Balayage: Beauty in a Brushstroke

Depending on your familiarity with beauty trends, you may never have heard of balayage, but you’ve definitely seen the results: Jennifer LopezLauren ConradGisele BundchenJessica Alba and Kate Bosworth have all been spotted with gorgeous, balayage-colored locks. Balayage is a freehand hair highlighting technique that allows stylists to create a truly customized style for their clients.

This technique gives hairdressers more freedom to play, since there’s a great amount of artistry to the process. They’re able to use the hair’s texture, shape and natural movement to guide highlight placement, allowing them to enhance certain areas (such as around the face or tips) with bolder color. By individually painting on bleach and color highlights and low lights, the result is more naturally-blended than traditional foil highlighting.

Given the handcrafted nature, there are, of course, countless variations of the style – three or more colors, chunky highlights, well-blended color and even ombré styles can all be created using balayage. Keep in mind, though, this is a process best left to the professionals: While at-home balayage kits do exist, it’s exceptionally difficult to hand paint one’s own hair. And a professional can place the highlights to best complement your hair’s natural movement.

If you think you might like to try a balayage treatment, start by finding a few example pictures of the look you’d like to achieve and bring them along to show your hairdresser. During the consultation, you’ll discuss color options, placement and how the look will enhance your cut and texture. After you’re on the same page, bleach and/or color will be painted on and left to process. Once processed, your hairdresser will apply a glossing treatment to enhance the tones and dimensions created by the balayage. Keep in mind that a balayage session will take longer than a traditional foil session, so plan accordingly.

The upkeep for balayage highlights depends on how much contrast there is from your hair’s natural color. Medium brown hair, for example, lifted with light golden brown highlights is very low maintenance and could go up to four months between treatments. Piecier and high-contrast styles will show more obvious grow out and require more frequent touch-ups.

Whatever look you’re going for, a balayage treatment is sure to leave you with a personalized look you’ll love. Talk with your regular hairdresser about the best balayage look for you.