Fellow brunettes, if you're anything like me, you probably let your locks hibernate all winter, only to find yourself jonesing for a color refresh come spring. This year, the occasion to apply some fresh color feels even more merited—especially for those people out there who went sans-salon through the entire pandemic. (Props, TBH.) If you're not quite ready to return to your high-maintenance highlights or all-around blonde from before times, we have the perfect alternate: balayage brown hair, a low-lift, high-reward color placement option that will ease the transition from spring to summer.
For those who aren't familiar, balayage started as an unfussy coda to 2013's ombré trend; one that hasn't cooled down for the better part of a decade. To accomplish the natural, sun-kissed appearance of balayage, stylists hand-paint each strand with a sweeping technique, hence its moniker, which means "to sweep" in French.
There's a reason this hair-color trend has amassed so many brown-haired fans (myself included—six years strong!): It requires little-to-no maintenance. Once finished, you can have it touched up if desired, but it will never leave you hanging with an unsightly growing-out phase.
To get the 411 on the color-placement trend, we consulted Antony Bui, master colorist at the celeb-favored salon, Rob Peetoom NYC. "I think people want to liven up their natural hair with the balayage coloration for a combination of the reasons, but mostly because people are ready to try something they haven’t before—especially coming out of a period of isolating indoors," he tells Who What Wear. As far as placement options go, he has some advice. "I usually suggest not going too light towards the roots, but enough to shift their overall color to the next level. Lately, clients want a more diffused lightness in the front." Anyone else sensing a shift in the on-trend money piece highlights that have taken over the hair game for the last year?
Though upkeep is minimal, Bui does have a few tips and tricks for keeping that brunette balayage in tip-top shape. "My top tip is finding the right hairbrush and brushing in the morning and at night, to distribute natural oils. Also, using a mild and color-safe shampoo and a hydrating conditioner for the ends. Thermal protectors and leave-in conditioners are always great."
Voilà! You're (almost) ready to hit the salon. First, peruse our assortment of inspo-worthy images to take right to your colorist.
From the back of this long, wavy 'do, get a glimpse of the piecey lightness that sets balayage apart from highlights, which typically begin at the root.
Go full-force with platinum blonde mid-lengths and a caramel-mocha root. Placing the lightest pieces on the top layer can bring depth and dimension to the look.
Tobacco blonde is one of the most popular balayage hues, according to Bui. He says it brings a subdued softness to these brunette tresses.
If warmth is your thing, style up those ends with a honey blonde-auburn balayage. An added bonus? This tone looks great through fall months, too.
Some of the best balayage styles are the most subtle, which tracks with this shoulder-length style.
Warm mocha strands can effortlessly level up your long twist braids, with swoon-worthy variations in hue tucked in from the roots to the ends.
Not a fan of money pieces, chunky highlights, and other bolder color-placement trends? Balayage will soften up your brown base just enough without overdoing it.
Complement your sun-kissed glow with a few lighter pieces framing the face.
Aimee Song's must-try take on the balayage trend involves a mahogany base and honey-toned ends.
Give the trend a sweet, simple tweak by limiting the blonde pieces to those framing the face, keeping the crown of your head as your original base hue.
Strijd's balayage marries her cool-toned base, face-framing blonde strands, and wispy bangs into one inspiring look.
Mind if we have a great, bouncy, perfectly warmed-up hair day?
Summon summer with this brunette-meets-blonde balayage, which blends platinum pieces and deep chocolate roots for one beachy look.
Currently living in my mind rent-free: bouncy curls with frosty-blonde tips.
This sweet, striped take on the balayage counts Miranda Kerr as a fan.
Kim's famous balayage (which became the most-liked picture of the mogul on her stylist's IG feed) features an ultrasoft lightness at the ends for a smoky brunette look.
It's Halle Berry's perfectly-coiffed curtain bangs and enviable brown balyage, for me.
Make waves by imbuing curly cues with surprising hints of blonde.
Chloe Moretz knows the power of a perfect hair day. Hers involves a peekaboo balayage, which reveals its lighter pieces from below the surface when set in curls.
Trying to figure out what to do with that ultra-long quarantine cut (or lack thereof)? Chrissy Teigen has an idea.