I often get clients in my chair asking for balayage, yet they don't really know what they're asking for. Are you one of them? Or are you a stylist who gets this question a lot too?
Allow me to break it down for you. As a stylist, it is my job to have a proper consultation each and every time a client sits down in my chair. If I'm booked in for a balayage appointment, it doesn't necessarily mean that's what we'll be doing, because it is not the client's job to know what they want. It is my job to really understand what they are trying to achieve and why.
Once I know that, I can then choose a handful of different ways I could achieve the end result. It's much like cooking in the kitch - there's many ways to get from A to Z, and as stylists we have a whole host of tools and techniques we could use. The Balayage technique is just one of many.
That's what's funny about when clients ask for balayage - it's a technique we stylists use to get a dimensional color effect, and it's done in many different ways. Balayage is actually a french term that was trademarked by L'Oreal in the 1970's -it's been around that long. Check out this post on how I learned the technique.
Over the last 5-10 years though, its becoming very popular and main stream in the beauty industry and in pop culture. It's actually only legally coined balayage if it's a L'Oreal professional salon/stylist doing your hair. The rest of us just refer to it as hair painting, because that's what it is - free hand hair painting. It is seen wrapped in saran wrap, paper and sometimes even foil.
The difference between this style and the traditional style of foiling, is that foiling is a weave or slice that's isolated by a foil which gives full saturation to that particular hair that you're coloring. Balayage, or hand painting, colors the surface of the hair that you're coloring (semi-saturation), in a different type of placement (checks, v's, w's) while particularly moving the product along the hair so the end result is more diffused from the root with a shadow effect underneath, creating a very natural, childlike, or sunkissed look. The benefit is a natural grow out, not a strong line of demarcation that you'll see with a traditional foiling technique.
Ombre is a term that describes a gradation of color from dark to light - hence seeing lighter ends. That's the effect you get when hair painting - color naturally a little warmer/deeper towards the root and fades to light at the end. So Ombre is not actually one look - it varies widely. It can be full coverage of light on the ends or it can be dimensional, but regardless, the approach is used by hair painting/ balayage techniques.
Baby Lites are another popular approach to getting a similar result of a natural, more diffused dimensional color effect, but it's really just a foiling technique - full coverage isolated, yet super skinny so that it has a soft and blended look.
So, as stylists, it is our job to really understand what a client is asking for and how to get them there, and then to recommend how and when they should book their appointments, depending on what they're trying to achieve and maintain.
If you're a new client to a salon, maybe schedule a consultation to be sure you're booking the right thing, or book in for a cut or blow dry and discuss color questions then.
I had a client booked in for a full balayage this past week and when she sat in my chair we decided that what she actually was looking for was a lighter base with dimensional color. So we ended up discussing that she actually did need to do a full foil of babylites to blend the newer lighter base we were doing with the current dark base she had, to connect with her already bleached out ends. Now that we have that established, I told her that her next visit in 3 months could be a partial balayage so that she keeps with that diffused shadow to light look she likes, but now we're building off of what we created as a foundation. Make sense?
It's also super important to note that free hand hair painting is something that evolves, and that's because you don't get full saturation with this technique. Sometimes you need to start with creating a 'mid-lite' in the hair for the first round of highlights before building off of that and getting that pop of 'hi-lites' later. All of this should be addressed in the consultation though - that's why it's so important to really be candid and thorough.
I hope I've shed some light (no pun intended;) on the subject. If you have any questions, please comment here or book in for a consult.