Balayage: The Key to Highlight Perfection

I adore doing hair. Up-dos, cutting, dying, braiding—in another life, I’d be a hairdresser, no questions asked. One thing I enjoy more than being behind the chair, though, is being in the chair. There are few things in life more soothing than having someone else play with your hair. (Although, with their years of schooling and practice, I suppose “play” is the wrong term to describe what professional hairstylists do.) Something as simple as having another person brush my hair can lull me into a stupefied state of relaxation.

So when I saw that Root Salon, home studio of our very own TC Style blogger Justine Hornick, needed hair models for a balayage class, I jumped at the opportunity. An afternoon spent beneath the skilled hands of two of the Twin Cities’ finest color and blowout specialists, Ann and Katie? Yes, please.

As soon as I sat down, the fun began. Terms like “duck walking” and “bump weave” were tossed around as the two stylists chatted about their plan of attack while parting and re-parting my hair with their fingers (cue instant relaxation). Balayage is basically the fancy term for hand-painted highlights and lowlights. Unlike foiling, which takes a more systematic approach to adding dimension in ones hair color, balayage allows the colorist to handpick specific sections of hair to lighten or darken. This frees up the process, and avoids the dreaded zebra-stripe streaky look that so many women have unfortunately been subjected to. (Although, as a disclaimer, I must say that Ann has foiled my hair before to such great effect that friends and strangers alike have complimented me on the color months after the appointment.)

That’s not to say there isn’t a particular process to balayage. The scalp is carefully sectioned off and attention is paid to precisely where color needs to be placed, hence the fancy terms and lengthy pre-color discussion. (See: Katie’s mirror formula.) Then, Ann and Katie, each taking one side of my head, got to work, periodically checking in with one another to make sure their approaches were somewhat—but not completely—symmetrical.

Highlights were first. Starting at the nape of my neck, the top layers of my hair were pinned up and away, and the painting fun began. I’ve become accustomed to the foil drill—part, weave, separate, paint, fold, repeat—so it felt strange at first to have Ann and Katie freestyling with their brushes. But the lack of structure also left me with an unexpected sense of security: these were two women who rock at their job, and they had the freedom to pick exactly how to make my hair look its best.

Once my entire head had been scoured for the perfect homes for the beige-y blond highlights, lowlights a little bit darker than my natural brunette color were painted in to balance the brightness. Tea and chatting filled the time it took for everything to set, then it was off to the sink (scalp massage!) for rinsing and back to the chair for a double-team blowout spectacular.

The final result:

A natural-looking boost to my color, and some much appreciated volume.

To say I felt good after my time with Ann and Katie would be a wild understatement. I felt beautiful, refreshed, uplifted (what’s a hair appointment if not a counseling session in disguise?), and pumped up. A great color and styling session can do that, you know, and add two fabulous stylists to that mix—well, lets just say better mornings are few and far between.