Balayage highlighting (pronounced Bah-lay-ah-je) is far from a get-it-while-it’s-hot trend, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. Emerging on the scene in the ‘70s, this freestyle process of painting or “sweeping” strands with color offers more personalized results. And here’s the kicker: it’s even healthier than traditional foils. Here’s why:
1. Fewer highlights
“By hand painting, I can create a more profound impact with fewer highlights; that’s why I believe it’s healthier for hair,” says L’Oréal Professionnel master colorist Eva Scrivo in her 2011 book “Eva Scrivo on Beauty."
Although balayage can be performed on any hair color, Scrivo particularly likes this process for imparting light beige and golden tones to darker hair—especially if you’re looking to transition the tone (or go ombré). New color blends seamlessly without a harsh line of demarcation.
2. Safer root touch-ups
Cumbersome foils present a problem with root touch-ups. If the colorist doesn’t leave enough room between the roots to be touched-up and the previously colored locks, the bleach will expand under the heat created by the foils and seep into old color leading to breakage. It’s so common that professionals refer to such damage as a “chemical cut.”
Balayage is ideal for roots because the colorist can see exactly where the new hair growth begins and ends. “And because the formula is thicker than what’s required for foil highlights, the mixture is more likely to stay put,” Scrivo says.
3. Less heat
This technique also helps avert heat-related damage. “Aluminum foil conducts heat, almost baking the bleach into each strand and creating a very brassy effect,” Scrivo says in her Beauty Blog. Instead of processing hair underneath a heat lamp, this technique calls for a cotton ball to be placed underneath each painted section then all the hair is covered in cling wrap to allow the dye to develop.
Forgo foil highlights and try balayage—your hair will be healthier for it.
Pack a punch with fewer highlights and avoid excessive damage with balayage highlights. Acclaimed hair stylist Eva Scrivo demonstrates this freeform technique so you can get the look next time you’re at the salon.
It’s OK to come to your color appointment with dirty hair. The oils create a barrier so the bleach doesn’t penetrate the cuticle as deeply and hair remains healthier, according to Scrivo.
Provide a picture of the look you’d like. This gives the colorist an idea of your expectations including the amount and intensity of the shade you’re after (and face it, there’s more than one shade of blonde out there).
Here, you see my washed-out, four-month-old foil highlights. I wanted to brighten the strands around my face, while letting my natural hair come through (yes, a little “ombré”).
I showed Scrivo a picture of Rachel Bilson’s ombré locks and asked her to tweak that look for me.
Your hair stylist can create a multidimensional look with fewer highlights than foils would involve. It also allows her to place the color precisely where it needs to be without re-bleaching previously colored strands and drying them out.
Bleach often expands when heated, damaging already-highlighted hair. Colorists call the resulting breakage a “chemical cut.” Balayage avoids this dilemma.
Plastic wrap and cotton balls! Not so glamorous, but gentler than clunky foils. Nor does it fry your hair the way foils can, which means less damage and healthier hair for you.
When transitioning from dark to light tones, balayage can soften an otherwise harsh transformation. “Foils leave an obvious line of demarcation that often appears too brassy. Hand painting on highlights gives us more control over the end result and a more multi-dimensional outcome,” Scrivo says.
To glaze or not to glaze? A glaze won’t change your color, it’ll just help liven it up (or it can change a cool tone to a warm one). I opted to skip this post-color step preferring to get glazed in a month from now to help maintain the highlights.
“A glaze applied at the roots will refresh your hair color and buy you another month between touch ups,” Scrivo says. This could help preserve your hair health by eliminating excessive coloring. But remember, glazes can also dehydrate hair. “Even a clear gloss contains peroxide that can be drying over time,” Scrivo adds.
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