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Balayage (rhymes with “folly cause”) is a hair painting technique originating from France (thus the tricky pronunciation). It is the most popular technique used to achieve a natural and low maintenance look. Hair is sectioned in a variety of different ways based on the desired effect, density, and texture. Select sections are painted on the surface using light brush strokes, which results in a soft, lived-in look with brightness appearing through the mids and ends of the hair. These effects are often confused with “ombre” or a “color-melting” look. “Ombre” is French for “shadow”, so you can think of ombre as the look and balayage as one of the ways to get there.

Many people familiar with highlights may want to try balayage as it can give a softer, more natural look than traditional foil highlights.

Balayage at Phia Salon
Phia Salon

In Columbus, we see balayage trends moving in the direction of bolder blondes and higher contrast looks. Seeing bright blonde near the face is an important part of this aesthetic, as is creating intentional depth using lowlights and shadow roots (also known as a Reverse Balayage).

Rachael Burt, shadow root balayage at Philosophi Salon
by Rachael Burt

This takes time and costs money! Balayage is not an In-N-Out service (still wishing we had those burgers in Columbus). Just as it takes additional months and money for your stylist to learn and master the technique, it will take you additional time and money to get the desired result. Remember that you get what you pay for…

Can anyone do it?

For a premium balayage application, you will want to schedule with a stylist who has completed all the advanced training required to become certified in this technique. The placement and quality of the color transition is only guaranteed with services that are charged as balayage and performed by certified specialists. For example, blending may not be perfect and spotting or harsher lines may occur with a stylist new to balayage. Those service providers who do not specialize in balayage may achieve similar results through a number of techniques, such as teasing.

While the cautions below are valid, a custom balayage is the way to go for effortless, sexy hair. The results are unique to each client, so you know that no one else has the exact balayage as you. It’s definitely the simplest way to achieve a beachy look in the Midwest!

Medium wavy Balayage by Dru Thomas Philosophi Salon
by Dru Thomas, Philosophi Salon

What’s the risk?

Balayage is an artistic application to achieve an effect, the technique being used may be different than the picture, resulting in a slightly (or dramatically) different outcome. For instance, Balayage is a surface painting technique, so hair is not colored/lightened on the reverse side.

Color may need to be golden to achieve a brighter appearance. Yes, we said it. Your hair likely is going to be gold at some point with these techniques. There’s no way around it, no matter how many Instagram filtered images you show us.

Straight Balayage by Autumn
by Autumn, Phia Salon

Balayage worn on straight hair may appear more of a solid color/less dimensional than when it’s curled.  In contrast, clients who wear hair naturally curly, will find that color may appear more subtle on first application.

If you wear your hair up often, a ponytail is likely to be a different color than your roots and lightened pieces may seem bolder when pulled back. It’s important to talk to your stylist about how often your hair is worn up vs. down to ensure they are trained in the advanced techniques involved in creating a seamless effect when worn up and down.

While this is a technique that can require less maintenance and may be great for those who prefer to be in the salon less often, haircuts that occur between color applications may result in an unexpected color line. As this color grows out, continued cuts will change the appearance. For optimal results, color touch-up is recommended with each cut. Expect some sort of coloring service, be it a toner or additional balayage, every 6-16 weeks.

Balayage Phia Salon
Phia Salon

To keep color blended, a toner is recommended regularly. A toner is a Demi or Semi-permanent color that will neutralize or enhance the pieces that have that been lightened with balayage. Generally, these occur every 3 to 8 weeks and can be done as stand-alone service or added to any haircut!

The cost of these services can vary greatly across the industry. At our Columbus salons, balayage begins at $70 with an apprentice, while a more advanced artist’s rates begin around $170.

Balayage by Lux Littler Phia Salon
by Lux Littler

There’s little to fear in the world of balayage so long as you go with a trusted professional and understand the process. A fresh hair painting can make the rainiest days sunkissed!

We recommend booking a consultation with a Balayage Specialist to go over all these considerations and choose the perfect balayage for you. We are located in Columbus, Ohio in the Clintonville and Short North neighborhoods!

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