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Balayage Application Techniques All Stylists Should Know

If you’re new to balayage, then it might be a little difficult getting used to the free-flowing nature of the technique. But that’s a part of the fun—and it’s what lets balayage give your clients the natural, stunning, sun-kissed look that they want in their hair as opposed to traditional foil highlights.

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As with any skill, perfecting your balayage process all comes down to practicing and experimenting with different techniques. Below, we outline three really important balayage application techniques that can help you step up your hair painting game: The C-Motion™, The Glide & Slide™, and The Backflip™.


As with learning any new technique, it’s not uncommon for new balayage stylists to be a little stiff in their motions. It’s understandable: Being more rigid gives the illusion that you’re more in control of the product and the brush.

But it’s not necessarily the best way to apply your product. Painting in smaller, more restricted strokes will naturally increase the amount of time that you’re spending on the service, limiting the number of clients that you can see over the course of a day and impacting your bottom line. Plus, if you’re too precise in your application of product, you very well might leave a harsh line of demarcation, which is the exact opposite result of what balayage is supposed to achieve.

Instead of small, rigid strokes, we typically recommend that stylists really open up by painting in something we call the “C-Motion,” where the bulk of the motion is achieved by moving your arm instead of your wrist. (In fact, your wrist will remain relatively still throughout the process.) Simply hold the brush at an angle that allows you to apply product with the body of the brush, and sweep your arm as though you are using it to paint a C, or a crescent.

Applying your balayage with a C-Motion will speed up the application time while also helping you create an instant blur on the canvas.

Glide & Slide

Glide & Slide is a technique that we use to get really great coverage and saturation at the ends of a client’s hair.

It involves first lightly gliding the brush (loaded with product) along the underside of the ends. You then rest the hair on your gloved hand, and begin applying product to the top of the ends. As you apply the product on top, you slide your gloved hand under the hair at the same time, effectiving sliding the length of the hair and creating a really great blur.

One important note here, though, is that you’re not “pushing” with the brush as you work the top of the ends. Pushing would cause you to push the product all the way through the hair and create a hard line, which you don’t want. Keeping things nice and gentle is the way to go.

Backflip Technique

A truly great balayage treatment will leave your client with versatile color that they can style and show off in a number of different ways. After all, no one wants to be limited in how they can wear their hair! Using the backflip technique to apply product to the rear sections will enable your client to wear her hair up while still showing off the beautiful glow that comes with balayage.

The backflip technique is exactly what it sounds like: When working on the rear sections of your guest’s hair, you flip the hair up so that you are working on the under section, and apply your product as you would normally. You can of course go as heavy as your client wants when saturating these areas, but we tend to suggest not going too heavy around these hairline pieces to avoid unwanted harshness.

Just as with balayaging the front or other sections of your client’s hair, it’s very important that you understand how she wears her hair when she wears it up. How high is her ponytail, what angle, etc. All of this will impact exactly where you apply your product.

Some Tips

A successful balayage treatment depends on a lot of things. Your application technique is one of them, but some other things to keep in mind include:

  • Your tools: Different brushes are good for different uses. Some are better suited to certain types of hair (for example, coarse vs. fine) and some are better suited to certain techniques. Knowing which tools to use when can have a major impact on your applications.
  • Your consistency: A balayage treatment doesn’t just involve applying product to hair. It also involves keeping it where you put it. That’s why the consistency of your product is so important. You want a product that is thin enough to glide along the hair while being thick enough to stay in place.
  • Your tension: When applying your product, tension is very important. Holding the hair taut is how you ensure that you’re painting exactly where your client wants the product. Inconsistent tension can lead to lackluster results.

    Want more awesome balayage tips and techniques? Check out our Advanced Balayage Tutorial!

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