The Must-know Technique: Balayage

With the right strokes, unexpected hues can be easy to pull off and everyday-friendly. Kimage shows us how.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

With the right strokes, unexpected hues can be easy to pull off and everyday-friendly. Kimage shows us how.

As a hair-colouring term, balayage has been thrown about so much that it is often misconstrued as an interchangeable term for highlights, ombre or two-toned hair – even by hairstylists. While the technique can be used to achieve a variety of looks (including ombre, which means shade or shadow – where the roots are darker than the tips), they’re not the same thing. 

What it really is: a French word, balayage can be literally translated as “to sweep”. Bleach, then colour, is painted onto hair by hand with a brush in a sweeping motion, allowing the stylist to control the intensity of the shade from root to tip, as well as the placement of colour. Unlike all-over foil highlights, which can sometimes look chunky, balayage creates a more natural-looking colour gradient. “Since we paint the bleach freehand, it depends a lot on the stylist’s aesthetics,” says Monica Tan, Director of Kimage. “It’s not so much about where you lay the brush, but how strong and controlled your stroke is. It’s like calligraphy.”

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Marie Soh, model and makeup artist
No stranger to bleach, Soh has had her hair dyed all colours of the rainbow (most recently green) for the past five years. Now she wants a look that’s professional yet lets her express her fun side and is also easy to maintain, without requiring constant touch-ups. What Kimage recommended: a low-contrast balayage with cool on-trend ash tones. The existing green pigments were toned down to create barely-there minty accents that would complement the overall shade and up the cool factor.

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Rachel Vanessa Tan, assistant PR manager
Having sported dark red locks for a while, she wanted to brighten up the shade – but still stay a redhead. Going for a low-contrast balayage, Kimage applied a rich shimmering rose bronze that gradually got lighter towards the tips. Painted close to her natural roots, the effect looks smoother and more effortless. “At first glance, it looks like a solid, all-over colour,” says Salon Director Monica Tan. “But the multi-dimensional effect of balayage gives her fine hair depth and volume while still looking lightweight and glossy.”

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Lesley Ann Chai, group account manager
Naturally brunette, Chai has been dyeing her locks black for years. To give her an edgier look that wouldn’t be too drastic, Kimage balayaged the underside of her hair with dark and medium ash blonde. The effect? A subtle black-to-blonde gradient with no harsh lines. “The look is subtle and wearable with the hair down, but when worn in a ponytail or updo, she can really show off the contrasting blonde shades,” says Monica Tan. She adds: “It’s also low-maintenance. Since bleach is applied only to the sections underneath, new roots won’t be visible even as the hair grows.”

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