Fashion & Beauty

The Best Blonding Yet?

March 8, 2016



The balayage (“sweeping”) method of hair coloring produces natural-looking highlights and lowlights, as seen on the author’s hair. / MyLittleBird photo. / COVER PHOTO: from CuteDIYProjects

BALAYAGE is the hot new trend in haircolor. Balayage has been the hot new trend in haircolor on and off for a decade or two, but the term still draws a blank from lots of us. Finally, now, it seems to be getting really, no kidding, big, and late adopters may want to jump on this bandwagon, stat. Even if you disdain fads (Ombré? Outré. Dip? Skip.), balayage is your baby if you’d like to be blonder with less bother.

To understand the technique and give it a go personally, I checked in with one of our area’s prima colorists, Krista Depeyrot, who worked her way to the top at Bruno Dessange and Christophe before she and stylist husband Philippe started Salon Bisoux almost three years ago.

Everything about Bisoux is cool: the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria  with its funky/arty/independent shops and cafes; the clean-lined, mod space; the beautiful co-owner couple. The vibe, though, is warm, relaxed and neighborhoody, a bunch of friends who happen to render (or have rendered unto them) great hair.

Our author with regular highlights a few months ago, right, and with her new balayage color, left. / MyLittleBird photo.

Our author with regular highlights a few months ago, right, and with her new balayage color, left. / MyLittleBird photo.

Basically, balayage [bal-eye-AHZH, French for “sweeping”] is the wilder, looser cousin of highlights. With highlighting, color is applied in a uniform manner— regular row upon row of foils, each with its layer of precisely spaced strands. The hair is saturated with color that gets baked through the strand inside those heat-retaining packets. Results can look beautiful but also a little mechanical. “Balayage is more organic-looking,” explains Krista. “Small sections of hair are taken up one by one, and color is painted on the surface of each freehand, in a sort of V shape, so the bottom and inside stay darker, and the whole strand gets lighter toward the ends. The distribution of color is less regular, so it’s a softer look.”

As with highlighting, results can be bold or subtle, and women wedded to the ombré effect can have color start far from the scalp so it still progresses significantly dark to light, but with more play and variation, less solid blocks of shades. If you’re camouflaging gray, ribbons of lowlights can be woven in too. “It’s very adaptable—you can go with big, chunky sections or delicate glimmers,” notes Krista. “Balayage is very tailored to your cut, your hair, your preferences.” That takes time, and is reflected in the cost; balayage is typically pricier than foil highlights (at Bisoux, it starts at $200, $230 if you want Krista).

Photos illustrating the effect are invariably of hair in the l-o-n-g, loose spirals and swirls sported by almost every current starlet, and that does show balayage in its greatest glory. But it works beautifully for almost anyone, including women with short curly hair who have been cautioned against highlighting. “It is definitely a preferred technique for curly hair,” says Krista. “It creates depth and dimension without stripes. Very pretty!”

While  I was being worked on in the color area, I took note of the numerous other Bisoux balayage customers as they wrapped up—long hair and short, brunette and blonde, millennial to boomer—and I’m telling you: To a woman, their hair was great, the color natural-looking and gorgeous. Sure enough, I was delighted with my finished product, a layered bob now with soft but lively chiaroscuro. That the starting line for color shifts from strand to strand points up a most persuasive selling point: as graceful a grow-out as it gets. Just as natural sun-streaks don’t reveal a horizontal root line as hair grows, balayaged locks have no obvious demarcation. You can keep the pipeline humming with frequent refreshers, or wait many months to touch up (at $200+, that sounds good to me), or allow them to ease out through attrition with minimal awkwardness. Balayage, I am fully on board.

—Catherine Clifford

3 thoughts on “The Best Blonding Yet?

  1. Catherine Clifford says:

    Getting here late, but if what you mean is that my balayaged hair doesn’t look like the cover model’s–sadly, you are right. As mentioned, balayage is most impressive on long wavy hair, wholly aside from the gap between a professionally-styled studio-lit shot vs. a phone camera hair-selfie. But part of what I love about balayage is the versatility. Anyone, even those of us in the “real world” with non-shampoo-commercial hair, can still glory in a few more flashes of gold.

  2. Erika says:

    I love how your original photo does not match the one you “borrowed” from a high fashion magazine.

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      I’m not sure what you mean. The photo on the cover is from a website, as we credited. The other two photos are both of author Catherine Clifford. One was taken last July, when she had regular highlights added to her hair and sent a photo to a friend to show how nice a job it was. The newer one, with balayage color, was taken recently. The two settings are obviously different, and none of us is skilled enough to sync the lighting etc., to balance the two photos. But both are from her phone, not a magazine, if that’s what you meant. –Nancy McKeon

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