If you work in the hair industry, then chances are pretty good that you’ve at least heard of balayage, even if it isn’t currently in your personal skill set. While becoming a balayage pro will of course take time and practice, the good news is that you absolutely can learn the technique and change your career for the better!
Here, we offer a quick primer on balayage and discuss a handful of advanced balayage techniques that stylists can learn. We also run through a number of scenarios which detail a specific type of client with certain goals, and align them to the best possible technique to get them where they want to be.
What is balayage?
Balayage is a specific hair lightening technique that is used to impart a more natural, sun-kissed look to hair. It’s also known as hair painting, which is fitting, because the word balayage comes from a French word that literally means “to sweep” or “to paint.”
While balayage and traditional foil highlights are similar in that they are both hair lightening techniques, they’re different in certain important ways. Most notably, balayage is applied in a freehand manner to achieve a more natural look. The result is that a single strand of hair might naturally transition from one shade to another in a very fluid way along the shaft of the hair. Traditional foils, on the other hand, often result in harsh lines of demarcation because of the way that the hair is treated and processed.
Foilyage is a third technique which blends the two together: Hair is painted (as in balayage) but processed in foils, allowing for a more natural result while also achieving significant lift.
Who Balayage Is For
The principles of balayage and foilyage can be used on a range of different hairstyles, making it perfect for literally anyone who wants to lighten their hair in a way that results in a natural look. As just a few examples of the versatility of the technique, the resources below all offer you advice and tips you can use to deliver the perfect balayage on different specific types of hair:
- The Key to a Perfect Brunette Lift, Placement, and Gloss
- 3 Tips for Balayage on Gray Hair
- Balayage for Short Hair: Process, Tips, and Advice
- How Stylists Can Create the Perfect Beach Bronde Look
- Tips for Getting the Perfect Beach Blonde
Remember: Communication is Key!
One thing that’s really important for stylists to remember before performing balayage (or any transformational service, really) is that clients will often use words or phrases differently than what we might use as stylists. While there’s nothing wrong with that (they don’t work in the hair industry, after all!) it can make the job a little bit trickier. As the stylist, it’s your job to educate them about their options and to guide them in selecting the service or treatment that is right for them.
That’s why, before you ever pick up your paint brush or product, it’s crucial that you have a hair consultation with your client so that you understand their goals. This consultation will allow you to understand your client’s goals, while also giving you the opportunity to explain why a certain technique may or may not work best for them. The end is a client who is happier with her results and who is more likely to come back and recommend you to her friends.
Advanced Balayage Techniques to Consider
If you’re new to balayage, then your best bet will probably be to first learn the basics of balayage application and placement. Laying the groundwork with a solid understanding of these skills will be essential to your development as an artist, so that’s why we typically recommend that stylists start there before diving into more advanced techniques.
Already understand the basics? There are a number of advanced balayage techniques that you can learn to really amp up your hair game and deliver even more stunning results for your clients! Below are two essential advanced balayage techniques that we think all stylists should eventually learn.
1. Balayage with Lowlights
This technique involves performing balayage on a client while simultaneously leveraging lowlights to impart more dimension back into the hair. While it can be used in a number of different scenarios, one potential example is a client who is overly blonde and who is looking to reintroduce dimension to her hair.
That being said, here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are going to be performing balayage with lowlights for a client:
- Word choice: Very often, clients will hear the word “lowlights” and not really understand what it is that we’re referring to, which can cause confusion or even fear about the service. That’s why we typically recommend that stylists shy away from using that word. Instead, try saying “depth placement” or “dimension,” and always be sure to use photos for reference.
- How much dimension does the client want? This will impact the ratio between lowlights and highlights, as well as your placement, so it’s important to define the goal before you get started so that you can craft a plan of attack.
- Your formula: Crafting the right formula for your lowlights will be imperative to the final result, so take your time and get it right.
2. Heavy Balayage
Heavy balayage, or heavy painting, is a balayage technique that allows you to cover more of the surface base. Instead of taking smaller sections, you’re taking larger sections—and more of them. The end goal is to really transform someone into a color that is overall lighter than whatever their baseline is.
This technique can be particularly helpful when your client is a brunette or when you are looking to break up some of the natural darkness in the hair to introduce dimension and interest. In truth, though, it can be used on any canvas—it just depends on the client’s end goal. If you’re using a clay lightener, balayage can get you about 1 to 5 levels of lift with a warm-to-neutral effect (depending on the canvas, your saturation, and your insulation). If this won’t get your client where she wants to be, then you may want to consider a different approach.
Aligning Your Balayage Technique to Different Scenarios
With so many different balayage techniques, starting canvases, and desired results, it can be tricky to know precisely when you should use each of the techniques at your disposal. Below, we align a handful of these scenarios with the appropriate technique so that you can gain some practice.
Scenario #1: The Natural Beauty
In this scenario, your client is someone with virgin level 4-7 hair who wants to enhance it in a way that looks natural. In this situation, we would typically recommend a weaved balayage and a moderate (not heavy) paint.
Scenario #2: Solid on the Ends
In this scenario, your client is someone who, like in scenario #1, has level 4-7 hair. If they come in requesting something like an “ombre” or “brightness on the bottom,” then you’ll leverage a heavy paint, taking special care to also paint the underside of the ends. This can be particularly great for a brunette or blonde client.
Scenario #3: Blonde Balayage
In this scenario, the client is a level 7 blonde who is looking to lighten their hair. You could go one of two routes, depending on their desired goals. A moderate painted balayage would help them achieve more of a glowy look, while foilyage would help them achieve a lighter, brighter look.
Scenario #4: A Darker Level Base
In this final scenario, the client has level 1-5 hair, which is fairly dark, and their goal is to get their hair three to four levels brighter. To achieve this, you would need to perform foilyage instead of balayage.
Are you ready to continue taking your balayage game to the next level? Download our free Glossing Tips PDF now, and consider signing up for our Hands on Balayage Workshop on June 28, where you’ll learn the essential building blocks of a successful application, the essentials to a successful client consultation, and more!