Jessica Biel rocking her perfectly Balayaged locks
Know your ombre from your ecaille? Then the following cheat-sheet to all things Balayage may not apply. As for the rest of you….? Where have you been?!
We caught up with the man said to be responsible for bringing the technique over to the UK to get the skinny on everything you need to know. Over to you Jack….
WHAT ARE BALAYAGE HIGHLIGHTS?
“Balayage is a French word meaning to sweep or to paint,” says Jack. “It allows for a sun-kissed natural-looking hair colour, similar to what nature gives us as children. There are softer, less noticeable regrowth lines – the principal idea being less is more when creating soft, natural looks.” (Essentially it’s the antithesis to that stripy Ginger Spice highlighting technique we were all rocking – badly – in the 90s). “The Balayage pieces should be very close and soft at the root leading to a thicker highlight at the ends of the hair. Balayage is applied on the surface of the section and not saturated through the section until the very tips, otherwise you would have a streak of colour that isn’t vey soft at all. It can also be called a freehand technique because no foils or meche are used to create the highlights.”
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER COLOURING TECHNIQUES?
“Not only is it speedy, meaning clients don't have to sit as long in the chair, but it grows out beautifully meaning less maintenance, so less frequent appointments. Because it’s hand-painted, your colourist can choose the placements to best complement your haircut, skin-tone and features so it looks really natural rather than ‘coloured’. There’s no stripy look, it emulates what you would get naturally.”
SO NO FOILS?
“No. Since I came back to the UK in 2010 after years of working in the States I have been saying that foil highlights are dying out – it’s such an 80’s look and certainly not something the modern woman wants. But what we have to be clear about is that classic Balayage (by that I mean an application from root to tip) is a highlighting technique, so it’s not the death of highlights per se – it’s just that there’s no longer a place for a sea of perfectly-placed foils as more women realise how fresh and exciting freehand highlights and colour are. Look at most A-list celebs and you rarely see a classic foil highlight, you see Balayage and merged techniques like ombre and Balayage or Babylights and balayage, these techniques are the anti classic foil highlight in the sense that they work with the individual’s haircut and natural hair growth patterns as well as the variance of tones in the hair.”
DOES IT WORK FOR ALL HAIR COLOURS OR IS BALAYAGE JUST FOR BLONDES?
“Absolutely. It’s great for any hair type and every age. It works on shorter styles to long locks, as it’s a painting technique that’s fully bespoke.”
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
“For many women, highlights are too time consuming and colourists who spend 90 minutes doing a full head of foils are making colour a chore for their client. A half head of Balayage can take between 30-45 minutes to apply whilst a full head is between 30 minutes to up to an hour.”
CAN YOU DO AN ENTIRE HEAD OF BALAYAGE?
“Yes! The beauty of freehand work is that it can be as heavy or as delicate you like depending on your taste.”
CAN ANY COLOURIST DO IT?
“I was surprised when I first moved back to the UK in 2010 at how little Balayage was being done in salons. I’ve pushed over the last 6 years to make it the number one highlighting technique in the UK since then and have trained hundreds of colourists all around the UK to do the technique. We’re really seeing more and more salons offering it as a service but Balayage is a skill set that needs to be learned, exactly like any other colour technique. When done right it looks exquisite; when done badly, it looks horrific.”
CAN I DO IT ON MYSELF?
“If you run around in the sun – you’ll naturally Balayage your hair but I would never advise trying to actually do this at home. We hand paint the hair in sections which you just can’t do yourself.”
IS BALAYAGE EXPENSIVE?
Prices tend to start from £50 but vary greatly from salon to salon. Also, as the treatment is completely bespoke to you only your stylist can tell you how much you will need depending on the thickness of your hair and the effect you’re after.