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High-Contrast Balayage: 5 Tips for Stylists

Most people know balayage as a technique that will impart hair with a beautiful, natural, sun-kissed look. But some clients and guests don’t want subtle—they want high-contrast, high-impact color. And that can cause some guests (and stylists) to think that they need to turn to other techniques.

But even though balayage might not be known for high contrast, the technique can still be used to for this more dramatic, dimensional effect.

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Below are some tips that can help you create a stunning, high-contrast look that your clients want.

1. Set realistic expectations.

Communication is key. If a client comes in asking for something that you know is going to be difficult or impossible to achieve in a single session, you need to tell her (and be prepared to explain why).


If getting to the desired end result is going to take more than one session, explain how many sessions you think will be realistic, and explain what will be accomplished in each session.

2. Start with color correction (if necessary).


If a client needs color correction of any kind (coverage of grays or grow out, undoing overly-highlighted hair, etc.) it makes sense to start there. High-contrast balayage is all about, well, contrast, and that means that the base canvas needs to be at the right level before you perform any actual balayage.

In some cases, this might be possible to achieve in a single session along with the actual balayage treatment. But an alternative is to split the treatment out into two separate sessions: One to color correct, and the second to bring the hair up to its new level.

3. Simplify placement for more impact.


Usually, people think that more is inherently better than less. When it comes to high-impact balayage, this means more foils, more sectioning—just more.

But more isn’t really always better. In many cases, you can get just as much contrast and impact by working smarter instead of harder. Case-in-point: By simplifying your placement, it’s possible to concentrate your efforts on the areas that will have the most dramatic effect.

4. Remember to preserve some depth for contrast.


Like we said above, a high-impact balayage treatment is all about contrast. That means that there needs to be something for the treated hair to contrast against.

You could achieve this contrast by incorporating lowlights. (This might be required for some clients who do not have natural lowlights due to previous color work.)

That being said, a more natural approach would be to simply preserve some of the natural depth already present in your client’s hair, which can be achieved with strategic placement.

Preserving depth is an important part of balayaging clients of any hair type, but it’s especially important when you are balayaging brunettes. Fight your urge to apply product to the entire head, make sure you are preserving an appropriate level of depth, and your client will be thrilled with the results.

5. Saturate the hair, and let the product sit!

If you are too conservative with the amount of product you are using, it’s unlikely that you’ll get the dramatic lift that you’re looking for. For a clean, bright balayage, you’ve got to make sure you are saturating the hair, or there just won’t be enough product to work its magic.

Generally speaking, if you can still see strands of hair through the product, you are only going to get 1-2 levels of lift.


Similarly, it’s important to make sure that you are letting the product process in the hair for the right amount of time.  

Want more balayage tips? Check out our Not Yo' Basic Balayage Bundle!

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