bleached ends here were covered with a wash of magenta, while darker magenta streaks create a beautiful gradual transition.
28. Cherry Cola Balayage
Black and red create the perfect femme fatale blend for balayage highlights, like in this gorgeous, curled hairstyle.
29. Pink and Gold Gleam Balayage
Long, healthy tresses, and a complex combination of gold, pink, and peach hair shades make for one of the most astounding balayage hairstyles, that is totally perfect for a blooming spring.
30. Cool Balayage Ombre
Cool blonde hair shades are harder to achieve, but they certainly create an edgy balayage that is perfect for winter. Pair them with loose but uniform curls, and you will be the height of casual coolness.
31. Soft Smokey Balayage
This is like a gentler version of the previous hairstyle, with the same cool balayage hair colors. Here, however, the dye was applied to thinner strands of hair, leading to tighter highlighting and a really unique contrast.
32. Sandy Beach Balayage
This take on balayage highlights blends sandy brown with golden blonde, for a bright and natural look that reminds us of our favorite summer vacation.
33. Port and Coffee Balayage
This is the kind of simple balayage you might even be able to achieve at home, but the effect is oh-so-magical, thanks to this shade of port red blended with naturally dark coffee hair.
34. Silver and Blonde Balayage
If you like living on the edge, you can try and incorporate both cool and warm shades into your balayage hair colors. In this hairstyle, the cool silver contrasts against a similarly light yet warm blonde to create a mesmerizing effect.
35. Feathery Blonde Balayage Curls
Feathery curls and a bright blonde balayage with dark roots are a classy choice that works well with this layered haircut.
36. Melted Gold Forward-Facing Balayage
Aside from the astounding shade of melted gold used for the balayage highlights, the other thing that really stands out with this hairstyling is that most of the gold is concentrated near the face, while everywhere else the natural brown hair color reigns supreme. This totally brightens the complexion, without using too much dye.
37. Brightening Touch Balayage
Golden balayage highlights start at about eye level in this gorgeous hairstyle, so the overall look is still undeniably brunette, but a bright and healthy looking one.
38. Lush Gold Color-Melt Balayage
Different shades of gold and blonde in these balayage highlights create a deep, metallic effect, while the darker roots lend a serious contrast.
39. Metallic Brunette Balayage
A wash of light brown and an even subtler hint of blonde run through brunette strands, creating one of those balayage hairstyles that cease to look like hair, and look instead like molten metal.
40. Gradual Ombre Balayage
This is a take on balayage hair colors that requires seamless blending to create a perfect transition from the dark brown roots to a lighter brown middle shade, to gleaming golden ends.
41. Coral and Pink Unicorn Balayage
These gradual color changing balayage hairstyles don’t have to be natural, as we can see in this look that goes from dark brown roots to a bright coral, and ends with cool pink ends.
42. Shades of Blonde Balayage
Normally, looser waves work better with balayage highlights when the hair is tousled. However, as we can see in this hairstyle, featuring a mélange of warm and cool shades of blonde, when the highlights start higher up near the roots, even straighter styling works well.
43. Cascading Chocolate and Gold Balayage
Balayages are oh-so-glamorous on super long hair. The contrast of chocolate brown roots and warm golden balayage highlights is full of depth and beauty.
44. Ginger Snap Balayage
Feathery, tousled long bobs are a perfect accompaniment to balayaged hair. While most of the head has been dyed auburn, brighter balayage hair colors add whimsy.
45. Rose Copper Balayage
Ultra light copper was accented with pink balayage hair colors in a look that is eccentric and modern, yet soft and romantic.
46. Smoke and Lilac Balayage
Traditional balayage hairstyles, where darker hair is balayaged with blonde ends, actually create an opportunity for a lot of versatility. Here the balayage was punched up with lilac hair dye that looks bright and vibrant over the bleached ends, and dark and subdued when applied over the darker, natural roots.
47. Berry and Peach Sangria Balayage
This beautiful color-melt balayage features a fruity blend of light peach and dark berry red. While, with the exception of the roots, all of the hair is dyed, the hand painting technique is apparent making this a clear balayage.
48. Golden Blonde Color-Melt Balayage
This is both a very wearable balayage and a really easy way of going blonde, with a lovely dark brown to dark blonde, to platinum gradient.
49. Platinum Blonde Balayage
There is no subtlety in this hand-painted balayage – just fierce platinum waves, with the tiniest hint of a dark root and some blonde streaks.
50. Lavender and Peach Smoke Balayage
Smokey lavender hair shades are great as balayage hair colors, because they work well with the dark roots while still looking soft. A peachy touch along the ends gives a bit of summery brightness.
51. Dark Auburn and Gold Balayage
There is so much fiery volume and dimension in this ginger take on balayage hairstyles. The gingery gold streaks running through the dark auburn hair are warm and high energy.
Photos via Instagram