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Balayage Brushes: When to Use Each Brush Type


Balayage is a freehand hair-painting technique that, when done right, can give your clients the beautiful, sun-kissed look that they want and crave. But the emphasis in that sentence is on the words done right, because balayage done wrong can lead to lackluster results.

A lot of factors are important for performing a great balayage treatment. Understanding your client’s hair history and their goals for the treatment is an obvious one. Your application technique is another. So is choosing the right formulation and making sure that you’re incorporating supporting services (like babylights and root smudge) that help to round out the look.

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But have you ever stopped to consider the tools—the actual hardware—that you use in applying product to your client’s hair?


Why Using the Right Brush Matters

While it might not seem like it, the truth is that choosing the right brush for the job is an extremely important part of ensuring amazing results for each and every one of your applications.

Why? Because different brushes are designed for different uses. They are made with different materials or in different shapes, which makes them better suited to perform a specific service or to work with a specific type of hair.

Trying to use a brush for something that it isn’t designed to do will naturally lead to less-than-stunning results. That’s like trying to use a lawnmower to trim your hedges. Sure, it might get the job done, but it isn’t going to look as great as if you had used to proper tool for the job.

Types of Balayage Brushes

To make it easier for you to always know that you’re using the right brush for your balayage applications, below we discuss the three main types of brushes that you should incorporate into your routine. These are the paint brush, the melt brush, and the foam brush. In addition to describing what makes each brush different, we also explain when stylists should use each one.

1. The Paint Brush

balayage paint brush

The paint brush is typically the first tool that most stylists will use to start painting hair. Paint brushes tend to come in two different bristle types: Natural and synthetic. Though they largely look the same and are built in similar ways, they are meant to be used for two completely different kinds of hair.

Synthetic bristle brushes (as shown above) are better suited for medium to coarse hair. They’re designed to be a heavy loader and for heavy saturation. They’re built with a ton of bristles, which will give you a lot more product saturation and make for a faster, easier application.

When to Use the Synthetic Paint Brush:

  • For Balayage/Foilyage clients with medium to coarse hair
  • When working with larger, thicker sections
  • Great for creating instant blur

Natural bristle brushes are better suited for fine to medium hair. The mechanics of the bristles allow for a gentler kind of saturation, and can make it ideal for transition areas, finer hair, and for beginner balayagers who are looking for a tool that can help soften the flow of their product

When to Use the Natural Bristle Paint Brush:

  • For Balayage/Foilyage clients with fine to medium hair
  • When working with larger, thicker sections
  • Great for creating instant blur
  • Great for gentle saturation
  • Idea for transition areas
  • Can help beginners soften the flow of their product

2. The Melt Brush

melt brush balayage

The melt brush was inspired by the paint brush, and is similar to it in many ways. It’s extremely lightweight, it has a long, pointed handle that makes for a great sectioning tool, and all of the bristles are in a single reservoir. The bristles are designed to be rather long and soft, making for a fast and gentle application.  

This makes it better suited for working with fine to medium hair, in both balayage and foilyage applications. The bristles also make the brush ideal for gliding product up the length of the hair during foilyage application, as well as for hairline and precision painting.

If you’re working with the melt brush, it’s important to make sure that there isn’t too much product on the brush at once. There should be no drips or globs.

When to Use the Melt Brush:

  • For Balayage/Foilyage clients with fine or medium hair
  • When working with finer sections
  • When looking to achieve medium saturation
  • Great for creating instant blur
  • Hairline and precision painting

3. The Foam Brush

balayage foam brush

The foam brush consists of—you guessed it!—foam instead of bristles. Typically, foam brushes are angled at the tip to give you more control over exactly where you are placing your product.

This makes it ideal for balayaging clients with fine hair. Because the foam naturally holds onto product more tightly compared to bristles, the foam brush will give you the least amount of saturation compared to other brushes. The foam also makes it well-suited for hairlines and when working with finer sections.

When to Use the Foam Brush:

  • For Balayage/Foilyage clients with fine hair
  • When working with finer sections
  • When looking to achieve the lowest amount of saturation
  • Hairline and precision painting

Ready to take your balayage to the next level? Check out our balayage paint brush collection, or sign up for one of our awesome balayage tutorials, or read up on these essential balayage tips

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