Is Balayage Out? Here’s What Everyone’s Asking for Instead
Welcome to the future of highlights and hair dye.
Intrigued, I set out to investigate. First I texted my sister and her best friend, beauty writer Oona Oglesby, for their thoughts. “I’d say ombré is cheugy. Balayage hasn’t reached that point yet,” Oglesby said in reply.
Next I asked celebrity stylists and colorists if they’ve seen any changes in requests. “Balayage as a freehand, hand-painted open-air technique is the ultimate way to achieve low-maintenance blonding and lightening,” Min Kim, celebrity colorist and L’Oréal Professionnel global ambassador, tells Glamour. “What may be dying out are the enclosed variations like foils, which can give higher-contrast blonding results and tend to be more high maintenance.”
Kim also adds that the recent decline in highlights and balayage is likely the beauty world’s response to the quiet luxury trend. Rich shades like expensive blonde and brunette have been spotted on celebs like Jennifer Lawrence and Hailey Bieber.
“Higher maintenance and high-contrast colors and highlights tend to look cheap and not done well,” Kim says. “As a result, we’re seeing this shift to more subdued, shiny, and deeper hues, which is quiet luxury’s answer to unhealthy, overprocessed hair that’s been obviously over-highlighted.”
In addition, clients are looking for ways to keep their hair healthy and strong. “The process of balayage can start to build up damage in the hair after a while, and everyone’s looking to improve their hair since we want it to be healthy,” says Mena.
“The balayaged, streaky, overdone look seems to be passing, since everyone’s trying to keep their hair low-maintenance,” he adds. “No one wants to look like their hair is so done.” Factoring in the pandemic and the state of the economy, people may not have the time or the means to visit the salon frequently.
That’s why it’s interesting that so many celebrities, who are obviously individuals with limitless time and access to beauty resources, seem to be moving away from balayage look too. “Everyone wants to be the healthier natural versions of themselves,” celebrity hair extentionist Priscilla Valles says. “Lots of my current clients that want this, since we all know how bad bleach is for your hair, and when you embrace the natural tones, your hair comes in healthier.”
In fact, Valles is seeing a lot less dimension on A-listers’ overall, including clients like Kim and Khloé Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Chrissy Teigen. “There’s less highlights, lowlights, and heavy balayage, and people are going towards more of the natural look,” she says. “If we are seeing highlights, it’s more of the baby-baby-fine ones, since everyone is going towards the warmer darker tones.”
Valles has noticed this shift in hair extension color requests as well. “Clients are ordering less icy and ashy platinum and more warm shades, like honey blonde,” she says.
But if fewer beauty buffs are opting for balayage, what are they doing to lighten their hair? “My clients are still getting highlights, but they’re all tone-on-tone,” Mena explains. “So it’s not a dramatic or drastic contrast; it’s only two shades lighter just to give your hair a little dimension, or to stay away from that mousy look."
Valles says the same: “I would recommend more of a baby-fine, face-framing highlights with honey blondes opposed to platinum blonde,” she says. “It’s so much healthier for your hair to not bleach it at such a high level.”
Another preferred option? Color-depositing and color-protecting shampoo and conditioner, which can deepen your natural tones and help prevent color from fading. “If you’re a blonde, get a purple shampoo to brighten it. If brunette, get one that deepens your natural shade,” Mena suggests. “All of those glazing conditioners and shampoos, like DP Hue, are fantastic.”
Kim agrees, adding that color-depositing shampoos and conditioners are one of the easiest ways to maintain color at home. However, she notes that lifting at home can be tricky. “Results may be unpredictable and will most likely be warm,” she says. “This means if you have a darker base, you will see more orange or red, and lighter bases will be more golden.”
That’s why Kim’s number one suggestion for DIY hair lightening is none other than the old-fashioned way: going outside. “The best way to naturally lighten your hair is to slather on your sunscreen and get outside,” she says. “The reason why children get natural highlights and then go dark as adults is that we spend so much of our time indoors!”
Whether you love balayage or never want to highlight your hair again, pros always recommend opting for consistent hair and scalp treatments to ensure your hair stays healthy. “Scalp treatments and hair oils are very important, because once we get out of these summer months and into the fall, people are going to start wearing their hair down, and they’ll want their hair to be natural and beautiful and shiny,” Mena says.
Mena’s preferred hair treatments? Fable & Mane’s Good Karma Hair Set and Better Not Younger Super Power Fortifying Hair & Scalp Serum Duo.
“The lowest-maintenance colors and styles are the ones that will live the longest as it grows out,” Kim says. “They will be less contrasting, and garner you compliments whether it’s day one or one year later."
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Article written by Danielle Sinay for glamour.com