Original post written by Gemy in June 2010

Lately there has been a lot of buzz with balayage ( sometimes spelled baliage) highlights. We receive calls almost every day with inquiries about this technique, especially this time of year. So what is it? Well, first off this is not a new technique, The Frenchies have been using this technique for years. Traditional balayage ( French word meaning “to sweep”) is lightener laid directly on the hair. Lightener is a professional word for bleach. We don’t use the word bleach in the salon. You bleach your clothes, not your hair. Besides, lightener has come a long  way since the 50’s and 60’s when they actually did use bleach to get platinum hair.  The lighteners we use in the salon for regular foil highlighting are loaded with special conditioners and are designed to blonde without damage. With that said, anytime you go lighter, you always need to add some TLC to your home hair care afterwards. We will send you out of the salon with gorgeous, glossy  highlights, but it wont stay that way if you use Suave on it!

How to Balayage

But back to balayage. When salons of Paris originally started this, they realized there were lots of factors in getting this look right.  If you don’t know how to sweep the hair quickly and lay it on the hair properly you can have ugly bleed or “leopard” spots. We have  fixed quite a few botch jobs for clients who have had some train-wreck -looking color from stylists who supposedly were “trained” on this. The product has to be the perfect consistency, so there can be no guesswork on mixing. Almost all the american made ” bleaches” I’ve worked with are not right for this technique. If you are going for a look that Europeans designed, then you need a product made just for this technique. We use an Italian product that is hard to find( it took me 4 months to locate a supplier- but it was worth the research). You have to be fast or there will be uneven processing.  Some stylists I’ve seen lay cotton and cellophane in between rows of lightener. Jeez, what a production! How are you supposed to be quick when you do all that?

A good balayager will use just a brush and a paddle as a canvas, that’s all.  Its looks like an artisan doing ornamental plaster work (if you’ve ever seen one). It looks easy, and many stylists try this without having any formal training on it. They don’t teach this in beauty school.  If they do, then probably not well. That is why it is very  important that a colorist have specific training on this technique. When you have a stylist laying lightener directly on the hair without the safety of a foil- you for sure want to know they are confidant in what they are doing!  The end result of a good balayage will be bright, sun kissed highlights that grow out natural and pretty. There is no line like with traditional foil highlights, it is more blurred and softer. Right now the Boho trend is huge, it has been for a while, and its not going anywhere. There is nothing soft or beachy looking about a line of demarcation where your stripey highlights stop and you re-growth starts. Your hair would definitely not look like that after a day at the beach. So balayage is economical in the fact that you don’t have to go to the salon every 4- 6 weeks. The best thing is, you don’t have to compromise being a lot blonde, you can be a “mega” blonde without the up keep.

Balayage Haircolor

American balayage is a the same theory done inside the foil. This technique was designed by Beth Minardi, famous New York colorist who is one of my fave color mentors.  For those clients who want this look, but say.. have previously darker colored hair, or needs an all over base color as well,  is someone I would use this technique on. Since foil is metal, it conducts heat, which then speeds up the processing time. So if someone has hair color on the ends of their hair, processing lightener without foil often does not blonde enough.

We  do every type of highlighting in the salon.a A great colorist controls brown and blonde hair by assessing the hair to determine what it needs at that moment,  and every technique has their place to achieve a clients desired look .  Below are some pics so you can see the difference . Ask your stylist what’s right to get a look that’s tailored just for you.

The photos below show the blended root area. The look is more diffused between the the roots to tips.


Here you can see a visible “strip” of color placement.

Studio 39 Salon, in Kansas City, has expert balayage colorists. Call our salon today to book an appointment for your balayage color.