Pro Tips for Beachy Balayage
You know you’ve seen amazing balayage you when look at someone’s hair and wonder where they’ve spent the past few weeks sun bathing. Hawaii? Malibu? Actually, neither. You’ve simply just spotted beautiful balayage in the wild…and that’s the art of lived-in hair painting. Though, as natural as it may look, it takes real precision– something that always comes to mind when thinking of Bianca Hillier’s work.
Bianca is a colorist at the Andy Lecompte Salon in West Hollywood, widely known for her precise, sculptural balayage technique. Her Instagram page, @biancacolour, greets visitors with all the beachy California inspo one could imagine– all from photoshoots with her cool clientele of models and popular fashion bloggers. Bianca uses Olaplex in all of her formulations to ensure her clients leave with the best hair possible– it’s no surprise we came to her for the ultimate balayage tutorial!
Balayage highlight with Redken Flashlift 1:2. + Olaplex No. 1. Bianca uses about 1/16 oz of Olaplex in each balayage mixture, typically starting with a lower volume at the nape, then a higher volume at the top of the head to catch up to the previous highlights painted. Once the highlights have reached the desired level, rinse with luke warm water, then shampoo. (Bianca uses Rene Furterer for moisture).
Starting from the nape up, carve out a fine hair section from ear to neck and balayage soft babylights for a natural effect. (Tip: Bianca uses Framar balayage brushes for precise lines that keep from smearing.) Section from ear to ear to get the bottom fluent with the top that is lighter. Then, work from the temple up to the part. How the the haircut falls will determine the sectioning and density of each area. Part out a fine frontal hairline all along the skin line, then paint precision babylights to achieve a ribboning effect when hair is later pulled back or worn down.
Why The Cotton?
Use cotton in between layers to act as a divider. Unlike plastic wrap or foils, cotton does not conduct heat, which makes using it ideal for allowing chemicals to move at the exact speed determined when formulating. Cotton also absorbs wet chemicals, preventing it from making hot spots on the new top sections which can cause hot spots when laid down.
Once painting is complete, wrap the head with a plastic bag to trap in the heat. This allows the lightener to stay moist, rather than drying out and stopping the process.
If needed, use a diffuser (Bianca attaches one to her Sedu blow dryer) to heat up the highlights that need help processing quicker. Check every 3-5 minutes to prevent over-processing.
The Toning Ritual
Bianca uses ½ oz of Olaplex No. 1 in a bowl with water before toning every client– something she’s dubbed as “Ola-Water”. This mini-treatment sits for 5-10 minutes prior to toning.
For a lived-in summer look, two formulations of Redken Shades EQ were used to gloss. One was a deep formula for the roots and the other a sheer formula for the mids-ends. After the toner processes, rinse. Proceed with a generous amount of Olaplex No. 2 for as long as possible. Finally, rinse, lightly shampoo, then condition.
Save the hairline for last, since it consists of fine hair that may go dark quickly.
Bianca Hillier is a colorist at the Andy Lecompte Salon in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Instagram @biancacolour.