Chic, subtle, and deeply technical, balayage is beloved far and wide for its ability to brighten hair without the need for harsh highlights or a full bleach job. It’s effortless—or at least, it appears to be when maintained properly. But as with any lightened hair color, balayage can turn brassy if exposed to elements like hard water, metals, and ultraviolet radiation. The good news: Brassy balayage isn’t an inevitability that you have to come to terms with. With the right hair care habits, you can keep your balayage looking salon-fresh between appointments. Here, we’ll teach you how—and give you pointers on some of the best products for maintaining your balayage. Find all the details ahead.
What Is Balayage?
Balayage comes from balayer, a French verb that translates to “sweeping.” It is both the name of the technique and the style that the technique produces. Unlike traditional highlights, which are typically applied precisely to small sections of hair, balayage involves lightening the hair by free-hand painting (or “sweeping”) individual strands to produce a more natural-looking result. The laid-back, beachy look is customizable, so it can suit nearly anybody. This has made it a favorite amongst celebrity trendsetters and influencers alike.
Preventing Brassy Balayage
If you’re looking to limit brassiness, we recommend choosing cool-toned colors, like ash blonde. They’re less likely to take on a yellow hue than warmer, more golden shades. Finding the right shade for your strands often calls for an expert, so we recommend visiting a salon near you to help determine what shade suits your hair best.
That being said, brassiness can occur no matter what shade you choose. It often happens as a result of showering in hard water. Water can erode the metals in your pipes, and when you shower, those micro-particles come out of your showerhead. Over time, these metals can accumulate inside the hair fiber and oxidize. If your hair is colored or lightened, this (albeit, gradual) process is likely to have an effect on your hair color. It’s also more likely to become dry and damaged.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prevent your balayage from turning orange. We recommend minimizing your time in the sun (ultraviolet light can alter your chosen hue), avoiding exposure to chlorine, and steering clear of hard water whenever possible.
How to Maintain Healthy, Vibrant Balayage
We’ve gone over what not to do if you have balayage—now, it’s time to discuss what you should do. Ahead, discover five expert tips for getting the most mileage out of your balayage, sans brassy tones.
Step 1: Ask your colorist to pre-treat before coloring
Incorporating a pre-treatment such as Metal Detox Metal Neutralizer Pre-Treatment into your coloring service can help protect your balayage from shade saboteurs like minerals and metal. "To prevent brassiness in lightening services, I recommend using the Metal Detox spray prior to applying lightener, followed by the usual post-color steps,” says L'Oréal Professionnel Artist Esmeralda Tavarez. “This helps the color process more evenly and ensure non-brassy results."
Step 2: Invest in an anti-brass shampoo
Hard water is extremely prevalent in the US, though “hardness” varies from place to place. Since exposure to hard water (and the metals within it) can affect your balayage, it’s a good idea to invest in a shampoo that can help neutralize these unwanted elements. We suggest Metal Detox Sulfate-Free Shampoo. Suitable for all hair types and textures, as well as color-treated hair, this luxurious sulfate-free shampoo helps neutralize metals trapped within the hair fiber to protect your color’s vibrancy and longevity. The unique formula contains a patented ingredient called Glucoamine that helps to detoxify the hair and bring life back to dull, brassy strands.
Step 3: Use a nourishing hair mask
Once you’ve achieved your desired shade, it’s important to care for your color properly in order to maintain vibrancy. Using a nourishing hair mask like Metal Detox Mask can help. The rich, creamy formula helps protect the hair fiber from particle deposits, limiting metal-induced fading. It also works to lock in shine and moisture, leaving you with a vibrant, true-to-hue balayage. When used with the Metal Detox Sulfate-Free Shampoo, it also helps protect your hair from the damaging effects of ultraviolet exposure, preserving your color by up to 93%.*
Step 4: Try a shower filter
If you have hard water, consider investing in a water softener. Essentially a filter for your showerhead, these affordable and easy-to-install devices help remove minerals, metals, and other impurities from your water. Here’s why that’s so crucial: Washing your mane with water that contains chemicals (like chlorine) or heavy metals (like iron) can create buildup, leaving your balayage looking dull or lackluster. Metals and chemicals in your water can also dry out and weaken your strands, making it more likely for color fading to occur. A water softener can help address all of these problems, allowing for more vibrant, healthier-looking hair.
Step 5: Head to the salon for toning advice
If you’ve noticed your balayage has gone brassy and you can’t seem to fix it at home, your best bet is to visit a salon. Your stylist can customize a toning treatment for your strands to help neutralize unwanted warm tones and get your shade back to its original brilliance.
How L’Oréal Metal Detox Range Can Improve Balayage Longevity
When used as a three-step system—first the pre-treatment, then the shampoo and mask after your lightening service—the Metal Detox protocol can significantly help improve the quality of your balayage. As Leïla Hercouet, Senior Research Associate at L’Oréal explains, “over the past seven years, we’ve partnered with Ioninna University to understand the impact of metal in hair: breakage and unpredictable color results.” With Metal Detox, she says, “we’ve finally been able to identify a breakthrough solution.”
Next, read our article to learn more about why Metal Detox has been a game changer since its creation.
*Instrumental test after Metal Detox Shampoo + Mask up to next shampoo.