Every decade has its own take on blonde: the platinum blowouts of the ‘50s, the hippie waves of the ‘70s, the chunky highlights of the ‘90s. In the 2020’s, it’s all about the blonde balayage. This hand-painted highlighting technique is beloved from France to America and beyond—we just can’t get enough of that effortless, natural-looking color.
Why exactly is blonde balayage hair so popular and, more importantly, what’s the best blonde balayage for you? We tapped Ashley Zajac, L’Oréal Professionnel brand ambassador and colorist, for everything you need to know about blonde balayage plus some of our favorite ways to wear it.
What is a balayage blonde?
Simply put, a balayage blonde is your best option if you’re looking for a low-maintenance, effortless way to go blonde. To create blonde balayage, your colorist will hand paint your chosen blonde hue onto your strands, starting at the mid-lengths in sweeping motions. This creates a graduated, natural-looking effect that blends seamlessly with your base color and is highly customizable. In fact, you’re practically guaranteed a flattering color in the hands of the right colorist!
“You can contour the color to enhance natural skin tone, change the visible look of a face shape, and make someone’s eye color pop,” Zajac says. “When you have a head of solid blonde, your eye has no direction. No matter how light the blonde is, it will not have any pop unless it has depth to create a shadow. With the application of balayage, each piece has a built-in shadow, which will draw attention to specific areas you want to enhance.”
Is balayage better than highlights?
We wouldn’t say one coloring technique is better than the other, it just depends on the look you want and how much work you’re prepared to put into it. If you want to give your hair a low-maintenance, natural-looking lift, opt for the balayage technique. If you’ve set your heart on a more dramatic shift from your natural color and are prepared for the top-up appointments, ask your colorist for traditional foil highlights.
Is balayage out of style in 2022?
Balayage is a lot like your favorite plain white t-shirt—when in doubt, it’s something you can always rely on. While the technique has been adapted over the years, traditional blonde balayage is still one of the most sought after salon services in 2022.
Are ombre and balayage the same thing?
While ombre and balayage are easily confused, the two are actually very different. First and foremost, balayage is a highlighting technique, while ombre is a style that can be achieved using a hand-painted method. While balayage creates a more blended, seamless appearance, ombre is a color gradient that has a much more dramatic final look.
How much is a blonde balayage?
The cost of your blonde balayage service will depend on several factors including the length of your hair, location of your salon, and how much lightening you need done. Expect to spend anywhere from $70 to $300 for a full head of balayage. If you’re concerned about cost, be sure to schedule a consultation with your stylist so you can have a better understanding of the process and the final cost.
How long does a blonde balayage last?
If you’re looking to go blonde without all of the maintenance, you’re in luck! Balayage is a great option for anyone who wants to stretch the time between their salon appointments as much as possible. You can expect to see your colorist every 12 weeks or so for a touch-up. If you want to keep your hue looking fresh between root touch-ups, however, you can head to the salon for a hair gloss like Redken Shades EQ. This hair gloss uses a mixture of direct and oxidative dyes to glaze, refresh, and correct your current color without over-processing or drying out your strands.
Ready to try blonde balayage for yourself? Before getting your blonde on, check out 60 of our favorite blonde balayage ideas.
The Best Blonde Balayage Ideas to Try Now
At last, the mother of all blonde shades. Platinum is high intensity, high maintenance color for the lady who likes her hair to look expensive. To make your ‘do more manageable, choose balayage platinum ends.
Brr, it’s cold in here. Or is that just your new ‘do? For very fair complexions, cool blonde balayage is the most flattering thing you can do for yourself—particularly if you’re already knowledgeable about caring for frigid tones. If not, don’t be afraid to ask your colorist for tips on creating a customized home hair care routine.
Remember coating your whole head in sun lightening spray during childhood summer vacations? Light blonde balayage is basically that—but thankfully doesn’t turn your hair that brassy orange.
Opal and pearl-inspired hair colors are relatively new on the market, but they’re making a seriously reflective statement. Who needs shine when you can have hair that literally shimmers? Make yourself into a semi-precious statement with the help of a colorist who’s well-versed in the trend.
Tend to lean toward cool shades? Ash blonde balayage is about to make your day. This flattering, cool-toned look has “it girl” written all over it.
Unlike other hair colors, silver hair is truly a timeless (and ageless) hue. If you’re interested in channeling a high fashion granny, schedule a consultation with your colorist.
These days, ash is everything. The bright beige shade is popular on regular people and high maintenance celebrities alike, proving how versatile it can be. The darker your base color, the better you’ll like this balayage.
If your natural color is pretty mono, then a balayage is a great way to add some dimension and drama. Your stylist will be able to advise on the best shades to lift your look.
Whereas white blonde and platinum are all about frosty and frigid color, vanilla is a warm but light blonde hue that’s seen less often than its cooler equivalents. In other words, you’ll be the standout in your friend group.
Beige furniture may have a bad reputation, but beige blonde balayage is truly a showstopper. Subtle pieces of beige are an easy way to test out a lighter blonde without committing to platinum. As an added bonus, this muted neutral looks gorgeous on pale skin and pairs well with a chic bob.
Mushroom brown hair color started a movement in 2018, which means blondes got totally jealous. Meet their new equivalent:mushroom blonde hair color. This dreamy, ash-driven blonde balayage is fresh and modern—just like you.
Shadow root blonde balayage is the perfect marriage of aesthetics and function. Dark roots create the illusion of more volume, but that’s not all—they also mask new growth, meaning you can stretch your color further between salon appointments.
Sun kissed blonde balayage is perfect for the girl who doesn’t want anyone to know her color was mixed by an (extremely talented) professional. Instead of like out-of-the-box highlights, you’ll get a natural, gorgeous masterpiece of dark and light blonde.
Pastel hair isn’t going out of style any time in the near future, so use this cultural window to experiment with your mane. Try a watercolor wash of lavender over blonde balayage. For the slightly less bold, a statement streak here and there will do the trick.
Bright Blonde Balayage
There’s nobody we admire more than really reflective, light blondes. It’s clear they’ve put in endless salon hours and plenty of coin to reach their current color! If you’re interested in going really blonde, make sure you’ve taken the time to work out a long-term plan as to how you’re going to get there. Salon magic (particularly when it comes to beautiful, healthy-looking blonde) doesn’t usually happen in a single session.
The blending in this style is so subtle that people will have no idea it came from a salon (don’t worry, your secret’s safe with us).
The Everything Balayage
Moneypiece? Check. Contrast roots? Check. Natural-looking, gorgeous style that’s easy to maintain? Check, check, check.
Hair stylists might have spent the last three years begging you to take off some length, but you’ve yet to cave. Celebrate that force of will with a hair color that brings serious dimension to your mane.
Super Long Blonde Balayage
The ultimate hair goal for blonde is always strands that look and feel as healthy as a shampoo commercial (cue the strobe lights and hair flipping, obviously). Celebrate how far your blonde has come by wearing all those inches out in public with a natural-looking blonde balayage. Can’t get your hair to grow to your waist naturally? No worries! This is the perfect opportunity to have your stylist custom dye some clip-in extensions.
Blonde Balayage Top Knot
Blondes sure do have more fun—it’s just that even they need a break from time to time! Ensure your blonde balayage gets shown off the best way possible with the help of this chic (and easy to wear) top knot situation. Adding a few embellished bobby pins makes this ‘do appropriate for workplaces and Friday nights on the town!
High contrast pony
Ponytail hiding all the work you put into your color? Try braiding a section of your hair to
show off those dramatically dark undertones.
Extra Dramatic Roots
The rooted trend seriously benefits those who can’t regularly make it to the salon. Instead of shaming visible dark roots, we’re celebrating them! Take the technique one step further by wearing super dramatic roots with crisp, light blonde balayage.
Half Up Blonde Balayage
Barrel curls and beachy waves are both tried-and-true methods for showing off fresh blonde balayage, but don’t feel like you’re stuck with stiff, untouchable strands afterward. We love a half-up ‘do - like this sleek knot that perfectly highlights the contrasts in your new mane. It’s a modern update on a classic style.
Blonde Balayage Wedding Hair
If you’re standing at the altar, all eyes will be on the back of your head. An intricate up-do can showcase all the complexities of your balayage, giving everyone plenty to admire (and that’s before they even take in the dress).
Blonde Balayage Braid
There’s a reason your favorite stylists show off their color work on models with braided hair: All those bends and dips catch the light, ensuring the most dramatic shots of reflective, fresh hair color. You don’t have to be a professional to work the braid for your own hair! Tease out the strands to create a tousled, festival-ready look.
Combine two favorite hair trends and what do you get? A superstar trend-stravaganza, that’s what. For ladies who are practically professionals at keeping brassy tones out of dyed strands, a silver ash balayage is the perfect way to go.
As the name suggests, babylights are a subtle form of highlighting meant to mimic the way toasty afternoons in the sun brighten the hair of children. That means your colorist will focus on framing your face and lightening up your ends.
What would a conversation about buttery hair be without a shout out to the original sweet-as-candy color? On medium and dark complexions, caramel creates a glow-y effect that’s to die for. If you’re trying to look like a sun-kissed goddess, go caramel for your balayage.
Pumpkin Spice Balayage
When the temperature drops, blonde balayage on pumpkin spice-hued strands is a seasonal delight. The coppery base color brings warmth to your hair—perfect for cozy season.
Honey-colored highlights have a similar effect to caramel, but subtly contain amber notes that make the color considerably richer and deeper. In other words, this is an accent shade that truly packs a visual punch. Women of all skin tones should wear it at least once in their lives.
When it comes to blonde, you can either go for piece-y, individualistic color or something soft and smooth that blends like a dream. We love the latter for experience blondes who are veterans of purple shampoo and regular hair salon appointments.
There’s no substitute for quality butter—the kind that’s golden yellow, fragrant, and hard to resist. Think of butter blonde balayage as the perfectly irresistible hair equivalent of your favorite luxurious addition to any meal.
Meet the money piece, a term hair pros coined for the dramatic block of color that sits right next to your face and makes you look incredibly expensive in photos. If blonde balayage has been your go-to for years and is starting to feel a little tired, add a money piece and see how you feel.
Blonde Balayage With Statement Clips
The return of hair clips has meant great things for women who’d rather spend less time styling their hair and more time looking stylish out on the streets—AKA us. Help preserve the longevity of your blonde hair color and skip excess shampoo sessions in favor of a refreshing dry shampoo like Redken Deep Clean Dry Shampoo and a statement hair barrette or two.
Champagne holds a sweet spot in our hearts for that rich, gold color and the sparkling bubbles that practically scream “celebration.” Bring that festive feeling into your life with warm, beautiful champagne balayage.
There’s a common misconception that balayage is best on long, elegant manes. That’s not the case! Talk to your stylist about a blunt lob with luxurious blonde accents.
Like the treat for which it’s named, butterscotch balayage is all about bringing buttery warmth to your ‘do. With hints of honey that make it supremely fall appropriate, butterscotch on chestnut hair is a true stunner.
Think of strawberry blonde balayage as red velvet’s younger, more easygoing sister. With a base of coppery red and bright, pale ends, your red mane will take on a depth it’s never had. Just trust us on this one.
The lob shows no signs of ending its years-long grip on the hair industry, so it’s time to finally give this stylish ‘do a shot.
We love a dramatic lady, especially one who appreciates how much of a statement blonde balayage can make. Like a wink to the chunky highlights of the early 2000s, the bright pieces of color in this look stand out from a much darker base and create a visual masterpiece. Who wouldn’t want to try it?
You don’t have to pack up your surfboard and escape to the beach to get color that looks so natural the sun herself might have created it. With the help of a skilled balayage artist, choice honey-colored pieces will help create the illusion of added thickness and flatter your complexion—even if you’re stuck in an office all day.
Blondes aren’t the only ones having fun—at least not when it comes to balayage on dark hair. Play with a color that’s outside of your normal wheelhouse with the help of your colorist.
Light Brown Ash
Light brown isn’t technically blonde, but it’s about a shade away from dark blonde so we think it counts. To give your brunette roots a boost, ask your colorist about light brown ash balayage. The subtle shade will seem natural, but so much better than anything that could grow from your scalp.
Here’s another blonde derivative that just barely ekes its way onto this list. Golden brown adds a hint of the blonde aesthetic to brunette ‘dos, particularly when applied as well-blended highlights. If you’re a brunette itching to walk on the brighter side, your colorist should lean toward golden brown balayage.
Building on our enthusiasm for dark roots, this curly look drives home how beautiful blonde balayage can be. Treat the bright color as an accent color instead of the main focus, creating a voluminous ‘do that’s a true showstopper.
Blonde Balayage with Statement Scarf
Add a touch of country charm to your braid with a patterned scarf. This look will also be a lifesaver on days when you haven’t had time to wash your hair (you’re welcome).
Blonde balayage doesn’t always have to be about shades of gold. If you’re intrigued by shades of red, bring some cherry hair inspiration to your colorist’s station.
Got a sweet tooth? So do we—particularly when it comes to toffee blonde balayage. Over a dark base, we love the shimmer of this flattering shade.
While we’re on the subject of all things sweet and spicy, it’s time to talk about cinnamon blonde balayage. For winter or fall, add a little flavor to your blonde with this elegant color.
Medium Brown Hair
In the modern age, we rarely come across women who stick to one hair color family. Have it all by wearing bright blonde balayage over a deep brunette base.
Take your shadow hair to the next level by embracing inky roots. If you’re working with naturally dark hair, this look will make it even easier if you have to reschedule a touch-up appointment.
For a moodier take on the gray hair trend, temper your tone with a steely pastel gray over blonde. Instead of getting hair that’s basically tinted blonde, the way you would with silver, you’ll end up with a beautifully nuanced color.
As a general rule, we support anything that’s named after cake. In this case, it’s doubly true. Red velvet balayage brings bright blonde highlights over the top of dark red roots, creating the illusion that your mane is a freshly baked goodie. Or something like that.
Lilac blonde balayage is very similar to lavender, but the trendy shade features a dose of pink-hued goodness that flatters all skin tones. If you can’t decide between accents of pink or purple, lilac is the perfect middle ground.
OK, we’re pushing the definition of “blonde” here, but can you blame us? The way these dusky pink tones lighten into bright copper is stunning. Just add golden hour…
Perhaps the trendiest blonde balayage style on the list, rose gold is all about a brilliant coppery blonde that incorporates the slightest hint of blush tones. Basically, this do is the essence of spring or summer distilled into a hair color. No beach, no problem.
A fishtail braid is always stunning, but add hot pink to your blonde balayage for the ultimate mermaid vibes.
Sometimes, more is more. Go full festival with this pastel look, where blonde seamlessly transitions into an array of pretty pastel shades.
Not ready to take the plunge into platinum? Spice up chestnut hair with warm, strawberry blonde balayage strands instead.
Interested in blending the best of blonde, brunette, and red shades? This fiery auburn balayage is the way to go.
How do you care for blonde balayage?
No matter what blonde balayage shade you choose, your hair care routine will need to change a bit. Start by swapping your regular shampoo and conditioner for a system formulated for color-treated hair. We recommend Kérastase Bain Ultra-Violet Purple Shampoo and Cicaflash Conditioner. The cleanser deeply hydrates the hair fiber, illuminating strands with natural shine, while the lightweight conditioner softens hair and protects it from breakage.
To prevent your blonde hue from turning brassy over time, swap your shampoo and conditioner for a purple-depositing system like Redken Color Extend Blondage Shampoo + Conditioner Duo once or twice a week. Formulated with citric acid, this system strengthens and repairs blonde hair from the core and removes unwanted brassiness.
It’s important to note: If you’re going blonde, your colorist will likely need to use bleach to achieve your chosen hue. Your colorist, however, can improve the look and feel of your strands before you leave the salon. We also recommend adding a hair mask like Redken Color Extend Blondage Color Depositing Mask (available in Icy Blonde, Rose Blonde and Honey Beige for a perfect fit) to your routine once a week. This two-in-one hair mask is both a treatment and care extender designed specifically for the color care of your color-treated hair.
Header Photo: @colorbymarina and @beautybybrittanymcentire
Interested in trying blonde balayage? Hair.com has all the salon-quality products you need to maintain your color-treated strands.