Much like the universality of a white T-shirt, it’s hard to find a head of hair that a traditional blonde balayage won’t look good on. For years, celebrities, influencers, and the general public have looked to the technique to give their manes effortless dimension and sun-kissed brightness. However, during the eventful summer months, many of us are interested in embracing a new hair look without straying too far away from what we know. Sound like you? We think you’ll love reverse balayage.
This low-maintenance technique uses darker shades and lowlights to infuse more depth into hair for a stunning result, regardless of whether locks are a blunt bob or princess-length. If you’re wondering what reverse balayage is and how to achieve it, keep scrolling for everything you need to know before trying this hot salon trend.
What is reverse balayage?
Reverse balayage is when your colorist uses dark colors to add lowlights near the roots and throughout your strands to bring depth to your hue. If your blonde balayage has become too bright or brassy, reverse balayage can tone it down while maintaining the depth and dimension you’ve grown to love.
What is the difference between balayage and reverse balayage?
Both techniques feature the same hand-painted process to create natural-looking highlights. However, traditional balayage involves painting your strands with lightener, while reverse balayage will reintroduce deeper shades into your tresses.
Another difference between the two methods is where the color is applied. Whereas balayage focuses brightness on the top layers of hair, reverse balayage is about making lowlights seamlessly blend into the under-layers of strands for a contrasted, lived-in look.
Can you undo a balayage?
Whether you went too light with your balayage or the hand-painted streaks weren’t what you were looking for, a color correction done by a salon professional is the best way to reach your specific hair goals.
How long does reverse balayage last?
Plan to head to the salon for touch-ups every six to eight weeks if your natural hair color is nowhere near your reverse balayage shade or if you want to make sure your color looks its best at all times. If you’re unsure which timeline is appropriate for you and your hair, your stylist will be able to suggest the best schedule for a follow-up appointment.
Is reverse balayage low-maintenance?
If you were a natural brunette or dark blonde before your traditional balayage, reverse balayage has the added benefit of being even easier to maintain than conventional balayage. Because the colors are typically closer to your natural shade, it’ll be even less noticeable when your hair grows. That means you might head back to the salon for a haircut before needing a root touch-up.
Reverse balayage can reduce the time spent maintaining your hair color and may also help your hair’s health. If you’re a natural brunette who’s spent years lightening your locks, your hair will appreciate the much-needed break from bleach.
How do you care for reverse balayage?
Think twice if you think you won’t have to switch up your hair care routine just because you had balayage before! Unlike your previous balayage—in which your colorist most likely used bleach to achieve lightened strands—your newly darkened strands have different needs. Lucky for you, caring for dark shades is typically much more low-maintenance than caring for blonde hues.
First, swap out your regular shampoo and conditioner for a system formulated to care for your new color. We recommend Redken’s Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo + Conditioner Duo. The system is formulated with Redken’s exclusive RCT Protein Complex, which strengthens hair but won’t strip your strands of moisture or color.
If your newly darkened hair begins to pull red, we suggest trying Matrix Total Results Dark Envy Shampoo and Conditioner. This color-depositing system works to remove red undertones from dark hair colors.
Another unwanted undertone that can creep into darkened hair is orange, but that’s nothing a blue shampoo and conditioner can’t fix. Redken’s Color Extend Brownlights Shampoo + Conditioner Duo helps to progressively tone brown hair with highlights or balayage over multiple uses.
Color services can still make your strands look and feel dry even if your colorist doesn’t use bleach to create your new hue. We suggest giving your strands a little extra TLC by incorporating a weekly hair mask into your hair care routine. L’Oréal Professionnel’s Serie Expert Vitamino Color Mask is a luxurious mask for color-treated hair infused with resveratrol to protect strands against breakage while maintaining shine.
If you’re ready to try the reverse balayage trend, we’ve rounded up 22 of our favorite ideas to give you some major inspiration.
The Best Reverse Balayage Ideas to Try Now
Dark Brown to Golden Blonde
Golden blonde is meant to shine, but if your hue has become too bright for your liking, ask your colorist for a reverse balayage with dark brown.
Help your golden streaks glow by sharpening them with a gloss treatment like Kérastase Soin Acide Chroma Hair Gloss. This at-home treatment strengthens and seals the hair fiber's surface to protect color and leave a high-shine finish.
Chocolate to Light Brown
If you want to stay true to your dark brown roots while still seeing a bit of dimension throughout your strands, ask your colorist to replicate this chocolate to light brown reverse balayage.
Brown to Honey Blonde
Opt for this brown to honey blonde reverse balayage for those who truly want to replicate sun-kissed, lived-in color any time of year.
Dark Blonde to Blush
Pastel pink hair doesn’t need to be high-maintenance. A reverse balayage will help blend your dark blonde roots with your fantasy color seamlessly.
If the only thing stopping you from sporting a fantasy color is the fear of it looking too flashy, a reverse balayage is the perfect solution for preserving hair’s natural depth.
Brown to Charcoal
Maintaining charcoal hair color can be time-consuming, but reverse balayage can help keep upkeep to a minimum. Ask your colorist to add lowlights to the strands around your root area and softly merge them with the rest of your mane.
Auburn to Golden
You don’t have to be a blonde or brunette to slay reverse balayage. The technique looks just as impressive on ladies with auburn locks. We love the way auburn blends softly into golden blonde.
Black to Auburn
Those with very dark hair will be obsessed with how effortlessly your natural hue blends with auburn.
Gray to Platinum
Subtle gray is the perfect way to tone down yellowing platinum roots for a fresh new look.
A buildable toner like Matrix So Silver All-In-One Toning Leave-In Spray will be just what you need to keep your gray shade looking sharp. Utilizing violet dye color-depositing technology to neutralize pesky yellow tones, this lightweight leave-in spray can be built to your desired intensity and won’t stain or transfer.
Are you a natural blonde or brunette? No one will ever be able to guess with this perfectly blended reverse balayage.
Brunette to Golden
This perfect mix of brown and gold looks fantastic no matter the season.
Reverse balayage creates depth at the root, allowing you to hold on to some of your golden highlights. When it comes to keeping your hue low-maintenance while maintaining brightness, bronde is always a good option.
Bronze and bronde may be only one letter off, but their difference is vast. This gilded brunette shade transitions into varying red, caramel, and gold notes for a stunning result that reminds us of a summer tan.
Long, strong locks are the perfect complement to a carefree bronzy shade. Ensure your strands reach their maximum potential with an anti-breakage spray like Matrix Total Results Instacure Anti-Breakage Porosity Spray. Infused with B5 and liquid protein, it nourishes the hair as it fills in over-porous areas, effectively smoothing and rebalancing the cuticle while restoring elasticity and strengthening hair against future breakage.
Brunette to Crimson
Reverse balayage can bring depth to even the most bright and vibrant colors. Case in point: This gorgeous brunette to crimson red look on curly hair can be easily enhanced with a bit of Mizani’s True Textures Perfect Coil Oil Gel.
Black to Caramel
If you’re looking to give your caramel balayage a major refresh, reverse balayage can bring dull, lifeless color back to life.
Black to Ice Blonde
Reverse balayage will allow you to slay the salt and pepper look better than your father ever could.
Despite how gorgeous your bright blonde ends look, the truth is that bleach-lightened hair undergoes quite a bit of damage. While you can’t undo it, the right hair care products can help improve the look and feel of your hair. We recommend Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment. Part of the Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate family, this highly reparative rinse-off formula works within your hair to strengthen hair bonds weakened by stressors like hair color, lightening, aggressive brushing, daily heat-styling, and more.
Brunette to Sand
The best reverse balayage looks natural enough that your locks look deep, rich, and slightly sun-kissed. That’s why we’re obsessed with this brunette to sandy blonde look.
If you’re looking to go dark but want a shade that’sedgier than your typical black or brunette, opt for a smoky gray.
Not ready to go full-on smoky gray? You can experiment with a lighter shade in the gray family by applying a temporary color-depositing conditioner like Biolage Professional’s Earl Grey Color Depositing Conditioner.
Soft Brunette Blend
Show your devotion to your brunette roots by asking your colorist for a subtle dark to light brown balayage.
Brunette to Toffee
Reminiscent of a delicious caramel treat, this sweet shade effortlessly meshes with a dark brown base color.
A modern nod to the chunky highlights we obsessed over in the early 2000s, the thick, bright pieces of color in this look stand out from a super dark base to create a visual masterpiece. The best part about this look is that it helps gradually phase out your bright blonde without quitting the shade cold turkey.
This one is so subtle that you may miss it! A few understated yet well-placed highlights around your face act like milk swirling around in your coffee. The dimensional, light-reflecting result will be the caffeine jolt your mane needs.
Interested in trying reverse balayage? Find everything you need to slay the trend, all in one place, at Hair.com.