How-To: Mastering Balayage Techniques

At this year’s Premiere Orlando, we hosted a Facebook Live lounge in partnership with SalonCentric, bringing together some of the most talented artists and influencers in the industry. George Papinikolas, Matrix Celebrity Colorist, reported live from his home in the Hollywood Hills, California, to share his top tips for a flawless balayage.

1. Use the right products.

“My go-to lightener is Matrix Light Master,” says the balayage expert. “It’s super powerful and at the same keeps the hair in great condition.” However, he also adds 4 mls of Matrix Bond Ultim8 to every scoop of Light Master Lightening Powder as an added layer of protection during lightening—all without changing the formula or processing time. He also adds one scoop of kaolin clay-based Light Master Freehand Additive to aid during freehand painting. “It creates like a shell around the lightener so it dries out on the outside but it is still processing on the inside,” Papanikolas explains. Finally, he says to always use a 40-volume developer when doing freehand balayage because you need the extra lifting power since you’re not using foils.

2. Apply to the right areas.

When Papanikolas does a balayage, he focuses on three key areas: hair around the face; at the crown and natural part; and at the ends. “It’s where the sun naturally hits the hair and it’s going to give you the maximum impact from each highlight,” he explains.

3. Apply lightly.

Using a smaller brush, feather up to the root to make a really soft line of demarcation. Create a V-shape as you move down the hair to create seamless color. Next, to create greater saturation, use a larger brush through the mid shaft and ends.

4. Balayage on steroids.

To make a greater impact and exact maximum lift, Papanikolas says to take diagonal sections on the three prime areas, then backcomb the hair. Using a foil underneath, paint the remaining hair in a V-shape and let it process without heat for up to an hour. “I’d rather let the hair lift gently rather than using heat and forcing it and burning the hair,” he says.