Balayage 3-Ways: The True French Technique Still Uses Cotton and Au Natural Color Placements for Sun

Janelle Alexis Flatt

January 27, 2020

Dominic is a master at French Balayage. The mixing, the sweeping, the bad granules of bleach, the placement… they are all absolutely imperative.

Here's a little information from one of our masterminds at the salon.

Starting off with the history and background of French balayage, tell me everything. 

The term BAH-LEE-AHGE not BYE-LAHGE as some southerners are prone to say is the French meaning of free-hand ‘sweeping’. The balayage à Coton first came into Paris with the Carita salon in the 1970’s making the technique famous. The term à Coton from the balayage refers to the strips of cotton used to separate colored hair from untouched.

As French style usually does, balayage did not hit America until the 90’s.  

How is the French Balayage different from foil highlights?

Well to start, this technique is gently painted onto the hair and uses strips of cotton. Yes, cotton strips are still used unless it is a natural, light blonde. In that case the cotton is not necessary because it created more multi-dimensional highlights 

The bleach/color placements make it look more natural. Its freer-flowing, giving results similar to spending the whole summer at the beach. Making the look more organic, which is obviously my thing.

On top of that this technique is so much more creative. The color/bleach can be placed anywhere which put me at an advantage compared to foiling. I’m able to place color on widows’ peaks, cowlicks…basically anywhere that foils couldn’t. The headlights and the lowlights are placed directly next to each other which results in more vibrancy than the foils are capable of.

What are the benefits? Why is everyone in love with balayage?

Really, because you can go months without having to retouch, because of the placement of the color it tends to not have that obvious place where you can see the line of roots growing. 

I love that I can place the bleach with the way the hair moves – much more randomly. Resulting in a far more natural and sun kissed look.

What comes to a surprise to most people about this technique?

This hair technique is not only for blondes! All hair colors can have this done, just not using bleach. This is a perfect fit for some low maintenance brunettes as well as those darker colors that want to lighten things up. Even those soon to be moms that must ditch the color while pregnant. 

How did you learn this technique, seeing as it is one that much be mastered?

Now, it’s very popular but not all can achieve the original French way. Initially, I learned when I first started working at Jacques Dessange Salon. I was an assistant starting out fresh from beauty school. A French colorist, Agnes, also taught me many things. She passed away from cancer many years ago. Then I just honed my skills over the years. 

Now it is extremely popular to learn although not all can achieve the original French way. I initially learned when I first started working as an assistant, fresh from beauty school at Jacques Dessannge salon. I was also taught many skills by a French colorist, Agnes, sadly she passed from cancer years ago. After that I perfected my skills over the years

What are the biggest tips for stylists out there looking to perfect French balayage?

Mixing is so important. Bleach needs to be perfectly smooth and creamy. Any granular of bleach can create spots on the hair. If it’s too heavy, the hair will be weighed down, creating spotting or smears. I can’t emphasize how important mixing is. I also start with lower volume, going to a higher volume of developer as I work my way up the head of a client. This allows hair to process evenly

Thanks for taking the time to walk us through this super-interesting method! Will you share with us some recent looks that you've loved creating?

Next Blog, Janelle will share the two American adaptations she uses on the daily.

P.S. Dominic is the first stylist at the salon that we are going to be doing an interview on. Read all about his background, training, and more here. 

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