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Give your hair a sun-kissed glow with this unique highlighting technique

If you love highlights in your hair but prefer a more subtle look than can be achieved with traditional highlighting, you may want to give balayage a try. Instead of using foils, highlights are simply painted on the hair to give it a brighter effect that blends nicely with your hair’s primary color.

Another benefit of balayage is that you can do the process easily from the comfort of home. With a few tools and highlights in your preferred color, your hair will look like you just stepped out of the salon or off a plane after a week spent on a beach vacation. 

Balayage versus foil highlighting 

Traditional highlights are beautiful, but they aren’t for everyone. Wrapping strands in foil is required for processing, which can be tedious to do on your own hair at home. The resulting highlights are typically quite defined, making the contrast between the highlights and the natural hair color obvious. They are especially noticeable on darker hair tones.

The balayage technique simply requires “painting” a hair-lightening product on the hair using a hair dye applicator brush. This can be done free-handed or by dividing the hair into sections. The results are natural-looking highlights that create a brighter look that blends well with the rest of the hair. 

Keep in mind that foil highlighting typically produces a higher lift than balayage. So if you want pronounced highlights, foil highlighting is probably your best option.

What do I need to balayage at home?

The right products will simplify your home balayage efforts and yield gorgeous results.

Hair lightener

The product you use to produce your highlights will determine the color and intensity of your results. While you can use permanent hair color, you’ll get the best results from a powdered lightener mixed with 20 or 30-volume developer. Hair lighteners are often referred to as hair bleaching products. Some popular colors for balayage are platinum, golden blonde and light brown, but the color you choose is a matter of preference. 

You can purchase lighteners and developers separately, but kits for the balayage technique are available.

Application accessories

Before beginning the balayage process, be sure to have the accessories you’ll need on hand. 

  • A hair coloring cape to protect skin and clothing
  • Hair dye gloves to protect hands from the bleaching chemicals
  • Salon mixing bowls to prepare the lightener and developer
  • Salon-style rat tail combs to section hair
  • Hair clips to keep strands divided into sections and out of the way while applying the lightener
  • Hair dye applicator brushes to paint on the lightener and blend it in

Balayage steps

The balayage process can vary, but there are a few basic steps to follow.

  1. Divide hair into sections. While this isn’t necessary, it produces the best results. Back, sides, front and top sections are ideal for even highlights.
  2. Place the sections in hair clips. This makes it simple to work on one area of the hair at a time.
  3. Mix the lightener and developer. Mixing it as soon as you are ready to apply it will keep the color fresh. Use a ration of 1-to-2 or 1-to-3. 
  4. Apply the lightener. Begin with the back sections and work towards the sides. Do the front and top sections last. 
  5. Allow the color to process. This typically takes around 45 minutes.
  6. Rinse thoroughly. Enjoy your new look.

Best products for home balayage

Best Wella ColorCharm Powder Lightener

Wella ColorCharm Powder Lightener

This lightener powder seals in moisture to help prevent dry hair and breakage. The bright blonde color can lift up to seven shade levels. The powder formula is easy to mix. Sold by Amazon

Best Clairol Nice n Easy Balayage for Blondes

Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Balayage for Blondes

A good choice for the budget-minded, Clairol’s balayage kit comes with everything you need to create nicely blended highlights, including lightening powder and developer, conditioner and an applicator brush. It’s one of the most affordable options we found. Sold by Amazon

Best Schwarzkopf BlondMe Premium Lightener and 30 Volume Developer

Schwarzkopf BlondMe Premium Lightener and 30-Volume Developer

With a lift of up to nine levels, BlondMe lightener powder will give your mane vibrant yet natural highlights. It doesn’t have an off-putting odor, which appeals to many users. It comes with a bottle 30-volume developer, so you’ll have the key products you’ll need to give your hair a beachy vibe. Sold by Amazon

Best Wella ColorCharm 20 Volume Cream Developer

Wella ColorCharm 20-Volume Cream Developer

This versatile 20-volume developer works well for most lighters to give hair a sunny boost without being too light or brassy. The cream formula is easy to control during application. Sold by Amazon

Best LOreal Paris Oreor 30 Volume Creme Developer

L’Oreal Paris Oreor 30-Volume Creme Developer

If you want to take your balayage results to the next level, 30-volume developer will give you the lift you need. This formula has a creamy consistency for easy application. Sold by Amazon

Best Segbeauty Hair Dye Gloves, Set of 20

Segbeauty Hair Dye Gloves, Set of 20

When you apply chemical lighteners at home, don’t forget gloves to protect your hands. Gloves that hold up well to chemicals and provide a comfortable, flexible fit like these are ideal. The pack includes 20 pairs. Sold by Amazon

Best YELEGAI Waterproof Hair Dye Cape

YELEGAI Waterproof Hair Dye Cape

A short cape hair dye cape will protect your skin and clothing while allowing you more flexibility than a long cape to work on your hair. We like that this one is just the right size and is made with waterproof material that wipes clean with minimal effort. Sold by Amazon  

Best Salon Supply Co Hair Dye Bowl and Whisk Set

Salon Supply Co Hair Dye Bowl and Whisk Set

Pour in the lightener and developer, stir them and you’re ready to create your balayage look. A bowl and whisk set makes it a snap to accomplish the mixing phase of the process. This must-have set includes three bowls and three whisks that you can reuse when updating your highlights. Sold by Amazon

Best Diane 8-Inch Carbon Rat Tail Comb

Diane 8-Inch Carbon Rat Tail Comb

A rat tail comb is the perfect tool for separating strands and combing through them until they are smooth in preparation for the balayage technique. This classic comb is inexpensive and simple to use. Sold by Amazon  

Best HH&LL Hair Clips, Set of 10

HH&LL Hair Clips, Set of 10

Thanks to the strong, slip-resistant grip, these 10 hair clips will easily hold hair strands in place while you paint color onto each strand. The design holds without leaving marks, creases or dents on the hair. Sold by Amazon

Best Paul Mitchell Pro Tools Sectioning Hair Clips, Set of 6

Paul Mitchell Pro Tools Sectioning Hair Clips, Set of 6 

Made by a trusted band in salon-quality hair care products, these standard clips are durable and stay in place during processing and styling. The set includes six clips. Sold by Amazon

Best Framar Power Painter Hair Color Brush, Set of 2

Framar Power Painter Hair Color Brush, Set of 2

It’s best to have at least two applicator brushes on hand when you do the balayage process to your hair. Framar’s two includes one for painting on highlighter and another for blending it to perfection. Sold by Amazon 

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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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