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Balayage Effect

Introduction - The Balayage Effect

Sarah Jessica Parker - Baylage/Ombre Poster Girl Sarah Jessica Parker - Baylage/Ombre Poster Girl

Sarah Jessica Parker and Giselle Bundchen were the original poster girls for the Balayage Effect.  As balayage highlighting became more mainstream in the mid 2000s, the sweeping freehand hair painting technique slowly evolved to encompass the recent Ombre movement.

Whereas the initial goal of balayage was to create subtle highlights and low lights, Ombre was much more pronounced.  Instead of color which starts at the roots, darker roots gradually blend into a lightened mid-shaft and ends.

Although Ombre colored hair is often created with freehand hair painting techniques, Ombre incorporates a more pronounced dark-to-light fade of color.  Ombre can be created without utilizing balayage just as balayage can be performed on the hair without specifically creating an Ombre look.

What Is The Balayage Effect?

Baylage is derived from the French word "balai" which means "to sweep" and is a freehand style of foil-free hair painting.  Highlights and low lights are brushed over the hair in a sweeping manner.   Balayage has evolved around the world as a premiere hair coloring technique over the past 50 years.

As the Ombre hair color trend evolved and continues to be popular in current times, balayage is more popular than ever before.

Balayage is popular with both professional colorists and hair color clients because it looks so natural, grows out gracefully, creates contrast and adds a unique one-of-a-kind beauty to hair.   When balayage is applied properly, the end result is sun-kissed and sparkly.

Balayage creates free form color which lights up and catches the sun, much like a child's hair.   Due to the free-form nature of the technique, clients can extend routine touch-ups to months rather than weeks.

Soft Blonde Hand Painted Highlights Soft Blonde Hand Painted Highlights

With other types of highlights, touch-ups may be required every 6-8 weeks.  With balayage, highlights can be extended up to three months.  Balayage creates soft, natural-looking highlights often utilized on catwalks and runways.

History Of Balayage

Balayage gained popularity in London during the 1950s and 60s Vidal Sassoon era of geometric cuts.  Balayage worked in perfect harmony with the historic Sassoon hairstyles.  Balayage was valued because it offered  sophisticated personalized hair color service.

The Paris based Carita sisters, famous for creating the famous blonde hues of Brigitte Bardot, were known for utilizing a softer, more free-flowing version of balayage.

In the 1960s streaking was the primary method of creating highlights.  It was followed in the 1970s by cap highlighting which was initially known as frosting.  In the 1980s foils became popular.  In the 1990s the sophistication of balayage returned to popularity, eventually becoming mainstream.

As balayage has continued to gain in popularity over the years, hair color has evolved along with it.  Hair color products such as ammonia-free and ionic lighteners have been specifically designed to support the technique  and make it easier to perform with minimal risk with regard to making mistakes.

Balayage How-To

Sarah Jessica Parker With Balayage Hair Color Sarah Jessica Parker With Balayage Hair Color

One of the biggest balayage challenges is converting cap or foil hair color clients to try the free hand technique.  Naturally caps and foils create more controlled color, at least in the eyes of long time hair color clients.

To overcome skepticism about balayage some professional hair colorists will transition their clients to the hand painting by first combining the two techniques.  Since balayage creates a completely different look than traditional foils, some hair color clients needs time to adjust to the different effect.  Even when foils are combined with the free handed painting, some clients may still not be willing to leave foils behind.

One of the primary goals with balayage is to avoid creating obvious color demarcation lines.  Obviously lines should never be visible.  Color placement is key.  Starting the process with a well-thought out color placement plan is important.

To achieve the best color placement and avoid lines, it's important to make sure the hair color has the proper consistency to make it easily spreadable.

To Achieve A Soft Look

To achieve a soft and natural look, it's crucial to use the proper amount of tension when painting the hair.  Working with a short-bristle brush also offer more control.

Once the highlighting formula is mixed, transfer it to a small glass bowl or a flat surface such as a Lucite board.   This helps produce a better overall consistency.   Recharge your brush before painting every new strand.   Be careful to pick up too much color which can cause the highlights to bleed.   Work slowly with consistent brush strokes.

Some balayage experts recommend utilizing a platform board and artist’s fan brush to paint on lightener.  Hair is first woven and/or sliced on the board.  Once the target hair has been isolated, paint on the lightener.  This results in a very natural look.

Balayage Is Not As Easy As It Looks

Neatness is important. Finish the hand painting process by sliding the platform board out and letting hair fall naturally.    Some hair color experts will place cotton between the sections to separate the hair and minimize bleeding.  Working with thin slices or weaves encourages the lightener to completely penetrate the top and underneath sections of hair.

SJP With Balayage Hair Color SJP With Balayage Hair Color

Always avoid the tendency to push or smash color into any other sections of hair.  This will keep the highlighted area more noticeable.  Balayage is not as easy as it looks.  It's always best to go to an expert in the field who has had lots of practice with the technique.

Current Balayage Trends

Current balayage design trends focus on a natural result. The design of the color is based upon the shape of the haircut. The hair cut should be viewed as the base.  The color should be painted to accentuate flow and movement.

The latest balayage trends incorporate multi-dimensional color placement.  Natural highlights are added to previously colored hair, or dimensional color in added to pre-treated gray hair.  The best balayage results are created by utilizing  block sections and painting lightener over target areas to create a stronger color placement.

When working with block sections,  sub-section hair for even application.  When painting over the top of the hair color, always work with compatible tones.

Balayage works beautifully with curly and wavy hair.  It's also a great color correction technique for blondes who wait too long between services and develop a band.


Khloe Kardashian Ombre Hair Khloe Kardashian Ombre Hair

Smudging is another popular hair coloring technique similar to balayage.  Instead of handpainting color, it's painted on the hair and smudged one-to-two inches out from the base.  This creates a seamless effect which extends from darker to lighter.

This can also be used for adding lighter effects to the ends for more advanced color and lightener placement.  Balayage techniques offer a lot of freedom with color application.

Using Balayage To Create Ombre

Achieving an ombre look can be more tricky.  Stylists will most likely utilize a balayage technique to achieve a graduated effect. To be done correctly, it might take around some extended processing time to create the perfect color cascade.

Summary - Balayage Effect

The possibilities of the Balayage Effect are endless.  A properly trained hair colorist who understands how to choose the proper color products to guarantee balayage success can utilize your hair as their artist's canvas.  They can also create spectacular hair color effects which are original and unique.

While there are at-home color kits, the balayage effect can be difficult to do at home.  It's best when created by a professional hair colorist with extensive experience in the technique.

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