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Layage Hair Color Review

A few months ago a top European hairstylist asked my opinion on layage, a very popular hair coloring technique. Our conversation inspired this article.

Before I share my answer, let’s touch on balayage, a hair painting technique that has been around for decades. Any type of lightening done by a stylist who paints the hair freestyle is based on balayage.

It’s important to know that originally, balayage was not a “look” (as in a passing trend); it started as a way to color hair with blending from the root area that was very natural. There was no need to run back to the salon for a touch-up every month as it grew out. You’re not supposed to look at someone’s head and say, “Ooh, gurl, she had balayage” (as you could with foiled highlights).

Over the years, balayage has evolved. Now it’s more modern, bolder, and popping with vibrancy. Way more dramatic! However, it still has a natural appearance coming out of the root area.

Photographer Al Carlay

Here’s how the layage technique is different: the stylist lays the hair out flat in sections on a special table and paints the color freestyle starting a few inches away from the head.

So now for my answer…the layage technique, sprawling the hair out on a board like a fish fillet, is not necessary. It takes away the ability for the hairstylist to create light strokes where the color begins. Instead, you have a harsher application. This results in a definite “look” that’s too obvious, too structured. In other words, “She ain’t natural looking.”

You can achieve a bold realistic result with a hairstylist who knows how to do a bright, beautiful balayage, end of story. The layage technique was created by people who could not achieve the bold, popping effect with balayage.


Here is my client at the salon.  I wanted to keep it very relatable and casual.



Photographer Al Carlay


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Also, in the salon world, a “new trend” can be a multimillion-dollar money-making gimmick for the product companies to rope hairstylists into signing up to learn something new—the tried-and-true industry trick of giving something old a new name and then pretending it’s revolutionary and that hairstylists should pay to “lead” the trend—and that customers should pay to follow it. (Yawn.)

On a side note: I believe it’s the hairstylist’s job to influence the client’s decision and help them figure out what will look best. And in today’s world (with Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook), it’s the client’s job to show up informed.

Now, a hairstylist can have his or her version of the latest coloring techniques, and a client can have all the money in the world. But if their taste level is off, then it’s just a head of colored hair. Both may think it’s beautiful, until they look through top fashion magazines and realize that something’s missing from the hair color.

Ladies, I wish you success in your search for gorgeous, modern style. Fellow hairstylists, let’s always challenge ourselves to keep learning from everywhere and everyone, not only wait for product companies to direct us.

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