What is Balayage?
Balayage is the technique of free-hand painting highlights onto the hair, creating a soft and natural gradation of lightness towards the ends. The result is the look of summers spent at the beach.
Pronounced BAH-LEE-AHGE, balayage is actually a French word meaning ‘sweeping,’ as in to sweep on a hair lightener to create highlights. Balayage is the technique of free-hand painting highlights onto the hair, creating a soft and natural gradation of lightness towards the ends. The result is the look of summers spent at the beach, or the fresh, unintentionally perfect highlights on a child. This natural-looking highlighting technique is not just for blondes, but is actually used on all shades of hair to add soft, sunkissed dimension.
Of course, there are variations in application preferences: some colorists don’t separate the hair, while others separate the hair with cotton pieces, and others prefer using foil as a divider. There are different application nuances that produce slightly varied results, but the main reason balayage has become so popular is that it allows colorists to hand select the pieces of hair they want to highlight. Due to the customized, natural-looking placement, balayage also allows for a softer grow out.
When it comes to hair color highlighting and balayage techniques and trends, sometimes the differences between them are so nuanced that it’s hard to keep them straight. Never fear. We’re here…with a primer that breaks down the hottest highlighting trends once and for all. Balayage, sombré, lowlights, and more…read on to learn what sets all these looks apart.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIGHLIGHTS AND BALAYAGE?
Highlights is a general term that simply refers to hair that is lighter than the base color. Contrary to popular belief, highlights are not just for blondes, but can refer to lightening strands of any shade of hair. Highlights are traditionally applied using a method called “foiling,” in which sheets of foil are used to separate strands of hair that have been covered with a color or lightener before wrapping them in the foil to process. The foil keeps the lightener from getting on the surrounding hair, and also traps heat, allowing the lightener to lift more effectively. Foil highlights are generally placed close to the scalp, lightening the hair from the roots to the ends for an all-over highlighted look. See more on highlighting your hair at home.
Balayage is a free-hand technique of applying highlights, and does not usually use foil to separate the hair. Balayage creates soft and natural gradation of lightness along the hair strand—usually slightly deeper closer to the scalp and lighter towards the ends. Typically, balayage starts away from the roots and is focused towards the mid-shafts and ends of hair. Read more on balayage vs highlights.
OMBRÉ, SOMBRÉ, BABYLIGHTS AND BALAYAGE
Balayage often carries the brunt of being an umbrella term. While other forms of highlighting might be related to balayage, not all fits into this category neatly.
Ombré and Sombré speak more to the end result rather than the technique. Ombré is a more drastic, edgier version of balayage with a starker transition of dark to light, sometimes with a harder line where the transition starts. Sombré, on the other hand, is a soft, sunkissed transition of dark to light with the ends being only 1-2 levels lighter than the base color, and a seamless transition from roots to ends.
Babylights are also a type of highlight. The result is achieved by taking extremely small, thin sections of hair for subtle, sun-kissed highlights.
Sure everyone knows about highlights, but what about lowlights? Lowlights can add gorgeous depth and dimension. To add complexity to your color, simply choose a lowlight color 1-2 levels darker and typically of a slightly different tone than your base color. Here is an example of how this would work:
When adding highlights, lowlights or adding a new tone, you can always start with 3-4 pieces until you feel more confident in your application, adding more as you fall in love with the look. If you’re feeling especially hesitant, you can also pin up the front crown portion of your hair and apply your balayage highlights underneath for a less noticeable look. From lowlights to highlights to all-over color, the thing to remember about hair color is that it should be fun. And don’t forget—we are here to help.
Book your next hair color service with Shiana Hair.