Praised for the subtle graduation in color from root to tip, balayage has long been considered the ultimate color trend for those of us who would rather pay seasonal visits to the salon over monthly touch-up appointments, and right now is the prime time to get the treatment done if you're looking to work a Jessica Alba-esque effect into summer. The concept is nothing especially new, but is worth revisiting, especially considering that the look has taken on a more natural, sun-kissed vibe.
"Balayage translates into freehand painting of spaced out highlights that start very fine as they reach your scalp, and become broader as they travel away and reach your ends," explains Caroline Mitgang, hairstylist and colorist at New York City's Paul Labreque Salon. "Any of those sombre and ombre looks are done with a balayage technique, and they grow out beautifully, so you can get away with wearing them for a while." Mitgang recommends using your base color to start, and not lifting it too far out of your natural shade range as super-vibrant colors will fade faster than the more subtle end of the spectrum.
"Anything that's not too far off from what grows out of your head will be the most low-maintenance. You're not usually changing the root or base color of your hair, so it works in your favor since it won't create a harsh line," she advises. At-home glosses may buy you extra time, but only try your hand at them under the advisement of your hairstylist—particularly if you're a blonde or a redhead, as there are usually a variety of tones involved. Though an at-home gloss may not seem like "real" hair color, anything deposited in your hair shaft could make the process of lifting your color more difficult for your stylist. In general, going lighter is less maintenance than dyeing your hair darker.
"Remember those blonde girls who dyed their hair black and went super goth in high school, then it grows out and looks like they're going bald? That's exactly what you want to avoid," Mitgang adds. "At least with a dark root, you can sort of brush it back and claim you're going through a Madonna 1988 phase." When in doubt, "What would Madonna do?" is always a pretty solid mantra you can stick to.