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Best Lightener for Balayage: Why Stylists Should Use Clay


When it comes to balayage, technique is crucial. Balayage application, balayage placement, etc.—these are the things that get most of the attention.

While they are, of course, important, there is something which often gets overlooked but which is just as critical as technique to a successful balayage placement: Your lightening product.

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In order to achieve the results that you’re guests are looking for, you need to make sure that you are not only using the right type of product, but also the right consistency.

Here, we take a closer look at the importance of product type and consistency, and offer our own opinion on what makes for the best lightener for balayage.

The Importance of Consistency

Balayage is all about getting a natural look without harsh lines of demarcation. In order to accomplish this, your lightener needs to be at just the right consistency. Too thick, and you won’t be able to paint effectively; too thin, and it won’t stay where you want it to stay. (Using product of that’s the wrong consistency is one of the most common balayage mistakes that we see!)

The right product consistency will depend on a number of factors, including the specific qualities of the hair you are working on. For example, because product clings more easily to coarse hair, you’ll probably want a slightly looser consistency. Fine hair, on the other hand, typically doesn’t hold product as well and therefore will often require a thicker consistency.

Ultimately, the product consistency that you’re looking for is one that is paintable, but which stays in place.

The Case for Clay-Based Lightener

Generally speaking, we recommend that stylists use a clay-based lightener for all balayage applications, for a number of reasons. 

The first is consistency: It’s pretty easy to adjust the thickness and consistency of a clay-based lightener to get the exact consistency that you need which, as we discussed above, is incredibly important.

The second reason has to do with how clay-based lighteners dry. Clay hardens from the outside in. This keeps the inside of the treated hair wetter for longer, which allows the product to really penetrate and maximize the lift.

And the third reason is that you can build clay lightener in a way that you simply cannot achieve with a traditional foil lightener. The more you can build the product, the more lift you will ultimately have, and the more control you can exercise over the whole experience.

Tips for Perfecting Your Balayage Product Selection

No stylist starts out a pro at knowing exactly the product or consistency that they should use every single time they perform a balayage treatment. That expertise is simply something that comes with experience. 

With this in mind, here are some tips that you can use to improve your skills and get better at choosing the right product for your clients.

1. Embrace Education

Education is always the key to success when you’re learning something new! Embrace education in whatever form will help you best learn—whether that is by watching videos on YouTube or Instagram, following your favorite balayage artists and studying their process, joining a community of like-minded artists, signing up for a workshop, or purchasing a tutorial. Find the way that you learn best, and embrace it to improve your skill!

2. Experiment and Practice

Practice is just as important to improving your skills as education is. Of course, you shouldn’t experiment and practice on your guests! Instead, buy a mannequin and a number of different clay-based lighteners from your local beauty store. Try mixing different consistencies until you find what you’re most comfortable with, and then get painting!

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