What Is Balayage? Here's Your Complete Guide

What Is Balayage?

Taken from the French word “to sweep,” balayage is a process in which the hair is literally painted by a colorist using a soft sweeping motion. This creates a natural, sun-kissed look in which lower strands of hair are lighter than the roots, but with a gradual transition in color that’s less pronounced than traditional highlights or other dyeing techniques.

What We Love

One of the best aspects of balayage is that it’s high-impact and low-risk. Because it plays within the realm of your natural hair color (and mimics the way that the sun naturally lightens hair over time), it’s the perfect choice for individuals looking for a fresh look but who are concerned about their hair looking unnatural or becoming too high-maintenance. Whereas other coloring techniques often pose the threat of roots that need constant touch-ups, this isn’t really an issue with balayage, which is designed to grow out and fade without the risk of harsh lines.

Make the Most of It

Now that you know what balayage is, here are a few key items to keep in mind before you head in for your first appointment:

  • Because the process is a bit more labor-intensive than other dying techniques, make sure you’ve carved out plenty of time. Plan on your session taking two to three hours, and check with your colorist for a more definite time frame.
  • Balayage is truly an art form, which means that your results will only be as good as your colorist’s skill. Personal recommendations can be invaluable, or scout out the salon’s (or better yet, the stylist’s) past work before you go in.
  • For natural-looking results, opt for a color within two shades of your natural color. This will help keep your look fresh as the color fades and give you greater control over how often you'll need to touch up.
  • After your session, let the color sit for at least 24 hours before washing your hair. As is the rule with all color-treated hairstyles, opting for a color-safe shampoo and conditioner can help preserve the life span of your look.

Ready to get inspired? Check out these 11 celebrities with the most stunning balayage hair colors.