Balayage on a Budget

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Source: Marie Claire UK

I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to hair. Any style I can’t pull off in 5 minutes is too complicated for an everyday look. To compensate, I color my hair to give it some form of visual interest without having to do any work. My favorite hair trend at the moment is balayage, which unfortunately happens to be one of the most expensive coloring options. Read on to find out how I save on such an extravagance.

“Balayage” (bah-lay-AH-juh), deriving from the French word “to paint”, is a technique of highlighting/lowlighting hair where individual sections of hair are brushed with varying amounts of product, allowing the colorist to stagger the color for a much more natural look that grows out without harsh borders. It’s similar to ombre hair but doesn’t have a clear gradient border. Just like ombre hair, it’s more labor-intensive than traditional foil highlights, which is reflected in the price.

A reputable salon will charge anywhere from $100-$200 for balayage, depending on the length and the amount of hair that is treated. This tends to be about $30-40 dollars more than equivalent standard highlights. And, as with most color treatments, toning and conditioning treatments and a fresh haircut are recommended to protect hair from the chemical damage, which can set you back another $50-100.

For those of us not made of money, here are some tips and tricks to getting a better price:

  1. Coupon deal sites: If you live near a major city, Groupon has tons of salons and spas that have great deals for balayage as well as package deals with conditioning and haircuts. Always read the fine print and cross-reference online reviews for salons that you’re new to. But as always, take reviews with a grain of salt. Many of these deals are for a specific stylist in the salon who may be new or building clientele, so even when a salon has lots of great reviews, there may not be any for that particular person
  2. Cosmetology school: For those that don’t mind the extra time it takes to have hair done by a (monitored) student, going to beauty and hair academies is a great way to save on hair treatments. It can be intimidating to put your hair in the hands of a student, but be rest assured when it comes to balayage. Due to the extensive amount of training it takes to be balayage certified, the students allowed to do balayage are almost always near graduation, and every step of their work is still monitored by instructors.
  3. Referral programs: Salons often have referral programs that will offer discounts for both referrer and refer-ee, sometimes up to 50% off any treatment. Coordinate with your friends so that both of you can get in on the deal!
  4. Partial vs. Full balayage: Partial highlights are when only the top layer of hair is colored rather than throughout. Getting a partial over a full is another way to save $20-$40 on the overall cost, but is only recommended if you’re going to be 1) getting subtle color and/or 2) wearing your hair down most of the time.
  5. Single vs. Double process: Typically, double process hair color involves first applying bleach and then applying the desired color. This is more expensive than single process for two reasons. The first is that salons charge more for double process due to the extra time and supplies involved. The second is that the applied color will wash out over time, requiring repeat treatments. If your desired color is on the spectrum of what can be achieved by just bleaching, you can save by choosing single process color.

Balayage is a great investment for people who want glamorous natural-looking highlights, but don’t have time or money to go back to the salon for frequent touch-ups. It’s an even better investment for those that can get it at a lower price.

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