Adventures in Balayage

Beauty Skeptic's BalayageA peek at some of my balayage highlights.
Excuse my comically bad lighting that does not fully showcase how awesome my hair is.

After lengthy consideration, I decided to go forward with balayage highlights. I went for a consultation on September 13, which is where I gathered my information on how to prepare for my balayage highlighting appointment. Balayage isn’t something new, even if it is a new-ish trend in the United States; but I could swear, of all the haircolor techniques out there, this one was made with me in mind.

I did extensive research and chose a charming salon in my area, had a really positive consult, and was ready. By my September 20 appointment, I was rarin’ to go.

So, Tell Me What you Want

To my consult, I brought the following three photos, found on Pinterest, for inspiration:

Adventures in Balayage - Inspiration

Clients get caught up in trying (and failing) to describe what they’re looking for. Pictures help. But you know what else really helps? Explaining and or showing what you definitely, under no circumstances, do not want. Most balayage highlights create a lovely, ombre effect on the hair – but not all ombre hair is balayage. For me, “ombre,” leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Search Google Images for, “Ombre hair,” and you’ll see what I mean. Severe, harsh transitions. Lines, even. I want nothing about my hair to be harsh, and I grew out a misguided hair choice once before and dealt with awkward lines. Never, ever again. Balayage is french for, “sweeping,” and damn it, that’s what I want. Lines of demarcation are the enemy.

Decisions, Decisions

Armed with those three photos my colorist and I made some decisions together. Notice how I said together? It should be a joint effort. Most of these decisions took place during my consultation. But if you and your colorist don’t agree on the course of action – say, you want X and she thinks you ought to do Y? You’re going to have a bad time. As a client, you should have realistic expectations and asks for your colorist. She or he may well seem like a wizard, but it isn’t magic.

Based on those photos, my expression of my #hairgoals, my habits, and prior aversion to color we decided:

  • As far as color goes, the third option made the most sense to emulate. After all, it’s easier to make more changes down the road than to go, “Shit, I don’t like this as much as I thought I was going to!”
  • Overall placement somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd photo.
  • To place more product at the ends to concentrate a little more blonde color there (like the 2nd photo).
  • …But to overall play it a little safe.

It can be a little intimidating to be in the chair, but when you’re spending money on these services, it’s worthwhile to be 100% sure you’re on the same page. If your stylist or colorist is worth a damn, she or he WANTS to produce results you’re happy with. If the salon you’re working with is not eager to work to that goal, find another salon. Seriously.

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How I Prepared for my Balayage Appointment

Balayage Prepvia Hair World Mag

I wrote, a while back, about considering getting Balayage highlights.

After a long time, a lot of consideration, and a consultation at which I asked my poor colorist half a million questions, I decided to take the plunge. I booked for Tuesday, September 20.

Here’s how I prepared for my balayage appointment.

What I Asked

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I am a Sucker and Refreshed My Highlights

Beauty Skeptic's Balayage

Remember earlier this year when I decided to discontinue my highlights?

I thought I was pretty steadfast in that decision. They’re growing out alright, and as it turns out, a nice curling iron can cover a multitude of touchup-absent-related sins. But man, I really enjoyed having light hair.

I happened to see that my salon corrected its wildly crazy price structure. My birthday rolled around. We spent less money in general than I anticipated we would, recently, and I decided, “Treat yoself!”

So I made an appointment and refreshed my highlights! They plied me with margaritas made with lime sherbet (!) and balayaged my hair. They were running a promotion, too, where any service was accompanied with a complimentary brow sugaring. Yeah – sugaring! It is neat.

In case you missed it, this is how I care for my balayage highlights and keep them brass-free.

The Verdict on my Balayage Highlights

I unexpectedly had to reinstall my image editing software, so the graphic for my April Favorites was not done in time for Favorites to go live today. SOON, and thank you for bearing with me. :)

Balayage Prep

It took me a while to work up the nerve to pursue balayage a couple years ago. I loved the first two appointments, but my third was lackluster. The salon, which I enjoy in a general sense, switched up my colorist without notice for my third appointment. She didn’t do a great job, and I’m not okay with just feeling, “okay,” with the results of that kind of beauty spending.

I rescheduled, wrung my hands, and ultimately canceled my most-recent appointment (around St. Patrick’s Day). At the time, I decided I was done spending several hours and over a hundred dollars, twice a year, on it. I know that, compared to most people who color their hair, my commitment was barely that. I resolved to give myself more time to formulate my final verdict on my balayage highlights.


“Maybe,” I wondered to myself, “I could do this myself.” I’ve done plenty of other things that are generally pro-only. I’m educated, risk-averse, and tend to adhere to process. Down the rabbit hole I went to learn about levels, lightener, developer volume, processing times, etc. I was surprised to learn that it sounds a lot easier than one might expect if one is working with hair that has not been previously colored or otherwise chemically tampered-with.

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How To: Preserve Blonde Hair

I’ve had blonde balayage highlights for almost two years now. I have the distinct pleasure of having hard water as well, which means two years of preserving blonde hair by navigating brassy wasters with various purple-tinged potions. Even though I decided recently to discontinue undergoing the process with the salon I was working with, the jury of one is still out on whether I’m done-done, or just done with that salon for now. Regardless of whether I continue, I still have many months of preservation ahead so I don’t look like a clown.

Step One: Squeaky Clean

Good news – clarifying shampoos can be found in the drugstore away from the premium, salon brands. I use this inexpensive one from TRESemme ($0.16 per ounce); in spite of being a clarifying shampoo, it is gentle and does not lead my scalp to mutiny. I’ve had good luck with Suave’s ($0.06 per ounce) too.

Using a clarifying shampoo is like any other shampoo. Lather up, then rinse. Done!

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Balayage Update

Balayage Prep

Having delayed and rescheduled my last appointment, I was due to have my next balayage session on St. Patrick’s day. I don’t treat myself to salon treatments very often (balayage just twice a year, and rare mani/pedis aside), so I was looking forward to it.

In spite of that eager anticipation of a few hours of very girly, “treat yo self,” time, my uncertainty about my hair has continued.

I enjoy having my hair a bit lighter than its virgin state, but

  • Salon visits are time-consuming and inconvenient
  • Salon appointments are expensive
  • I wasn’t thrilled with my most recent results

I’ll call a spade a spade – I’m a demanding customer. When you spend so much on a service, you expect to walk away feeling more than just, “okay,” with it.

Other Goals

I’ve had a shift in priorities in the last six months or so. Our financial goals shifted and we decided to decrease discretionary spending. We didn’t eliminate all of our, “fun,” and had made room for certain planned things – like this. Ultimately, though, I came to question the idea of this splurge in the face of the other things (less expensive/impactful towards our goals) that I limited or eliminated.

Balayage Appointment Reminder

The Wednesday before, I received an appointment reminder that revealed the colorist I was booked with was the same one as before. I visited their site to see if they had any specials running (sometimes they did a free bonus service with a certain amount spent) but instead found that they increased their price for the balayage service by 50%. WHOA.

Coupled with my uncertainty about continuing, I decided to interpret these things as a sign to cancel. So I did.

So Now What?

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