If you change your hair color faster than you apply a 15-minute hair mask, keeping current with the latest hair trend terminology is probably crucial to your brand (consider us guilty as charged). Lately, we’ve heard the hair world buzzing about the phrase partial balayage, a little sister to the trademark balayage sported by superstar models and influencers over the past few decades.
We tapped Matrix artistic director Nick Stenson to shed some light on the differences between a partial balayage vs. full balayage and how to best care for the look in-between salon visits. We also rounded up 15 of our favorite partial balayage looks that you’ll be eager to text to your stylist right this second.
What is partial balayage?
Before we discuss what partial balayage is, it’s important first to understand what balayage is. This freehand hair coloring technique involves creating subtle, natural-looking highlights and lowlights throughout all the layers of the hair. The process subtly blends your root color with the rest of your mane and can be customized with your stylist to contour your face shape or create the illusion of thicker hair.
“A partial balayage is a strategic placement of balayage that targets [only] the hair's surface for maximum visibility,” says Stenson. “It offers illumination with less time and effort committed to the process.” Often, partial balayage streaks are placed onto the top layer of hair or around the face instead of the whole head. If you get antsy when sitting in the salon chair for too long, a partial balayage will give you an equally beautiful result in a fraction of the time.
What is a partial balayage vs. full balayage?
“A full balayage offers maximum brightness throughout the hair and not just on the surface,” explains the pro stylist. “While the looks can be similar, there is often less light and dark contrast in a full balayage, resulting in an overall lighter effect.”
A full balayage will provide a more dramatic outcome, while a partial balayage enhances your mane in a more low-key way using beautiful bright accents. A partial balayage is also a great way to dip your toes into the coloring world if you’re starting with virgin hair.
How long does a partial balayage last?
Stenson says that a traditional balayage lasts around 12 weeks but can vary according to hair growth patterns and individual preferences. “A partial balayage can last as long as a full balayage because it primarily focuses on the hair's surface.”
Whether you’re debating between a full balayage vs. partial or are toying with the idea of an ombre or highlights, you’ll always want to consider how much upkeep will realistically fit into your busy schedule. We know that the concept of touch-up appointments every few weeks may sound exhausting, but that’s where a great at-home routine comes into play (more on that later).
How much does partial balayage cost?
Both techniques are a stunning way to provide hair with brightness and dimension. If you’re looking for a more wallet-friendly option when weighing the pros and cons of a partial balayage vs. full balayage, partial may be the way to go.
“The value of a partial balayage is generally 15 to 20 percent less than that of a full balayage,” explains Stenson. “While the pricing will vary from salon to salon, you can typically count on this amount of reduced cost.”
What is the difference between highlights and balayage?
The two most significant differences between the services are how they are applied and how they grow out between appointments. Balayage and partial balayage are hand-painted techniques, whereas traditional highlights are more strategic and created with foils. Foil highlights often leave wearers with demarcation lines where the streaks end and the root begins, but balayage will be much more sun-kissed with a seamless and graceful grow-out.
Should I get highlights or balayage?
The answer depends on a few things: how much you’re willing to spend, how much upkeep you’re comfortable with, and the overall look you desire. Be sure to bring inspiration photos to your stylist and describe what you want in great detail; they’re well-versed in interpreting your vision and helping it come to life.
How to Care for Partial Balayage
A partial balayage is relatively low-maintenance, but caring for it at home will ensure it looks its best between salon appointments.
First, ensure you’re using a shampoo and conditioner formulated to protect your color, like Matrix Total Results Color Obsessed Volumizing Shampoo and Shine-Enhancing Conditioner. This duo gently cleanses, conditions, and volumizes hair to help protect against fading and extend your color vibrancy.
If your colorist lightened your brunette strands to create your partial balayage, Stenson suggests picking up a blue toning system like Matrix’s Total Results Brass Off Shampoo + Conditioner Duo and All-In-One Toning Leave-In Spray to neutralize brassy undertones that creep into naturally dark hair.
For blonde or gray partial balayage streaks, reach for Matrix’s Total Results So Silver Shampoo + Conditioner and All-In-One Toning Leave-In Spray. Purple pigments counteract warmth and correct yellow tones on blonde and gray hair. When no additional toning is necessary, Stenson swears by Matrix’s Total Results Insta Cure Anti-Breakage Porosity Spray to provide colored hair with repair and rehydration.
Now that you know all about partial balayage vs. full balayage and how to care for the look, you’ll need some inspirational photos to show to your stylist. Keep scrolling for 15 of our favorite ideas to try now.
15 Partial Balayage Looks to Bring to Your Next Appointment
Money can’t buy everything, but it can surely buy striking face-framing brightness.
This one is so subtle, that you may miss it! Super-fine partial balayage streaks about one to two levels lighter than your base pack a depth-enhancing punch with minimal effort.
If you’re as obsessed with this look as we are, ask your stylist about Matrix SoColor Sync Pre-Bonded in shade 7NA.
Golden Strawberry Blonde
For those looking to take their strawberry blonde up a notch, this golden partial balayage with dark underlayers is a sweet way to try it—like your natural blonde, but better.
Show off your best features with a simple yet stunning face-framing partial balayage.
Interested in leaning into red without going overboard? Look to a cinnamon partial balayage to spice up your look. While cinnamon works on any base color, it’s particularly striking on dark brunettes.
A touch of copper on the ends will breathe new life into your style while allowing your darker base to shine throughout the rest of your hair.
It’s not hard to see why mushroom colored-hair is having a moment. A perfect blend of cool, ashy brown and gray tones add dimension to dark locks without being too dramatic.
Caramel on Black Hair
The best part of a partial caramel balayage on black hair is the significant contrast it offers whenever it hits the light.
Bright, shiny, and dimensional, golden blonde works wonders to give hair a beachy glow.
Partial Balayage Updo
We love how half-updos help showcase a partial balayage weaved underneath the top layer of hair. Bonus points for choosing a pop of pink!
If you already have a full balayage but are ready to forego the frequent upkeep, transitioning into a cool brunette partial balayage can make life a bit easier.
A partial curlyage offers the same soft, blended color result you can expect from a classic balayage but is customized for curly and textured hair types. This process ensures perfect color placement and maintains curl health throughout the coloring process.
Creamy light brown is a criminally overlooked shade on the hair color spectrum. It’s so neutral and understated that it perfectly fits today’s minimalist beauty world.
Your colorist will paint dye on the hair like a balayage and then wrap each section in foils to create a foilyage. This offers a more amplified effect that gains intensity from root to end.
Ready to try partial balayage? Look to Hair.com’s assortment of professional products to keep your color fresh.
Image credit on right side of banner: @tabethacarns