Balayage Hair: Everything You Need to Know and More

Written by: Susan Hang


First was ombre, then sombre, and then balayage just went berserk!

You might already know that balayage is a French hair coloring technique and term that means to sweep. It’s applied free hand, using actual sweeping motions… Despite its esteem today, the technique has been around for decades. And if you haven’t heard of balayage, you’ve definitely seen it on your fave A-listers (Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Jessica Alba, Rihanna, the K-clan, et al)… Unfortunately, not many salons have caught on to this burgeoning trend if you’re outside a forward hub like LA or NYC… you might be like me: Charlotte, NC.

I’d been fishing for a balayage expert for about 4 years now in my area and finally discovered a passionate master stylist, Megan Rafidi, who specializes in balayage and precision cuts!

balayage lob hairstyles

Needless to say, I was flabbergasted and immediately booked her for a mega transformation. Megan was kind enough to share her expertise and take me through the entire coloring process from start to finish. Prior to the real deal, I received the Malibu C Crystal Gel Treatment, which is a demineralizing treatment that rids the hair of any mineral and product build up. It takes ~45 minutes and ensures the color being placed in your hair yields more predictably and accurately. The benefits of this treatment was instant – my hair felt fluffier, each individual strand stronger, and overall, just hydrated. Megan advises the treatment be done prior to balayage because chemically treated hair (professionally or boxed) outputs unpredictable and uneven results.

On the big day, I had shown Megan a few lob haircuts on Pinterest and particularly noted the crude, straight cut and texturized ends… To get this exact cut, Megan says one should be asking for a lob (long bob) with blunt, texturized ends and just enough subtle layers to create movement – this will show off the color. It’s apparently a super versatile cut that can be tweaked for all hair types (even fine, limp hair like mine) and to no surprise, the most popular cut right now! We did a rough haircut first since balayage is applied according to one’s hairstyle and I was hacking ~5+ inches off.

For the actual color, I gave Megan the freedom to pick, but noted I did not want any stark blondes or warm, brassy colors. Without much direction, she went with traditional balayage applying it in Vs (see below), which highlights the roots slightly, but concentrates the color on the ends.

my experience with balayage highlights

Versus Foils

Traditional balayage takes longer to process (between 30-50 minutes) as it sits in open air compared to foils (20-25 minutes), which hold in heat and in turn, processes color a lot faster. One thing to note is that there are many balayage techniques – American balayage or Foilayage combines both foil and painting techniques and this is perfect for anyone wanting to go much lighter than their natural color. Don’t be alarmed to see some stylists using plastic wrap.

The outcome is discernible between the two… Megan says that no matter how great someone is at foils, you’ll always get obvious lines, but that’s not the case with balayage – it gives you a softer grow out. The other difference is that foils will really lift your roots (lifting = lightening) diffusing the color towards the ends, whereas with balayage, it’s the opposite – the roots are traditionally more diffused.
balayage lob haircut

Ultimately, balayage is the healthier, more natural looking option.

Maintenance & Touch ups

Megan noted that her previous foil clients would come back every 6-8 weeks for touch ups, so if you’re low-maintenance (and lazy about your hair), you’ll be happy to hear that she doesn’t see her balayage clients for ~3-4 months depending on how “rooty” of a look one is comfortable with! Overall, balayage grows out really well and that’s part of the charm in the technique.

Who’s it for?

Although balayage is beautiful and highly sought after these days, that doesn’t make it perfect for everyone. For instance, if your hair color is naturally super dark, but you want to go platinum blonde, it probably wouldn’t be achievable with balayage.

The Verdict

I LOVE IT! I’ve only had my hair colored professionally twice now, first with foils and now balayage. I can say with confidence, that balayage is much more involved than foils, but the output has a lot more depth and dimension, and emanates a really soft, sun-kissed finish. I would no doubt opt for it again and again.

If you’re in the Charlotte, NC area, Megan is unmistakably the balayage connoisseur to see.

Don’t forget to follow Megan on Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, and her Blog.


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You Should Also Read:

Adding Oomph to Stubborn Flat Hair
How To: Not Be Awful At Styling Hair
Smooth Volume Hair Tutorial