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7 Common Balayage Mistakes & How To Avoid Making Them

Balayage is one of the most-requested hair trends currently (and has been for several years). Translated from French as to sweep, the natural look of balayage and versatility mean it works for nearly everyone. Whether ash-blonde, red, silver, or purple, balayage treatments suit most hair textures and types.

Balayage can be tricky to perform and takes practice since it requires higher-level skills of hair colorists. The look can fall victim to several errors that leave hair color looking unfortunate. Below are seven common balayage mistakes and how to avoid them.


Balayage Mistakes to Avoid

Nobody’s perfect, and that includes hair colorists.  Practice makes perfect. From overheating to inaccurate brush placement, below are the seven biggest balayage mistakes when trying to pull off this popular look. 

#1. Working From the Wrong Elevation

balayage mistakes - wrong elevation

Elevation (at least in the hairstyling realm) refers to the distance from your hands and brush to the hair. Painting from the wrong angle can make it difficult to see if you are putting the color on the right parts of the hair, especially when working near the scalp and ends. 

To get the optimal elevation, you need to learn the right level for the client’s chair in relation to your height. Of course, you cannot change your height naturally, so you have a few options.

First, consider whether you are too tall or too short. If you tower over your client, boosting the salon chair more than you might usually is the easiest solution – along with wearing flat shoes.

If you’re shorter than most clients, you can wear heeled shoes (although that gets uncomfortable) or adjust the chair to be lower than its natural setting. Before you start painting, ensure your client is comfortable and get them a footrest, if needed.


#2. Brush Mistakes

Balayage focuses on the surface painting of hair, which is best done with the wide part of the brush and not the tip. The goal is to sweep the brush amongst the hair to create a natural, lived-in but chic look. If you paint with the tip of the brush, it will force color between the strands of hair, and you may encounter issues from thin strokes or separation.

Also, beginners sometimes take shorter strokes when applying color to give them a greater feeling of control, but that can lead to poor color application. Taking longer sweeping strokes gives a more natural look to the balayage through the length of the hair.

Do not fret if you are working with shorter hair. Long strokes work on all hair lengths and produce more beautiful balayage results.

Applying color with the wrong brush for a client’s hair texture can lead to balayage mistakes. Some brushes work better on fine hair, and others are best for thicker, coarser hair. The best way to learn what brushes work best for you is through education as well as trial and error. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each brush. 


#3. Not Holding Hair Tightly Enough

balayage mistakes -Not Holding Hair Tightly

If you do not utilize proper tension when applying color, the hair will bend instead of being straight and taut, leading to uneven application. You do not want your balayage to look like highlights, but you still need uniformity between strokes. 

The correct tension will make the coloring process more accurate since the hair will be flat and straight, giving a smooth canvas for balayage. That said, clients will not appreciate it if you pull their hair. Be gentle!


#4. Hot Spots & Color Bleeding

Heat is crucial during the balayage process. Stylists refer to lighteners that bleed into un-balayage hair segments as hot spots, as heat triggers the color to develop.

To prevent a complete color meltdown, try covering the top parts of hair with cotton or plastic sheets, then painting the lower layers. The sheet separates the two parts to ensure your color looks flawless.


#5. Not Fully Saturating the Hair

Balayage will produce almost no effect if you do not apply enough color. If you can see individual strands, you most likely haven’t used enough product. Using an insufficient amount of color leads to poor color lift, so your client will probably leave the salon looking identical to when they came in.

However, there is an exception in areas gradually transitioning between colors where you do not want to saturate the hair. Remember to lighten your application slightly while going over transitional areas, as using too many ruins the balayage look and will create traditional highlights.

You want the result to look as natural as possible, and under-saturating hair will look like grown-out highlights – not boho-chic balayage.


#6. Too Much Time Under the Dryer

balayage mistakes - overheating

Most balayage applications need 15-45 minutes under the dryer, with gentle to moderate heat. Leaving balayage under the dryer for too long can severely damage the hair (specifically if you use bleach or a lightener). 

The best way to avoid overheating is to check the hair from the 15-minute mark. If your client has thick hair, they will likely need closer to 45 minutes, but thin or damaged hair should cooperate with 15-25 minutes.


#7. Sectioning Mistakes

Another error-prone area is in sectioning the hair for balayage. It is relatively simple but vital for effortless-looking balayage. Thicker sections will result in lowlights, while thinner sections will have more lift, leaving hair lighter and brighter. If your goal is subtle balayage highlights, stick to thin sections.

Remember to take hair texture and type into account. Do not over-saturate or create large sections when working with thin hair – but use portions large enough to make a visual difference. The thicker the segment, the more muted the result.


Balayage gives short, medium, and long hairstyles stunning depth, dimension, and hair color. Think of yourself as a fine artist painting their magnum opus every time you pick up the brush!

Although it requires a lot of practice, learning about common balayage mistakes will sweep away the chances of making these errors and help you get the desired results.