This Is The Story Of A (Curly Haired) Girl

When a corrective balayage leaves the natural curls in better condition than before you started.

Full disclosure, I only work behind the chair 3 days per week. With educating in salon all over the state, travel time for education, being a full time mom (both dog and human), this blog, my book, keeping up with social media, and a few other soon to be announced (and very exciting) things, I only have time for 3 days behind the chair. Because my 3 days equate to 24 hours, the number of guests I can take is limited, meaning that my schedule usually stays fully booked out 3-6 weeks at a time depending on the time of year. We all know that even the busiest stylists have cancellations, so when I had a last minute cancellation, this beauty who has been trying to get on my books for the last 4+ months had an opportunity and took it! Guys, she skipped class for this!!

Here is our starting point. She has GORGEOUS natural curls, which we had to brush through in order to properly apply her color. She had a variation of colors existing in here with quite the hair history. Previous to this, she had been a fairly vibrant violet, had it colored to a level 3 all over, then had it highlighted to try to break up how dark her color was. There was a lot going on here, especially because all of these color applications had been performed by different stylists at different salons using different color lines.


She showed me a gorgeous and realistic image of a level 4 base color with caramel toned dimension running throughout. She preferred warm tones and was concerned with the integrity of her hair because she knew it had already undergone a lot of stress. I knew that I would be able to lift her to a warm 6-8 without compromising her hair, and felt that with her volume of hair that balayage would be the best technique. There wasn't much variation in color through her mid lengths and ends, and her natural base was only outgrown 1 inch.

In THIS instance, balayage was the best option to achieve our desired end result. By painting the surface of the hair, we would see the most color with her natural curl. It would also give her the soft organic looking color that she was requesting!

Balayage Formula :

20g clay based lightener

40g 30, 35 & 40 volume

Remixed every 12 minutes, each remix the developer was bumped up

The main challenge in this application was to ensure that the lightener was applied and saturated evenly. Because we were working with a textured surface rather than something smoother, it was more of a task to fully saturate the strands of hair cohesively.

I worked with a large hair painting brush and never applied lightener with more than 1/4 inch of the end of the brush. This allowed for more control in my application making it cleaner and quicker.

I chose to apply the back of her head in a braided diagonal back pattern (staggering diagonal back sectioning from the nape to the apex), and in a diagonal back section in her front two quadrants utilizing her natural parting. Once her full balayage was applied (36-40 minutes) we allowed the whole head to process for 18 minutes. At that point in time, she had lifted to a variety of 7 and 8, and we were ready to rinse.

Toner (liquid demi-permanent color):

30g 7,32 (level 7 gold with violet)

10g 8,23 (level 8 violet with gold)

10g gloss (clear)

50g 10 Volume

When her processing was finished, I cleansed her twice with a nourishing shampoo to ensure that all bleach residue had been removed from the hair so that the toner could properly do its job. I towel dried her hair and applied the above formula from scalp to ends, then left to process for 15 minutes. Our desired end result was an even caramel tone, so we left this formula on for a bit to give us some muscle.

After her processing time was complete, I shampooed her again with a nourishing shampoo and conditioner, DID NOT cut her, and prepped her with nutrient rich leave in conitioner, a medium hold gel, and a blow dry primer. The first image is her new color outside in natural lighting, and the other two pictures are her hair inside in window lighting. This hair made her happy from her soul, friends. The amazing conversation with an intelligent and driven young woman, this satisfying application, and her gratitude for the opportunity to come in at the last minute absolutely made my day. We were both beyond thrilled and I cannot wait to do her hair for her graduation this spring!!


Balayage is not always the best option to achieve a balayaged look. For this hair and this guest, it just so happened to be the best technique to achieve our results. I am proud of this hair, and she is flipping it all over her college campus!

If you have questions on color theory, please don't hesitate to DM me @theformulationfiles or @hairbywillow on Instagram, email me at, or read in depth about it from my book Dreaming In Color. Until then, scroll through these before and afters because if nothing else this blow out deserves some major recognition.



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