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.

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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My Simpler Haircut

Over years and many haircuts that are nowhere near close to what I asked for, I’ve adopted a simpler haircut. Here’s how my stylist and I describe it.

All one length hitting about two inches below the vertical midpoint of my collarbone with low, face-framing layers that start below my chin. I considered a lob (long bob) but opted to eschew that for now.


Simpler Haircut, Simpler Styling

Truth be told, I got tired of hunting for a stylist. It takes more time and money than I care to invest at this stage of my life, not to mention the disappointments (be it finished product or stylist ‘tude) that come along with that hunt.

My colorist actually does a nice job but because I’ve opted for this simpler haircut and because I’m only getting balayage highlights twice a year, why pay $40 + tip for what I can have done for $13 + tip?

Don’t get me wrong – if I wanted a more involved or challenging to produce-and-maintain style, I’d gladly fork over more to keep it well-maintained. But majestic dream hair takes monumental effort – ain’t nobody (who isn’t a hair model) got time for that. That’s just not where I am with life right now.

Sure, the experience with the colorist is nicer, but that’s mostly because of the shampoo and scalp massage. It isn’t 3x nicer and I get that when I get highlights anyway!

In fact, my balayage touch up is August 18 – so close, but so far away! I’m excited.

Speaking of Balayage

I’ve updated my inspiration board on Pinterest.


I want to go lighter this time, can you tell?

The Bottom Line

Do you have a haircut that must be closely maintained? How often do you go, and roughly (don’t share exacts if it makes you uncomfortable) how much do you spend when you go?

Considering Going Lighter with Balayage Highlights

Considering Going Lighter with Balayage HighlightsBalayage Highlights via Style Weekly

The last time I colored my hair I was fourteen and misguided. I bought a box (read: one – I have long hair!) Herbal Essences Bold ‘N Brilliant 44 Radiant Ruby. It wasn’t one of my best life choices.

Difficult to maintain (the nature of the redheaded beast) and more costly than my jobless teenage self could manage, I gave it up. I then made other great life choices such as trying to strip it, then covering it with a brunette semi-permanent dye to help it be less…stark (less like Sansa, more like jarring and unpleasant). All in all, it didn’t grow out gracefully, but after three long years, I celebrated trimming the last bits of it away. My hair has been natural (except for the occasional DIY glossing treatment) ever since.

After the better part of another decade, I’m bored.

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