From choosing the right color to placing it, here’s a step-by-step guide to DIY balayage: get perfect highlights and learn how to do balayage at home. You’ll never want ’em done at the salon again!
Hey gorgeous! The latest trends in hair colors keep changing, much like anything else in the world of fashion. And while we all wanna have our own preferences and try new fads every once in a while, we don’t always want to go to salon to overspend on them. And that’s where DIY balayage comes into play.
Balayage Hair Color Trend
The latest trend in hair highlights is balayage. We’ve spotted it on so many celebs this year, from Kim Kardashian to Rihanna and from Gigi Hadid to Beyonce. And as foreign and exotic it sounds, balayage at home is surprisingly easy to try, even for beginners. Of course, once you try it successfully, you’ll never wanna get highlights done at the salon again!
And that would be great for so many reasons. Hair coloring is expensive, especially the new trends. While regular highlights may cost you $120-$150 (somewhere around ₹3200 in India), balayage hair costs anywhere between $180-$220 (₹4000-₹6000), depending on the hair length and salon. Add to that touch-up costs every once in a couple of months. Plus, doing it at home over time can get more convenient and you can change your look as per your preference.
As for me, I have been doing DIY balayage highlights at home for nearly 3 years now. Balayage hair is trendier all of a sudden and I couldn’t be happier! So let’s start with the basics.
What is Balayage & What is the Difference Between Ombre and Balayage and Highlights
Balayage is a technique of creating lighter, sun kissed highlights in the front of your hair, while leaving darker inner or under strands. While regular highlights use brush and foil to dye individual strands separately, balayage is done with hands for a more natural, low-maintenance look. The word actually comes from the french word balayage, meaning to scan or to sweep. So think of it as highlights softly sweeping across the strands.
You can do a balayage with a few lighter strands, or even gradually lighten here and there for soft ombre (subtle gradient or sombre) look from top to bottom. Getting the natural look is the correct way of doing it; balayage hair should not be too bold or in-your-face. That’s why balayage looks really flattering on all hair types and colors.
To know more, read our Balayage FAQ guide here: Balayage vs Ombre: All Questions Answered. Here’s my balayage on dark hair look:
DIY Balayage: How to Choose the Right Color
So the first thing to getting the balayage highlights right and making sure you love them is to choose the right color. For the sun-kissed look, you want to choose a shade no more than two shades lighter than your natural hair-color. For example, if you have dark brown hair, go for medium golden brown. If you’re black haired, go for dark chocolate. It’s a good idea to go to a drugstore and keep swatches of different hair colors against your hair, if possible, to choose the perfect color. If you’re ordering online, at least check the brand’s hair color chart on their website to understand different hair color names and numbers.
Also keep your skin tone in mind. Balayage hair is all about the natural look. For skin colors with yellow undertones, which are common among Asians, darker and warmer hair highlights appear more natural. So copper, golden brown and deep caramel seem better. For skin tones with blue undertones, shades like honey blonde, ash and butterscotch work well.
Like I’m light-warm skinned with dark brown hair, so I go for medium golden brown balayage ombre highlights. If you’re too afraid, just choose a shade lighter than your natural hair shade for blended highlights and a safe, subtle balayage to start with.
Balayage at Home for Beginners
If you’re a hair-color-virgin, balayage hair is going to be as big a change to your overall look as any other highlights. So be prepared to feel shocked to see your new appearance! I’ve been there and it does feel weird for the first week or so. But gradually it becomes a part of your personality, and you start loving it and wanting it to last! You’ll wanna do balayage at home again and again!
Is balayage healthy and what color brand to go for? Well, if you want to keep things as natural as possible, go for ammonia-free hair-color for your DIY balayage. This is not a sponsored post, and so I won’t go and suggest any particular brand, just pick the one you like. Personally, I have used L’Oreal and Revlon. Here is the one I used for my balayage ombre:
How to Balayage
So let’s get started with our step by step guide on how to balayage your own hair at home.
A. Balayage Tips: Before Coloring
- Don’t forget to do a skin allergy test if you’ve never tried hair coloring before. Follow packet instructions and do a small test the day before on your arm to make sure you’re not getting a rash.
- Make sure your hair is clean. Wash it the day before if it’s extra greasy because greasy, dirty ones may not color as well.
B. Getting Started with Balayage Hair Color
- Time to get started with our diy balayage. Be sure to put on old or dark-colored clothes to avoid staining your outfit. Also wrap an old towel or plastic sheet around your shoulders, tight at the neck to avoid staining your clothes.
- Sit facing a mirror. It’s good to place yourself away from a carpet, as a single drop of color may create a lasting stain on your carpet (I’ve learnt the hard way!). Either choose the bathroom or cover your floor with old newspapers before you begin. Keep anything you don’t wanna stain far, far away!
- Keep your hair tangle-free for coloring. Comb with a wide-toothed comb before starting.
- Put on your colorist gloves. They usually come with the hair dye pack. Mix the color as per packet instructions.
- Divide your hair in the center and push all the hair at the back.
C. The Coloring
- Now squeeze mixed hair-color on to your palm, roughly the size of a coin.
- Start with face-framing strands. Pick a piece in the front no thicker than a centimeter and color upto mid length of it, from bottom to top. Press or twirl to drench each hair in the strand, but it should not be overflowing with color. This should give you a fair idea of the thickness of strands and amount of color to take at a time.
- Once colored, leave the strand in the front. Don’t push it back again.
- Similarly, do a front strand on the other side. Don’t worry about matching the exact length or thickness of the piece
- Start with one strand at a time, going from the front towards the back. For each strand, color a different length, anywhere between a quarter to half the entire length.
- You’ll know that all the strands are done when there are none left at the back.
- The under layers should be left slightly darker. So strands near the back of the neck should be colored lesser than the ones in the front for a more sunkissed balayage.
- Once done, you can use a tiny bit of the remaining hair color to just sweep over here and there. Avoid the roots. Be soft with these strokes, use just a touch of the color and don’t press hard.
How to balayage short hair: The balayage technique will remain the same as above, only you won’t be able to section like I’ve mentioned. So just keep in mind to take random strands and keep varying the intensity and length that you color to make it seem as natural as possible.
Also check out: Balayage Short Hair Ideas | 30 Celeb Inspired Pixies, Bobs
D. How to Get the Balayage Ombre Look
- If you want an ombre balayage look, use the leftover color to go over the bottom inch or two of each strand and increase the color intensity. Be careful not to pull the strands together or you’ll ruin the effect!
- You can also increase the color length of random strands now. Just make sure that they should never be equal to the adjacent strands’ color length. Avoid forming straight lines with the color. Keep each strand’s color at least two inches apart for long-hair and an inch apart for short hair.
- You can also randomize the intensity of color. The more product you put, the lighter it’ll get. Balayage placement can be perfected with practice. But keeping a reference picture is a good start.
- Don’t worry too much. It’ll look good either way! It’s all about looking natural. So you can’t overthink it. Here’s my soft balayage variation:
E. After Coloring
- Wait for 35-40 minutes. Don’t pull your hair up in a bun or tie them in a ponytail while you wait. Just let them down as it is. You can wash off any stains on your forehead or skin with soap and water.
- While you wait, be careful not to sit on high-backed chair unless you want it stained! Good ideas to pass time include reading an (old) book, listening to music (without earphones) or giving yourself a pedicure.
- Once it’s time, put your gloves back on and wash your hair. If your hair-dye came with a color-intensifying shampoo, you can use it immediately after. But I’d wait until a day after the DIY balayage process to shampoo it. Be sure to wash it with your eyes tightly shut until it’s all washed off. Rinse off any going into your eyes immediately. You can use a conditioner for colored hair afterwards.
Also read: Best Shampoo for Color Treated Hair
- Blow dry or let it dry naturally, and revel in the glory of your new DIY balayage!
- Also: it gives a different look with each hairstyle, so try straight, curls, braids, braided head-band look, etc., etc. for a million new looks (and Insta show-offs!)!
Balayage at Home: Things to Keep in Mind
No matter how much we read about something new, I know that we’re still in doubt. And that’s why so many of my friends who have asked me to spill my balayage at home secrets still find a balayage salon to get it done! Here’s why and solutions to those problems…
DIY Balayage FAQs:
- Is balayage too time-consuming to do at home? DIY balayage is going to take at least one and half to two hours to do and wash off, but that’s about as long as you’ll spend in the salon anyway. You do save on the salon commute and appointment-getting time.
- What if I end up with a balayage hair-disaster? That can happen even at the salon, if you’re not choosing the right shade. So choose it wisely (see above on how to do that) and make sure you have a look in mind before you start. Keep a picture for reference.
- What if I create a mess? You will if you’re not careful. So don’t take more dye in your palm than you can handle. Keep valuables away and keep the floor and other stuff covered with napkins or newspapers.
- I’m too lazy to try a DIY balayage: Salon may be a better choice for you in this case. But you can get better results at home because you can design your own look for a multi dimensional haircolor. It’s also good to do it as a practice for doing touch-ups, which will be frequently needed.
- What if I ruin it? If you’re not a risk taker, hair color should be avoided altogether. If you choose the shade and do it as per the guide I’ve given above, it’ll most likely come out quite nice. But yes, if you end up really disliking it, just wash it off, and then give it a day to get used to. If you’re still unhappy, just color all your hair back a natural darker shade. Easy peasy!
My balayage highlights before and after:
DIY Balayage Touch Up
Depending on how often you wash, you may need to touch up every couple of months. Even after fading, a partial balayage still looks good. So it’s great even if you don’t touch up until six months! It depends on the kind of look you want to go for and how often you want to switch things up. As you can see in all these pictures of mine which have been taken months apart, I have switched my own look up so many times. It’s slightly different each time!
So my gorgeous! Hope my long but complete guide to diy balayage was helpful. Once you do your balayage at home, show me at Instagram by tagging me @shilpaahujadotcom and I’ll be sure to double tap your picture!!
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Shilpa Ahuja the editor-in-chief of ShilpaAhuja.com, which she founded with the goal of inspiring confidence in the modern working woman through fashion. Other than defining the direction of the magazine, she also writes about fashion & beauty trend forecasts, industry analysis, and opinions.
Shilpa’s work has been published in the University of Fashion blog and Jet Airways magazine. She is also an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys creative writing and world travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh and been published in Chandigarh Times.
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa also has a degree in architecture and has worked in interior project management. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”. Shilpa has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University.
For feedback and questions, please email [email protected]lpaahuja.com.