Balayage for Short Hair: Process, Tips & Advice

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When many stylists think about balayage, they have a very specific client in mind. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and imagine the typical balayage client who walks into your salon and asks for the service.

If I had to put money on it, I’d wager that the client you’re imagining has hair that is at least shoulder length, if not longer. (And she’s probably a blonde—but let’s focus on her hair’s length.)

Am I right?

If so, don’t worry. It doesn’t make you a bad stylist, or imply that you lack creativity, or that you’re “basic,” or anything like that. It just means that the typical client who requests balayage at your salon has longer hair!

You might now be wondering: Why don’t more short-haired clients request balayage? While it’s impossible to answer that question for sure, it’s probably tied to a number of factors. The most obvious of these is the fact that if you do a Google image search for “balayage,” most of the images that you’re going to see are women with longer hair. It’s only natural for someone with shorter hair to assume that the technique wouldn’t work on their hair if they never see any examples with short hair, isn’t it?

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But this couldn’t be further from the truth!

Balayage is not just for long-haired clients. The technique can work perfectly well on hair of all lengths, whether short, mid-length, or long. And the process is largely the same regardless of the length of hair: Hair is sectioned and hand-painted with a lightening product before being allowed to process in either open air or under a plastic film, in order to impart a natural, beautiful, sun-kissed look.

That being said, there are some considerations that come into play when you’re balayaging short hair. We explore those below.

Balayage for Short Hair

For most clients and guests who request balayage treatment, the reason is clear: They want to lighten their hair in a way that avoids the harsh lines of demarcation typically found in traditional highlights or foiling. That’s what makes proper placement and transition so important—mess those up, and the reason behind the treatment is gone.

This fact doesn’t change when you’re performing balayage on short hair. If anything, perfecting the transition area only becomes more important, because you have less hair to work with. Less hair means shorter balayage zones, which means a shorter transition area between treated and untreated hair.

This isn’t generally a problem (because you typically don’t want transition areas that are too large, or you risk imparting a warm zone where it wasn’t intended) but it does remove some of the wiggle room that you may be used to when balayaging clients with longer hair.

With all balayage, it’s also really important to understand how your client intends to wear her hair, as this can (and should) partially dictate where you place your product. Because very short hair (3-6 inches in length) doesn’t have as much weight or heft as longer hair, it tends to act a little differently. Remember, hair has to grow up before it can grow down. This fact, paired with your client’s desired styling, will determine where you apply your product, and can sometimes be less obvious than working with longer hair.

You should also do your best to understand your client’s future plans for their hair. Do they intend to keep it at its current short length? Do they intend to grow it out? Do they have no clue? These considerations may also impact your placements, as well as any touchup appointments that you might be scheduling.

It’s All About Practice

In the end, if you want to get really good at applying balayage to clients with shorter hair, practice is going to be your key to getting the results that you want. And because the same principles of balayage are important in both long and short hair, perfecting the fundamentals is a great place to start.

Want more great tips? Check out our online balayage tutorials!

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