Who remembers the days of dying our hair with Kool-Aid as kids to give ourselves a new look ~for cheap~?
And who could forget those harsh 00’s streaks that we rocked as teens to show that we didn’t give a damn about what the world thought about us?
Today, of course, we’re a bit more conscious about our colouring options as well as its impact on our hair.
Balayage is the latest hair trend that everyone’s doing but we still know so little about, including yours truly.
Before starting the process myself, I thought the only difference between colouring techniques was whether peroxide was used or not. I’d heard enough horror stories of women bleaching their hair only to have it permanently damaged later on because the harsh chemicals destroyed their strands.
That was enough to deter me from putting any colour in my natural curls that I’d worked to keep healthy for five years.
My interest was piqued, however, when I noticed a number of women rocking vibrant and rich colours in their curly crowns.
I sat down with Shimilia Bathulia of BC|The Beauty Loft, who has mastered the art of balayage, and not only walked me through the process but also demonstrated how it’s safe for those with natural hair.
Balayage (pronounced bah-lay-ahge) is a French highlighting technique used to make colouring your hair look more natural.
“It was created to mimic the natural placement of where the sun would hit your hair and ultimately enhances your natural beauty and gently lifts your hair,” she explained. “It’s not going to take your hair from black or dark brown to blonde in one trip, that’s not what it was made for. Instead, it gives more of a warm, caramel, golden-goddess kind of look.”
One of the perks of balayage, Shimilia explains, is that it doesn’t require high maintenance like highlighting, or colour retouch, which is great for the busy woman always on the go.
“Because of where the placement is, your hair can gradually grow out. So with my balayage clients, I’d see them once every six months to colour, but on the interim, there’d be treatments to maintain the health their hair.”
Unlike other colourists who may start mixing colours as soon as you book an appointment, Shimilia usually recommends a consultation first to test whether the client’s hair will take to the process.
“The consult includes a strand test. Based on the client’s hair, we can see how well their hair ‘lifts’ and the result determines whether one balayage process, two or more are needed to get the client’s hair to the desired colour.
“We then move on to the clarification. What most people don’t realise is that it’s not wise to lift or apply colour to hair that already has product in it because it’ll block or work against the lifting of the lightener, which is why we clarify. The clarification process is absolutely necessary because it balances and brings your hair back to its original pH level. Once the hair is in its natural state, it’ll lift the way you want it to lift.”
Your products aren’t the only things that coat your hair strands.
“We’re exposed to hard water in our pipes so we’d have to remove mineral elements from the hair because there are too many ions, your hair can literally fry. There’s product build-up, there’s silicone from over the counter products.”
Balayage lifts the hair very slowly, it’s a very gradual process, and insulation plays a very large part of that process, she added.
“In Trinidad, especially with our climate, we tend to have very dark hair because of what we’re mixed with. Indians usually pull more red, while Africans pull more brown, so you really have to break through those pigments to get that golden effect, which means you have to use insulation to amp it up.
“Once we get the desired level of lift we do what’s called a bond treatment. Because of what lightener does, it breaks your side bonds to release the colour pigment from within the structure of the strand. A bond treatment goes in, rebuilds those bonds and allows the colourist to go lighter a second time.
“From there, we move on to toning which is highly dependent on things like your skin tone, the undertones of your skin, colour of your eyes, etc.”
Shimilia recognises that while women may be nervous about what possible damage colouring can do to their hair, they should understand one vital aspect of the entire journey.
“Colour itself doesn’t damage hair, it’s the maintenance (or lack thereof) after colouring that does the most damage.”