An Essential Guide to Balayage: Tips and Need-to-Know Info According to An Expert

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It seems the craze for balayage hair will never fade. Instead, its fanbase only continues to widen as more and more hairstylists discover new, innovative ways to use this technique, recreating the coveted “naturally sun-kissed” look for their clients. Not only does it have a lived-in effect, but it adds a certain level of warmth and brightness to your skin tone and facial features – making it essential for colorists to master.

Even though balayage has been around for some time, you might still have some lingering questions. What’s the process like? And what can you expect during the appointment? I spoke to Vancouver-based hairstylist Lauren Hamilton who gave me the inside scoop on what you need to know before you head into your balayage session. 

Read what she had to say below.

What is Balayage? 

“Balayage is a freehand coloring technique used to achieve a natural look to the hair,” says Lauren. The reason it’s so popular is mainly due to the hair regrowth process. Unlike regular full-head dyes, balayage leaves no distinct separation between your natural roots and the colored hair, making it the perfect option for those who still want to enhance their locks but keep maintenance low-key.

What’s the Process Like? 

Color is painted onto the hair by hand, seamlessly blending light and dark colors to create a soft dimension. Typically, hair is lighter near the strands’ tips and darker towards the roots, replicating how the sun would naturally affect the hair.

What’s the Cost? 

Cost varies based on a few factors: your location, the stylist’s level of experience, and the length of time it takes to achieve the outcome. For new stylists, expect to fork over $200. Senior stylists can charge upwards of $500.

What Can You Expect During the Appointment? 

1. “Appointments usually start with a consultation (approx. 5-15 minutes)”, mentions Lauren. During this time, you’ll discuss with your colorist the goals and expectations for the final look, ensuring that both of you are on the same page before you get started. 

Tip: Bring a few photos into your session to visually showcase what you want to achieve. 

2. Next up: the application process, which can take anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on your hair’s thickness. 

3. Color is then left on your hair to process until it reaches the desired “lifted” level.

4. Hair is rinsed, and toner is applied – this step is crucial for nailing the look. Unwanted pigments may appear during the lifting process, like orangey tones, which can alter the final appearance. Toner helps neutralize these harsh tones and keeps the color looking natural.

5. Once complete, hair is rinsed, conditioned, blow-dried, and styled. 

The entire process can take between 2-4 hours based on your end goal, so be sure to carve out ample space in your day to avoid rushing the session (and don’t forget to bring some snacks to munch on!). 

Balayage Inspo

In case you don’t know where to start, here’s a bit of balayage inspo created by Lauren. From fall tones to baby light combos, it’s clear that this hair coloring technique is the perfect option throughout all seasons.