Think back to blondes in the early ‘90s: Whether you were a teenager during the decade or simply admire popular styles from that time, chunky highlights and high-contrast colors were all the rage. While we’re still big fans of ‘90s hair (chunky highlights are making a comeback after all), we’re all about effortless, natural-looking color in 2020. That brings us to blonde balayage, a hand-painted highlighting technique beloved by French girls and Americans alike.
Why exactly is blonde balayage so popular and, more importantly, what’s the best way to try it? 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 blonde balayage?
If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, effortless way to go blonde, consider blonde balayage your best option. 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 still in style in 2020?
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 2020.
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.
Should I get highlights or balayage?
Trying to decide between two of the most popular coloring techniques? For those looking to achieve a seamless, blended look, opt for the balayage technique. If you’re interested in a look with contrast and dimension, ask your colorist for traditional foil highlights.
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 $200 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 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.
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 Redken Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo and Conditioner. This non-stripping, lightweight system contains amino-ions to help seal in color and strengthens hair fiber from root to tip.
To prevent your blonde hue from turning brassy over time, swap your shampoo and conditioner for a purple-depositing system like Kérastase Bain Ultra-Violet Purple Shampoo and Cicaflash Conditioner once or twice a week. Formulated with Hyaluronic Acid, this system instantly neutralizes brassy hair and yellow undertones to maintain cool blonde tones.
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 Magnetics Mega Mask 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.
Ready to try blonde balayage for yourself? Before getting your blonde on, check out 50 of our favorite blonde balayage ideas.
The Best Blonde Balayage Ideas To Try Now
Interested in blending the best of blonde, brunette, and red shades? This fiery auburn balayage is the way to go.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whereas white blonde and platinum are all about frosty and frigid color, vanilla is a warm but light blonde hue that’s seem less often than its cooler equivalents. In other words, you’ll be the standout in your friend group.
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.
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 and purple, lilac is the perfect middle ground.
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.
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.
Blonde balayage doesn’t always have to be about shades of gold. If you’re intrigued by shades of red, bring this cherry hair inspiration to your colorist’s station.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Extra Dramatic Roots
The rooted trend kicked off last year, seriously benefiting everyone 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.
Blonde Balayage Crown 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! We love the simplicity of a crown braid, especially for special occasions.
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 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!
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.
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 soft half-up ‘do, one that only requires twisting a couple strands away from your face and pinning them at the back of your head. Boho vibes are always in style.
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 refreshing dry shampoo like Redken Deep Clean Dry Shampoo and a statement hair barrette or two.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not so big on coloring your hair black? Choose chestnut hair instead. This warm, red-accented shade is sure to flatter your complexion.
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.
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.
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 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.
Mushroom brown hair color started a movement in 2018, which means blondes got totally jealous. This year, we’re all about the newest addition to the color family: mushroom blonde hair color. This dreamy, ash-driven blonde balayage is fresh and modern—just like you.