Invented in a Paris hair salon in the 1970s, the balayage hair dye technique is nothing new. Its popularity has risen dramatically in recent years, yet, ‘What is balayage?’ remains one of Europe’s most googled beauty questions.

Why the confusion? “I think it’s down to social media influence,” says Tim Scott-Wright, award-winning hairdresser and founder of The Hair Surgery.


“There are so many different pictures on social media, so people might be coming in with a picture and they automatically think it’s balayage.

“What one person might see as an ombre, another might see as a balayage, or one person might see as a dip-dye, and then you’ve got foiliage… It’s confusing for the consumer.”

So, in a bid to get to the bottom of this hair colour query, here Scott-Wright answers all our balayage questions…

What is the basic definition of balayage?

“Balayage is a freehand painting of hair colour to create high highs and lows in the hair.

“It’s anything that’s done visually, by the eye. Balayage is almost a form of contouring. It’s a much more artistic approach to hair colour because you’re visually working with the hair, and the face shape, and where you want to see lightness.”

What are the benefits of balayage?

“Balayage has become extremely popular for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s very low maintenance in terms of upkeep, which is great. People can come in once or twice a year to have balayage and they can freshen it up with great products at home. For example, silver shampoos to keep that blonde looking fresh.

“The other reason it’s popular is that you can actually be blonde even if you’re brunette.

“If you look at people like Jennifer Lopez or Sofia Vergara, they’ve been able to have blonde hair without it looking yellow or orange.

“It suits their skin tone because they’re still essentially keeping their natural base colour around the hairline, the light colour is concentrated through the mid-lengths and ends.”

Can you do balayage on any hair colour?

“I always say with balayage: There’s a blonde out there for everyone. You can have dark Asian hair or you could be a Scandinavian blonde, and you can still have some type of balayage.

“Even if you’re a redhead, you can still go into copper-gold or rose-gold, and on darker hair, you can go to chestnuts and reds. In some cases, you can have blue balayage, but it’s quite difficult to achieve.”

Are there any downsides?

“Although balayage looks easy to do, not every hairdresser is capable of doing it. If you get a bad balayage, it can look really atrocious. You need to book in with someone who can deliver the goods, so senior technicians are always the ones to go to.

“Colour placement is essential, because if the colour isn’t placed in the right areas, you can end up with demarcation lines where it looks patchy, or you can end up with quite orange or yellow looking stripes.

“And it’s always got to be toned and glossed up afterwards. If someone doesn’t use the right toner, that’s when it can look a bit dodgy as well.”

What is a typical salon cost for balayage?

“Balayage is [usually] priced by charging for a full head of highlights, plus 50%.

“You’re paying for someone’s expertise on this, it needs to be costed for that as well. You’re looking at about £150, but that can vary from salon to salon.

“Although balayage might be more expensive than the traditional way of colouring, it will last longer and it’s lower maintenance. With a traditional set of highlights, you’d be coming back in every 8 to 10 weeks, but with balayage, you can go 3, 4, or 5 months – if it’s done well.”

Is there anything else people need to know about the technique?

“One of the big things for me as a hairdresser, which I hate, is don’t always go off your Instagram photos. These photos are usually highly edited.

“Don’t think that what you’re wanting to achieve can be done in 1 session, sometimes it might be a journey that may take 2 or 3. Any good hairdresser will take you on that journey, rather than trying to do that for you instantly.”

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