Balayage is a hair trend that’s been hot in the salons lately, so it’s no surprise we had to dig in to see how it would work on redheads – both natural and ‘by choice’. It is a technique for highlighting the hair in which the dye is painted on in such a way as to create a graduated, natural-looking effect.

If you’re a natural redhead who has never dyed their hair before and is interested in a subtle, natural-looking highlight for the spring/summer, this is for you.

If you’re a redhead ‘by choice’ and not happy with your color, you will love this process.

It sort of looks ombre, where the roots are much darker than the ends but are much more natural and low maintenance.

To be honest, many might think the technique is a no-no for redheads. But we soon discovered this was not the case; red hair comes in many shades, so the only difficulty is choosing which highlight is best to achieve the balayage look.

Credit: juju salon & organics

We turned to 3 hair color experts to provide us the top tips for redheads who are interested in this hot new trend:

1. Do your research & find the right salon. 

Find a balayage color expert in your area who is skilled in this art and has worked on redheads before. Julie Featherman, the owner of juju salon & organics in Philadelphia, recommends bringing in photos for inspiration.

“You and your stylist might have totally different ideas about what auburn looks like. What about copper?  Find some pictures that really capture your natural red color and showcase different balayage ideas.  Your stylist needs an idea of what  shades, how light and how noticeable.”

Jenna Mast, hair color expert in NYC, says, “If you can find a photo from a vacation where you were on the beach for a few days, you may notice your ends are a bit lighter from the sun, that is a great target color for believable balayage.”

2. This might not be for all redheads. It will include bleach.

Featherman goes on to state, “Because red hair is so stubborn, the lightening process will almost certainly involve bleach, a high-level peroxide or both.  Find a salon that uses non-ammonia bleach and gentler non-toxic coloring agents. Otherwise, the color might look great, but not on dried out, damaged hair.”

3. The purpose is to enhance red tones. 

The goal is to enhance your already beautiful red tones. The beautiful thing about balayage is your hair colorist has the control to place the highlights wherever he/she wants, instead of how foils work when highlighting. “Aiming for golden tones over copper tones will give a more natural result,” explains Mast. “You want to make sure you keep the warmth of your red hair true.”

Credit: Jenna Mast

4. Why this process is great for redheads who want a perfect highlight.

Lightening a redhead’s hair too much can look brassy and unflattering. That’s why Estelle Baumhauer, Color Director of eSalon, recommends balayage. “By painting on the hair, the allover color has a softer, sun-kissed look. This application method also promotes lower color contrast, which tends to look best on red hues. Balayage grows out with a less defined line which helps the color look more natural.”

5. Less is more. It is not a long process.

No, really. “The goal of balayage on a redhead is to highlight the natural red hair.  The blonde or lighter colors in the balayage should not be vying for attention,” Julie explains.

6. Maintenance is slow.

The surprising thing about balayage is how (if done right) it grows out very natural, so you don’t have that obvious growth line. It’s recommended to protect your red hair with a color protecting and color depositing shampoo and conditioner.

RELATE: 2016’S Best Color Depositing Shampoos and Conditioners for Redheads

Featherman’s top tip: “Never, ever try this at home with a drug store dye or henna unless your goal is bright orange troll hair!”

Rock it like a Redhead! 

  • Melinda

    This article is great. I need your help, though. I am a natural ginger but I’m starting to gray and I find it quite noticeable on top. I went to a salon and even though we did a consult and I clearly said my goals were: 1-not to be blonde, 2-to cover the grays what I ended up with are some weird blonde highlights. A month later, I have exactly what you describe: Lightening a redhead’s hair too much can look brassy and unflattering.
    What should I do? Is there a shampoo that I can use that will help to avoid having my hair treated again? I want to avoid the salons from now on. It is always a disappointment, especially when they tell you that “everyone is on the same page here” when you ask for someone who has experience with red hair. Help!

  • Rachel

    Yeah I went to the salon today and tried to get a balayage (I’m a natural redhead who has never coloured my hair ever in my life). They did a tester strip to see how much product they needed to use, and they ended up saying they couldn’t do it, not because they didn’t want to, but because my hair would not let go of the colour. They used the highest strength product they could to strip away the colour, but nothing worked. My hair looks the same. Is that a common thing? Do you think I should try a different salon? I’ve always wanted to try to colour my hair since I was little, so I’m really bummed that this didn’t work. Any other tricks I could try to change my hair up a bit?