When stylists first start out performing balayage, mistakes are really common. Just like with any other technique or skill, mistakes are bound to happen, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They key is to learn from those mistakes, grow from them, and improve so that you can give your clients the stunning, sun-kissed hair that they want.
Unfortunately there’s so much confusion and so much information out there on the web that it can be difficult for beginner stylists to know exactly where to turn to figure out why their balayage has gone wrong. Even turning to the “experts” can be a challenge, with advice and tips from one pro completely contradicting the advice and tips offered by another pro.
That’s why we’ve pulled together this article (and tutorial!) outlining some of the biggest mistakes that we see beginner stylists making when they’re first starting out with balayage.
1. Painting From the Wrong Elevation
If you aren’t painting your clients’ hair from the right elevation, it can be really difficult to make sure that you’re putting the product where it needs to be—especially as you’re painting towards the scalp or the ends.
Beyond coverage, painting from the right elevation will also help ensure you maintain the right tension throughout the entire process (more on this below!). Make sure that you’re painting from the right elevation so that you’re getting the coverage and tension you need to be successful.
2. Not Maintaining Appropriate Tension
It’s really important when you’re performing balayage that you’re maintaining consistent tension throughout the application. If you don’t, the hair is likely to “buckle” during the application process, which can lead to you applying product where you didn’t intend to. It can also lead to product bleeding and just a less clean final look.
3. Painting with the Tip of the Brush
Often, when stylists first start performing balayage, they try applying product using the tip of the brush instead of the body of the brush. The problem with this is that when you paint with the tip of the brush, you’re more likely to force the bristles in between the strands of hair and leading to a less defined look. Balayage is all about surface painting, so you want to avoid this at all times.
4. Using Short Strokes
Beginners often want to use shorter strokes to paint their balayage, because it gives them the feeling of being more in control of the process. But this can actually lead to a poor application.
Opening up your stroke and using longer strokes doesn’t just help you get through the application process faster. It also helps you create a nice, even flow of product over the length of the hair.
5. Not Saturating the Hair
If you’re trying to get a lot of lift out of your canvas, then you need to make sure that you’re saturating the hair with enough product. Otherwise, there simply won’t be enough product to work its magic and transform the hair. As a general rule of thumb, if you can still see strands of hair through your product, you’re only going to get one to two levels of lift—if that.
Of course, the amount of saturation you want will depend on exactly what section of hair you’re working on. Transition areas (as pictured above) will typically be less saturated than other sections.
6. Using the Wrong Product Consistency
Everyone has their own preferences in terms of the consistency of lightener that they like to paint with. But it’s very important that this consistency is adjusted so that it best suits whatever canvas it’s going to be painted onto.
Certain kinds of hair will require different product consistencies. For example, because product naturally clings to coarser hair more easily, a looser consistency can make application easier. Fine hair will require a thicker consistency, though, to keep the product where it needs to be.
Thicker consistency might not give you as much lift, but it’ll give you a lot more control over how you’re transforming the hair.
7. Using the Wrong Sectioning Sizes
When performing balayage on a client, it’s important to make sure that you’re working with the appropriate section sizes. Exactly what’s appropriate will depend on a number of different factors—there is no one size fits all. So ask yourself: What color are you working with? How much lift is she trying to get? Etc.
As a general rule of thumb, thicker sections will leave more of a lowlight in the hair, while thinner sections will impart much more brightness.
8. Not Checking Under Your Sections
When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to think that what you see on the top layer of your balayage is what you’re going to get. But it’s important to always check underneath your sections as well.
Everything that you see on the underside of your sections is going to lift just like the top. If you see splotches or lines that aren’t blended well, you’re going to have a rough balayage. So check as you go, and take corrective action when necessary.
9. Using the Wrong Brushes
As with any trade, you’ll only get the results you want by using the right tools. For balayage, that means making sure that you’re using the right brushes.
Different brushes are better simply better suited for different things. Some are better for finer hair, while others are better for coarser hair. Some are better for applying product to the body of the shaft, while others are better for the root. Try a bunch of different brushes to find the ones that you’re most comfortable using.