Balayage hair is just as popular now as it ever was, and it’s easy to see why. It creates a beautiful sun-kissed look. But does balayage damage hair?
As balayage has a bleaching step, it will do your strands some damage. However, balayage requires fewer touch-ups between sessions, meaning less exposure to chemicals compared to alternative methods of dyeing hair such as foil highlights.
Consider this article your handy guide to all things balayage, as we detail what exactly it is, how it compares to ombre, and whether or not it causes damage to your hair.
What Is Balayage?
Balayage is actually a French word meaning to sweep or paint, and that’s exactly what balayage highlights are.
Your stylist will sweep hair color over your strands in a free-hand way, creating soft, natural-looking highlights that look gently sun-kissed.
One of the best things about balayage is how low maintenance it is compared to other methods of highlighting hair, and its regrowth.
Balayage highlights don’t start at your roots, but rather at gentle intervals sweeping down your strands. When it grows out, there’s no unpleasant regrowth line, which is an unfortunate side-effect of foil highlights.
Balayage is also applied just to the surface of your hair strands. There should be no saturation or thick swathes of highlight, otherwise, it’s just not balayage.
It’s all about a natural effect that simulates just-back-from-vacation vibes.
Balayage And Ombre – What Is The Difference?
Ombre is another major highlight style, but it’s a somewhat more dramatic look than balayage.
As with balayage, ombre is a French word meaning ‘shadow’, which reflects the look that your hair will have, as a much more gradient highlight.
With ombre highlights, your stylist will leave your roots their natural shade.
They’ll tend to highlight the middle section of your hair and ensure your ends are much lighter.
This leaves that sunset-like development of color from dark to light.
It’s a bit more like dipping your ends into color but leaving the rest of your hair its natural shade. In fact, when people dip their ends a bright blue or pink, for example, this is technically an ombre highlight.
Balayage, by contrast, should be more natural and effortless.
It’s about highlighting your strands freehand, in a slightly less structured way in order to simulate that sun-kissed effect. Balayage hair is usually more dynamic than ombre and looks more natural.
A major difference between balayage and ombre is how they grow out.
With ombre highlights, there will be a distinct line between the lightened section of hair and the un-lightened section.
As this grows out, it can look a bit block-like depending on the application of the ombre in the first instance.
Ombre can therefore look better on people with curly or wavy hair. There will be a less aggressive re-growth than on those with straighter hair.
Balayage is also different from traditional highlights in a similar way.
With foils, stylists will take sections of the hair and apply bleach, leaving this section wrapped in foils in order to let the bleach saturate.
Coloring will then be applied. The effect is much more uniform across strands, whereas balayage is organic and delicately applied to highlight a person’s facial features or to complement their skin tone.
Benefits Of Balayage
Works For All Hair Types And Colors
Unless you have a pixie cut, which would be difficult to apply balayage to, balayage will work on all hair types, textures, and cuts.
It will also work on even the darkest hair – but you’ll just have to bear in mind that darker hair will require more bleach, and maybe a few applications to achieve the desired look.
Balayage is more low maintenance and cost-effective than other kinds of highlights.
Balayage regrowth looks natural and doesn’t require touch-ups immediately (unless you want an immediate touch-up, of course).
The growth will look natural as the balayage is designed to blend naturally into your strands.
As a result, balayage is more cost-effective than other highlights. You don’t have to head to the salon for regular upkeep, which is better for your wallet.
Less Damaging Than Other Highlights
As well as being lower maintenance and cost-effective, balayage is less likely to damage your hair.
You don’t need to saturate your strands with bleach in order to achieve the effect of balayage, and fewer overall treatments also mean less damage.
More Customizable To Your Features
Balayage is applied freehand by a stylist, which means it’s more bespoke to you.
Stylists can consider features like your skin tone, your face shape, and the placement of your eyebrows or cheekbones in order to consider where highlights would look best for you.
The aim is to create a natural but sophisticated look that is flattering to you and highlights your particular features.
In turn, this ensures that the highlights look more dynamic and less one-dimensional, as you can let your stylist know what you’re looking for.
If you regularly wear your hair up, for example, they can customize your balayage look to better suit that in a flattering way.
Downsides Of Balayage
It’s Best Applied By A Professional
You may feel like an old hand at using a box dye or even applying bleach to your strands, but balayage is a different way of highlighting hair.
It’s definitely best done by a professional – they have specifically trained in how best to apply balayage in a way that looks natural.
If you do it yourself, you could end up with unsightly streaks, a patchy highlight, or horrible brassy tones. Paying for a professional stylist can be expensive.
However, using a professional stylist will ensure that your balayage is applied properly in a way that emphasizes your beautiful features
It Will Cause Some Damage To Hair
Balayage does require a certain amount of bleaching to hair.
As a result, there will be some damage to your strands – particularly if they’re already prone to dryness or breakage, or if you regularly color your hair (which makes your locks more vulnerable).
In fact, if you have dyed your hair with some regularity before getting balayage highlights, they might require more applications to take, which can make the process more expensive and time-consuming.
It Is Harder To Achieve A Balayage Effect On Darker Hair
Balayage highlights require bleaching and coloring. As with any color, this is harder to achieve on dark hair, which has more melanin for the dye to penetrate.
If you’re looking for balayage on darker hair, you may need to be patient and pay for repeated salon sessions.
Does Balayage Damage Your Hair?
As to whether balayage does damage to your hair, the answer is yes, it does. However, balayage is far less damaging to hair than alternative processes of hair coloring.
Conventional coloring techniques rely on foils and heat to change your look up.
Heat can be seriously damaging to hair, as is bleach, and with foils, the bleach is applied to all of your strands in sections.
You do need to remember to avoid frequently swimming in chlorinated or salty water when you’ve had a balayage, however.
These chemicals will interact badly with the dye and may cause unwelcome streakiness or patchiness, and they’ll also dry your strands out much faster.
You can help to maintain your balayage and support your hair by following up after a balayage highlight with a deep conditioning treatment.
This will restore and replenish hydration to your strands, ensuring their overall shine and manageability.
Remember, too, that there are ways of coloring your hair without using ammonia, which is the main perpetrator of damage to hair.
You can always ask your stylist how to do this, and they’ll be able to provide professional guidance and advice.
How Much Does It Cost To Get A Balayage?
The cost of a balayage will depend on a number of things.
Your hair length, color, health, and how frequently you dye your hair will all impact how much a balayage costs.
Your choice of salon will also dictate the cost of a balayage – but remember, you do tend to get what you pay for, and your hair is worth spending your hard-earned money on.
Which Is Least Damaging – Balayage Or Ombre?
It may be surprising, but balayage can cause more damage to your hair than ombre. It all depends on your original hair color and health.
Darker hair will require a more concentrated bleaching agent to begin with in order to create the dynamic tones of balayage.
Inevitably, less hydrated hair or hair that’s frequently died will also suffer more damage.
However, balayage needs fewer repeat touch-ups than ombre hair overall, meaning your strands are exposed to fewer chemicals. Both ombre and balayage are less damaging to hair than foil highlights.
Remember that you can always ask your stylist for ammonia-free color, too.
Why You Should Consider Having a Professional Do Balayage
Professionals are professionals for a reason. They’ll be able to create a dynamic balance between your natural hair’s light and dark colors, and best identify the tones that would work well as highlights.
As balayage is applied freehand, it requires a degree of skill and knowledge about how to ensure hair tone complements the skin tone.
Your stylist will also apply the balayage in order to draw attention to your facial features in a natural-looking way.
A professional stylist will also best know how to apply the bleach to your strands, and how to support them so that they don’t become completely brittle.
How Long Does Balayage Last?
How long balayage lasts inevitably depends on your hair color, length, and health.
However, you can typically expect to see your stylist every three to four months with balayage. This would be more like every six weeks for foils.
Balayage Mistakes To Avoid
Balayage is about achieving a natural, sun-kissed look.
The highlights should simulate how the sun picks up lighter tones in your hair.
If you’re oversaturating your hair with color, this will make the balayage look very flat and heavy – plus, it’s not really balayage.
Overuse of bleach is always a bad idea. It will result in parched, frazzled, breakable strands that might fall away as you brush them. Be sure to be measured with your bleach.
This will result in patchy, streaky highlights that look anything but natural. Balayage is supposed to be soft, highlighting your facial features. If it’s done badly, it can look terrible.
Not Maintaining Your Balayage
You can ensure that your balayage is cared for in order to ensure its longevity.
Stay away from chlorinated pools, and go for shampoo and conditioners with minimal chemicals like sulfates in them.
Use a deep conditioner after your balayage treatment to help restore hydration to your strands.
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Alice is an experienced writer and researcher with a background in the Creative Arts. She is a published poet and is currently completing her Ph.D., having worked in a variety of industries, including as a theatre dramaturg.
Alice is passionate about the environment, so is always on the lookout for the best zero-waste products that are vegan and cruelty-free.