There’s nothing more beautiful than a truly lovely hair color. For some women, it happens naturally: A few weeks in the sun on a tropical beach somewhere create bleached natural highlights that make them look something like a lingerie model on her day off. Most of us, however, need help.
Whether it comes in the form of balayage or a fully redone hair color, freshening up your locks usually results in a complete mood and self-image boost.
What is balayage?
Good question. The technique is similar to highlighting, but it’s a much more artistic process that doesn’t involve foils or harsh lines. Because the hair professional paints on the color, you’re left with natural-looking splashes of color that are soft and subtle. We recommend trying the technique in a shade that’s in the same color palette as your natural one, just to ensure the entire hair look stays cohesive.
As an added bonus, you won’t have to worry about touching up your hair quite as often as is necessary with traditional highlights. The hand-painted strokes grow out evenly, looking lovely all the way up until the day you trim the dyed ends off.
Ready to try balayage for yourself? We’ve rounded up our favorite shades for 2017. All you have to do is bring this list to the salon.
Ash to Platinum
Blondes really do have more fun, particularly if they’re adding platinum to their ends. To make this color extra stunning, ask your stylist to start the balayage close to the root. Think of it like three-dimensional blonde: shadowy ash on the bottom, sun-kissed platinum on top. This color will bring out the California beach babe within you.
Shades of Caramel
Like flavors in the world’s loveliest chocolate bar, we love to pair chocolate and caramel together. To achieve a lush mix of gold and brown tones, ask your stylist for caramel and honey tones throughout the mid-lengths and ends of your hair. We particularly love this look for summer, when so many brunettes hope to take their color a little lighter.
Chestnut to Ash
If you’re struggling to choose a color combination, remember this quick tip: picking shades that are all cool or all warm is a pretty foolproof trick. For example, a cool chestnut with ash balayage meshes well because both colors share the same undertones. Plus, it’s an unexpected style statement for any brunette.
Dirty Blonde to Pink
This can’t be a millennial list if there’s no mention of the ever-buzzy pastel pink hair. If you’ve been hunting for a way to try the trend without giving up your beloved blonde entirely, balayage is an excellent solution. Your stylist can paint pastel pink throughout the hair, all the way up to the roots. The look is much more fashion model than comic book lover, and it’s easy enough to allow the shade to grow out.
Chocolate to Cherry
No, this isn’t a particularly delicious kind of ice cream. Balayage isn’t just for the blondes out there—it looks vampy and beautiful on even the darkest hair. Instead of aiming to lighten your chocolate brown locks all the way to blonde, try a red-tinted balayage color that’s totally striking. The mix of cherry and brown will make your hair look like it’s glowing from the inside.
Copper and Blonde
We live and die for copper hair, particularly when it’s highlighted with blonde. Instead of going full ’90s pop star with platinum stripes, use balayage to get the best of both worlds. Your stylist should start this shade further down your head so the blonde can’t wash out your pale complexion.
Brown to Black and Blonde
This one is way less dramatic than it sounds, we promise. On extremely dark hair, just highlights from just one color can fall flat or look artificial. Combining painted streaks of both black and warm blonde will give brunettes a range of distinct shades in their hair, making it seem fuller and more vibrant.
Chestnut to Honey
If you’re a golden-skinned gal, warm neutrals are the perfect way to up your hair game. We love to see honey balayage throughout chestnut hair. The color combination is vibrant and summery, just like a really good spray tan. We’ll be surprised if this look doesn’t get you stopped on the street for compliments.
Copper to Caramel
Have you always wanted to try out being a blonde, but never quite had the guts? Redheads, we have the answer for you: caramel balayage. The color combination takes some of the edge off the base color, while still creating a distinctly summery look. To get the most out of your blonde, ask your stylist to start painting at the crown of your head instead of just the ends.
Cocoa to Ash
For the cool-toned ladies out there, the cocoa to ash transition is a must-try. We love that this color combination shows off a new side of brunette since so many balayage colors focus on reddish tones. Ash paired with such a dark shade feels adventurous and edgy.
Gray to Silver
Have you ever wanted to be called a silver fox? With this rock star color combination, you just might. The transition from gray to silver is just subtle enough that it’s unlikely to draw attention. Instead, your friends will simply wonder why you look so awake, alert, and youthful. It’ll be our little secret.
Black and Caramel
Truthfully, this the color combination we just can’t get over. On very dark hair, it’s easy for lighter colors to look cheap or overdone. Thanks to the subtlety of balayage, however, carefully placed caramel highlights look as if the sun is just hitting your hair at the perfect angle. Throw in a few well-chosen streaks around the face, and you’re in business.
Shades of Honey and Beige
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how few women think to try multiple shades of blonde balayage at the same time. Instead of feeling like a high school cheerleader, your hair color will have newfound depth to it.