The balayage hashtag has 11 million posts on Instagram—11 million. Compared with #platinumblonde (590,000) and #bronde (532,000), it's probably safe to say that this is one of Instagram's most popular hair hashtags. In real life, it's easily one of the most asked-for hair colours from the past couple of years.
I interviewed some of the leading hair colourists from the biggest salons in London about the new hair colour ideas for the coming new season. While I got plenty telling me about pink and blorange and even brassy blondes, there was no escaping the fact that balayage is consistently the most popular hair colour of all.
Jenna Norman, colourist for Hershesons, said that so many clients were asking for balayage. "The hand-painted way of colouring was still really in because the technique is only getting better and better," she adds. Sibi Bolan, creative colour and balayage consultant at Josh Wood Atelier, agrees: "Right now, everyone is asking for a hippie-chic type of balayage hair; it's almost like everyone is embracing the sunshine." Or the lack thereof.
As if I needed any more evidence that this technique has only gained in popularity, I turned to Google Trends and spotted that it has ballooned over the past couple of years (really gaining traction in 2015). Another key indicator of this is that Pinterest has also seen an 85% increase in balayage hair pinning since the beginning of the year. Clearly, this is the hair colour trend that just won't dye (ahem).
So what is it about the technique, which originated in France during the 1970s, that has meant everyone is still asking for it 40 years on? Well, there are a few theories, but for starters, it's because it's flattering for all skin tones and hair textures.
The balayage way of "painting" on hair dye means that it gives a more natural highlighted look. It's sun-kissed without having to spend time in the sun. Plus, for those of us with darker locks, it gives a lighter lift to hair that we wouldn't be able to achieve naturally.
Another reason balayage is so popular? It has the kind of anti-ageing effect that no fancy lotion or even needle can perform. Peter Oon of Oon Arvelo Salon in New York told Byrdie U.S., "For brunettes, adding caramel highlights can help to warm and soften facial features," which in turn adds volume to your hair, giving the impression that it's fuller and therefore more youthful hair.
But as with any consistent trend (we're looking at you bold eyebrows), the real popularity push has come from the A-list. While I'm pretty sure Brigitte Bardot and Cindy Crawford were both advocates of this sun-kissed look well before everyone was asking for it (see above), the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker and Beyoncé have made this style go stratospheric. Ready for more balayage inspiration? We've got 16 celebrity looks, from short to long, as well as curly and straight, that will inspire you for next time you go to the salon.
Keep scrolling for the best A-list balayage hair looks:
Proving that balayage doesn't have to mean blonde painted onto brunette hair, Gigi Hadid's multitonal honey-blonde hair looks super healthy.
So subtle you can barely see it, but the slightly sunkissed edges at the bottom give the impression Lily's just got back from a mini break (in the blazing sun, of course).
Taking it up a notch, Alexa Chung's been a fan of soft balayage throughout her hair for a long time. This is the rock 'n' roll way to do it.
Just a few strands underneath your hair is sometimes all you need to give your hair lift.
Jessica Biel is, anecdotally, the celeb picture that everyone takes to their hairdresser.
This isn't about blonde but rather lighter brunette pieces throughout Eva Longoria's dark hair.
Another woman who is often present to hairdressers is Jessica Alba. Here, she has more blonde weighted at the bottom of her style.
Emilia Clarke's gentle balayage can barely be seen, but we love the extreme side part that goes along with this too.
Actress Lucy Hale has experimented with many different hair colours, but this is one of our favourites. There's a drama with the contrasting colours, but it works so well.
While Nicole Richie definitely sits on the blonde side of "bronde," her dedication to the balayage look has to be admired.
The only A-lister we've included twice, Jessica Alba's longer balayage is still a look that is worth trying to re-create, especially with a red lip.
Léa Seydoux's gorgeous honey-blonde balayage is ever so chic.
Proof that you can have balayage in curly hair.
While J.Lo is more bronde, the highlights definitely help to make her look effortlessly youthful.
Of course Beyoncé is a fan of balayage.
While Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is blonde, she's often pictured with lighter pieces scattered throughout her darker blonde hair. It's this look that gives her hair, whatever its length, loads of volume.