Happy Little Balayage

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

Balayaging a chemically unprocessed head of hair

FUN FACT: Balayage means "to sweep" in French. When you watch someone balayage, their arm moves (or should be moving) in a sweeping motion. Balayage originated in France in the 70's and was created as a technique to offer 1-3 levels of lift for subtle, organic looking variance in the color. Traditionally, balayage is a surface painting technique.

OKAY. So. When this beauty came to me, the notes on her in the computer said "Is wanting to move from tape in extensions to a different kind. Wants color, isn't sure if her hair is healthy enough for it"

TWO THINGS. One, I don't like tape ins. Like... really don't like them. They're relevant in a small handful of situations, and are otherwise a gargantuan pain in the butt to remove, upkeep PROPERLY, etc. Two, "isn't sure if her hair is healthy enough" for color instantly throws me in to color correction mode. Where are we starting, where are we going, am I going to be able to create enough hair health in one session to allow her hair to HOLD the color (well enough to stay matched to extensions), and so much more.


If you're thinking "that hair doesn't look unhealthy", you're right. It doesn't, and it isn't! I already had in my head that this hair was going to be full of tape residue (it was) and most likely an off color with crinkly ends, but it wasn't. In fact, roughly 3/4 of this hair was virgin because her previous stylist kept saying that her hair wasn't healthy enough to color! Score one for team us!

After a lengthy consultation we both agreed that we despise tape ins (gag), that color was our first goal, and that in the end she wanted an extremely blended finish with 18" beaded wefts, and something that didn't require a ton of color maintenance.


Knowing that extensions alone require a trip to the salon every 6-8 weeks, I decided that the best plan of action for her color was something that could easily fit into this time frame. We chose a warm toned balayage for the desired end result with a deep, rich root. We wanted a higher concentration of saturation through her ends to allow for a seamless blend into her extensions. I chose to use a semi permanent color at her base to allow for a flawless fade out and support the non committal color that she asked for, and chose a clay based lightener to paint her midlengths and ends with.

Starting level: 4,0 (Level 4 Natural / Neutral)

Desired Base Color: Rich level 4

Desired Balayage Color: Level 8 Natural Warm


15g No.4 Finest Pigments (level 4 neutral liquid semi permanent color)

15g Sand Finest Pigments (no level liquid semi permanent color with a beige tone)


14g clay based lightener

28g 30 volume developer

Processed for 40 minutes


20g 8,72 (level 8 beige (green yellow) violet)

40g 5 Volume

Processed for 10 minutes

Using a sponge, I applied the liquid semi permanent color to her base and dragged it down roughly 3 inches from her root. I then began in the back at her nape taking "braided" sectioning up through her crown.

By taking the braided sectioning, I am able to create a natural "high to low placement" before even painting the hair. Through the sides of the hair, I surface painted diagonal back sections, and through the top of the hair I painted everything diagonal back.


Knowing that my guests main concerns were wanting something that she could get longevity from, and that she wanted seamless blend, choosing a pattern that allowed for naturally occurring high to low color seemed the obvious option. From there, I surface painted the hair in various patterns and back painted my clay based lightener to give a soft gradation to her lightness.

Consistency creates consistency

I mean this in every sense. To have the greatest success with hair painting, the consistency of our lightener has to be on point. It needs to be loose enough to spread across the surface of the hair without clumping, but thick enough to do so without seeping through the sectioning or bleeding into the section laying on top of it.

We also have to mix our lightener CONSISTENTLY. This means weighing our bleach, guys. "Mixing to consistency" is a bunch of shenanigans and I am NOT about it. Weigh your bleach, weigh your developer, and mix it the same every. single. time. This will give you CONSISTENT lift throughout the hair, a happy guest, and total pride in your work! You cannot paint with cement, and you cannot paint with water.

Once she had lifted to the perfect lightness, I shampooed her and toned her hair while wet for 10 minutes.


She lifted beautifully. The opportunity to balayage hair that is even in tone and porosity is SO rare, and this was such a nice treat. After giving her a rest from extension life for 4 weeks and allowing her to live in and love her color, we applied her gorgeous 18" wefts and couldn't be happier! You can find the finished image at the bottom of this page. Until next time....



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