BALAYAGE: What Is It REALLY? How Do You Charge Differently?


There is so much confusion about balayage in both the professional and consumer worlds. Is it a technique or a result? Can it replace foils? Should you charge differently for this service? Is it formulated and does it process differently? HOW DO YOU SPELL IT????  HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE IT????

MODERN went to Balayage queen Eva Scrivo to get some information. Scrivo is the owner of the Eva Scrivo Salons in NYC and founder of the Eva Scrivo Advanced Academy, the focus of which is – you guessed it – mastering Balayage. Author of Eva Scrivo on Beauty (Atria Books, 2011), she is a renowned educator who is considered one of the top hands-on experts in hair coloring, cutting and makeup.  A true Balayage wiz, Scrivo has performed on stage around the world teaching the latest in color, application, trend and technique. (link to academy: )


“There is a lot of confusion about balayage,” says Scrivo. “Although many people believe it is an end result or a trend, it is actually a technique that allows the colorist to create a wide range of looks. The term itself has become trendy within the industry and with consumers, although many do not really understand what it is. Balayage means 'to sweep' or 'sweeping' in French. It’s been around for decades, prior to foils or frosting, brought to New York from France in the 1970s and 1980s, and has been continually refined. It allows one to create the ultimate in color customization.  It’s not just painting on lightener – there’s a real science behind it. Whereas aluminum foil is a good conductor of heat, balayage is formulated, applied, and processed very differently.  Many believe that Balayage is just free-style highlighting, underestimating its complexity. This is a very technical art-form that must be effectively taught to help one understand all of its many nuances, from what products to use to application, saturation, and processing.


“The color work at our salons is about 90% Balayage (there’s a time and a place for foils). It allows the colorist to connect with his or her inner artist, which is why most of us choose this industry in the first place. Balayage also enables you to customize your work to every client in a way that can’t be duplicated by another colorist, while there are many foil patterns that can be mimicked. This creates a stronger bond between the colorist and client, as each visit you paint her very own palette. Someone proficient with this technique is also able to create the widest range of effects – from a sun-kissed glow to the brightest, clearest blondes, dimensional brunettes, and fiery redheads. I also love that Balayage is gentler on the hair, and since hair lightens in stages, you can maintain more tonal value and be less dependence on glazing. It is a truly specialized art form that even with the right training, takes years to perfect.


"Educate your clients about Balayage and add it to your services menu with a description. I also recommend showing photos of the difference between Balayage and other highlighting techniques, so they can really see the difference. You can introduce it to clients slowly, by integrating Balayage with foils or just painting a few strands on their own. Consider gifting to your clients one or two pieces at the fringe, explaining that if they like it, they can request Balayage when scheduling their next appointment. But before taking this on, make sure that you’re comfortable with this technique, so you don’t end up disappointing or even losing a client.  It’s also a great idea to let your community know that you are skilled in Balayage. Becoming part of the Eva Scrivo Academy’s Balayage Network, where colorists are added after attending three of our classes, is a great way to gain credibility and exposure. (link to network: )


"You must use the highest quality lightener at the right consistency and the correct ratio of developer to product. It’s completely different from formulating for foils, as many products that are used with foils are not compatible for hand-painting. Additionally, a wider range of developers can be used with Balayage. I also teach my students how to work with demi-permanents and high-lift tints, as well explaining what I call 'blonding theory' or the science behind the removal of pigment.


"Balayage is more specialized, artistic, customizable to the client, and requires different training from foils (that few colorists have, so less competition for you and fewer choices for the client). Also, the product and tools that you must use can be more expensive. Therefore, you can, and should, definitely charge more for it – I recommend a 20 to 30% premium. It’s important to educate your clients on the value of Balayage: not only does it look more beautiful and is less damaging to the hair, but they can go longer between visits because the line of demarcation is not so drastic. The latter point alone can easily make up for the difference in cost to them during the course of a year. So if classic foil highlighting in your salon is $150, try charging between $180 and $200 for Balayage."


While every class at the Eva Scrivo Academy’s "Art of Balayage" program is rooted on classic Balayage techniques, including formulation, application, blonding theory and Scrivo’s trade secrets, each workshop focuses on a specific theme, from the hottest trend to timeless looks that never go out of style. For more information and the complete class schedule, go to


The preferred spelling: BALAYAGE and is pronounced: BAH-LEE-AHGE (an alternate: BAH-LAY-AHGE).


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