If you follow any stylist or salon on social media, your feed is likely flooded with photos of gorgeous blonde balayage. 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 completely different way of applying balayage 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 what this new coloring technique is and whether it’s right for you? We tapped J. Ladner, Redken brand ambassador, and George Papanikolas, Matrix brand ambassador, to get the full breakdown on wet versus dry balayage.
Photo Credit: @ andreeakatona .
Is balayage done on wet or dry hair?
Balayage is a freehand technique where highlights and lowlights are strategically painted on to your strands to create a seamless, natural look. Balayage can be done on wet or dry hair—and the results are similar no matter which application you choose.
Photo Credit: @itsmrjladner.
What is wet balayage?
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 towel-dried 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,” Ladner says. “With wet balayage, you pair a demi-gloss with a lightener to create depth and light in one sweeping motion.”
Much like the results of a dry balayage, a wet balayage can give you an even more natural-looking result.
Photo Credit: @itsmrjladner.
Who does the wet balayage technique work best for?
If you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to your salon appointment, Ladner suggests that a wet balayage application can save you serious time 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.
How do you care for a wet balayage post-salon?
Once you’ve achieved your dream hue, you may be eager to book your next salon appointment to keep your color in tip-top shape. However, 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 may 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 color-treated system.
The damaging effects of bleach should not be understated, and since your colorist will need to use it to lighten your strands, Papanikolas recommends investing in the Matrix Total Results Rebond system for extreme repair. Featuring the Total Results The Re-Bond Pre Conditioner, Total Results The Re-Bond Shampoo, and Total Results The Re-Bond Conditioner, this three-step system helps fortify weakened, over-processed hair.
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.