The XEX Blog

Balayage vs. Highlights: Which is best for you?

May 16, 2022 · Posted in: Salon News
Woman with brunette hair and blonde highlights and black face mask.

When booking your spring or summer hair appointment, it can be difficult to know what you need and where to start. With so many different options depending on your hair type and the look you’re going for – start with what’s easy and move on to what’s hard. Some of the most common and accessible options for people looking to spruce up their looks for the summer are highlights and balayage. Both color treatments but with different outcomes – check out some info below on both processes and what will be best for you. 

Traditional Hair Highlights 

 Highlights are a classic technique that easily adds depth to your hair by selectively lightening hairpieces. It’s been around for years, and most hairstylists learn how to do this technique in training. If you go to older salons, only a few stylists will likely be versed in balayage, but it’s a given they will all know how to provide you with highlights. 

According to JohnFrida.com (a pinnacle brand in salon and haircare), highlights are “ created using aluminum foil to help saturate precise strands of hair from root to tip for a more intense lightening effect. In this technique, strands of hair are precisely sectioned out by weaving a pick through small subsections and wrapping the separated strands in aluminum foil. The effect? A more pronounced contrast between the lightened strands and your base color frames your face and adds a beautiful dimension to your mane. Highlights follow a more structured pattern and will need to be touched up more often to combat that obvious root grow-out look” 

While there are plenty of DIY, boxed highlight applicators, it’s important to understand that this is not a DIY project but a time to visit a professional. A stylist will be able to tweak the traditional highlights to fit your hair type and length and have all the professional products on hand that make a difference in this service. Using the wrong lightening agent for your hair can put you in a place where it gets too light, too damaged, and falls out. Don’t take the chance; call up your local salon, and ask what they recommend for your hair type. 

Balayage Breakdown 

This trendy hair technique is named after the French word for sweeping and has emerged in the last few years around the world as the superior method for sprucing up your hair. Kicking regular highlights to the curb, the Balayage technique is an easy way to lighten your hair without compromising your natural color. 

It is painted brighter around the face and done mostly on the body of your hair, while blending your roots. The hand-painted process guarantees a naturally lightened look without the chunky-ness that highlights can sometimes produce. 

Most often used without foils, Balayage breaks the mold on how traditional hairdressers learned to lighten hair and produce a naturally multi-tonal look. The vertical sweeping motion of the application helps create the sun-kissed, effortlessly light look that Balayage is famous for. The look mimics the style of the technique, creative and natural. But be careful; Balayage is sometimes used in conjunction with bleach and, depending on the desired color, finished with a toner. Bleach strips your hair of color and is used to help the lightning process, while toner brings in ashy tones and controls the actual color your hair will end up being. 

This technique works well for people with darker hair to achieve dimension easily. Balayage can create caramel and mocha tones, lightening it without having to bleach or dye your hair completely. Every style and texture of hair can be Balayaged, and some stylists even prefer to work on curly hair because they can pick out specific curls to highlight based on how they fall and decide which look will be the best for you.

Balayage is a commitment. Not a commitment like dyeing your hair pink, but a commitment of your time. For a successful Balayage session, salons usually recommend a consultation before booking an appointment, so your colorist can assess your hair and decide what method will be the best to lighten it while keeping the look as natural as possible.

 Including the consult, the average Balayage session can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. But everyone, hairdresser and customer alike, will agree the time and money spent in the salon to achieve this look is well worth the outcome. 

Whatever technique you choose, talk to your stylist, and with their help, you’ll be able to pick out what will work best for your hair and the look you’re trying to achieve. A fresh color and cut will have you feeling on top of the world and ready to take on the summer of 2022!