After a decade at the very top of the salon totem pole, the balayage technique is still going strong. Whether you’re looking to achieve subtle ash blonde dimension or add depth to your dark brown hair, you can trust traditional balayage to do the job. After a recent scroll through Instagram, however, a new way of applying color caught our eye: wet balayage. The hand-painted technique promises similar results to dry balayage with a slight twist on how the color is applied.
Wondering which coloring technique is right for you, wet balayage vs. dry? We tapped J. Ladner, Redken RTeam Member, and George Papanikolas, Matrix brand ambassador, to get the full break down on wet versus dry balayage.
How does wet balayage differ from a dry balayage application?
Balayage is a freehand technique where highlights and lowlights are strategically painted on to your strands to create a seamless, natural look. The wet balayage technique follows almost the exact same steps as dry balayage. Instead of starting with dry hair, however, your colorist will blend the color onto wet strands.
"Wet balayage is when you dampen the hair with water before starting the balayage process, so the hair is wet when you start painting...With wet balayage, you pair a demi-gloss with a lightener to create depth and light in one sweeping motion, " Ladner explains.
Who does the wet balayage technique work best for?
Why exactly should you opt for wet balayage versus dry? According to Ladner, a wet balayage application can save you serious time sitting in the chair.
“When you dampen the hair with water, the salt and hydrogen bonds start breaking down, which allows the lightener to lift quicker and more seamlessly,” Ladner explains. “It allows you to cut down the processing time because you’re depositing and lifting at the same time.”
If you’re looking for a dramatic color transformation, Papanikolas suggests sticking to dry balayage. Since colorists cannot achieve as much lift on soaked strands, he says the wet balayage technique is great for creating subtle pops of color.
"The most common application is to do a delicate face frame hand-painted to soften the color around the face, and to bring back highlights darkened by a single process color to lightly brighten up the hair," Papanikolas says.
Though when it comes to wet balayage, Ladner says there’s so much more you can achieve with the technique.
“You can use it for someone who is just experiencing color for the first time and wants a subtle blend, in a color correction scenario, or for someone who is blonde and just wants more added dimension,” Ladner says.
What kind of maintenance does wet balayage require?
Once you’ve achieved your dream wet balayage, Ladner says there’s no rush to head to the salon for a touch-up. Instead, he recommends refreshing your color with an in-salon gloss treatment every six to eight weeks.
Wet balayage might require little salon maintenance, but you’ll still want to revamp your hair care routine to care for your new hue at home. Begin by swapping out your regular shampoo and conditioner for a system formulated for color-treated hair.
“I recommend using Redken Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo and Conditioner to help maintain color, vibrancy and shine,” Ladner says.
Since your colorist will need to use bleach to lift the color, the damaging effects can take a serious toll on your strands, Papanikolas recommends investing in the Matrix Total Results Rebond system for extreme repair.
Ready to try wet or dry balayage for yourself? Be sure to use the hashtag #HairDotCom to share your final look with us.
Interested in trying a wet or dry balayage? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.