Balayage 101

Balayage 101

Vesna Ivetic, Senior Stylist at Pastels Ritz Carlton is a bona fide hair colour maestro. What she doesn’t know about trends and techniques for hair colour isn’t worth knowing.

Here she shares her secrets and explains how to make hair your mane desire using balayage!

Balayage is a colour technique. The word means to sweep or paint in French. It’s a freehand technique where carefully and strategically soft brushstrokes are placed to enhance the haircut, frame the face, and/or add dimension to the hair. It starts soft and darker from the root area slowly merging into visibly lighter ends.

Balayage is a technique not a colour, so it needs to be customised to each client. The transition has to be seamless from the base colour on the roots. The key is to go with colours within the same family of the base you're using, usually going into three levels lighter is my go-to guide. Also the texture of the colour product used to lighten and choice of colour brushes is very important. The colour can’t be too watery. Using soft brush strokes and correct placement of the colour with the right texture of colour product and right colour chosen for each base will leave you with an amazing result.

Balyage vs Ombré

When we are talking about Ombré, it is the name of a colour technique where the hair is going from dark to light, with the top of the hair root area being kept dark and going gradually lighter into even lighter ends. It’s less natural looking then balayage.

How has the technique developed since it first originated?

There are now added variations on how it can be done, such as either using meche or cotton to separate your sections from touching other parts of the hair, or putting foils on the tips only to maximise the lightnening process on the ends. Some stylists wrap the hair in cling film to keep the product from drying out. The end result depends on multiple factors such as the hair texture, sectioning pattern, the final haircut, and the product chosen. For 2019, I think there will be more playing around with colours - for instance blonde balayage clients will have the option of adding a touch of soft rose gold.

Words of wisdom about the technique…

Because we are lightening the ends more than the roots, we need to take precautions in preserving the hair. No one wants dry looking ends! This is where Smartbond from L’Oreal comes in. I use Smartbond for all my balayage clients. It allows me to lift the hair that little bit extra whilst protecting it from drying out, keeping it strong and healthy and with a terrific shine. Remember: the better your hair quality is, the better the colour will look.

Balayage is popular because…
  • It gives a soft, natural feel while adding dimension to the hair, especially once styled wavy or curly.
  • It can be done on all base-colours - blondes, medium or dark.
  • It is a very low maintenance up-keep technique compared to traditional highlights in foils. This is because the growing out phase is much more subtle.
What are your must-have products to maintain the look?

The L’Oreal Vitamino shampoo and conditioner and definitely Smartbond number 3.

The best balayage icons are?

My all-time favourite blonde balayage is Gisele Bundchen, Jessica Alba for my medium colour balayage and Lily Aldridge for the darkest version of balayage.