The French hair painting technique balayage is still a colorist favorite and shows no signs of going anywhere. An under-the-radar version of balayage, however, has yet to gain the recognition it deserves. Enter: wet balayage. Curious as to why a colorist would choose wet balayage over its cousin, the original dry balayage, we tapped Marissa Neel, a colorist from Moss Hair Salon in Granite Bay, California. Ahead, Marissa tells us how wet balayage can save you time and money plus why the end result is more forgiving.
Wet balayage is exactly what it sounds like! It’s applying your lightener or color on damp hair either at the bowl or station after the hair is washed and towel dried. It’s great for a quick and gentle way to brighten old, dulled out blonde ends or even for a subtle overall color shift. If you’re using color (ex: color touch, shades, etc.), the damp hair allows for a super blended and seamless transition within the hair. The difference between regular balayage and wet balayage is that you want the hair to be damp, not dry!
Benefits of wet balayage
The wet balayage application is usually very quick. The damp hair allows your product to go further so you’re saving time and money! The dampness of the hair gives you a barrier so that the lightener works a little slower than if you were to balayage on dry hair, giving you control over timing and lift. But that’s what you want when you’re going for just 1-2 levels of lift. When using color, typically a demi-permanent is used and will create a slightly translucent end result.
Still, I think the best benefit of wet balayage is that it is super gentle on the hair. Especially hair that has already been lightened, wet balayage is the perfect way to create a little extra pop without having to worry too much about the integrity. I truly don’t think there are any cons to using this technique. There is a time and place for all techniques so when it’s utilized in the right way, it should deliver the results you want to see.
Make sure the hair is towel dried and brushed through before you apply color. If you are keeping your sections and application clean, there is no reason the dampness of the hair would cause the product to run or spread when doing wet balayage. Processing time is usually much quicker because you’re able to bump the developer of your lightener a little higher. Again, when I use the wet balayage technique, I am usually only looking for about 1-2 levels of lift so I typically am mixing up a 20 or 30vol for 5-10 minutes max. However, depending on your desired results, you could leave it on a little longer.
My favorite products include the Wella Post Service after I shampoo to help detangle and create a smooth even canvas; the Wet Brush to detangle before applying, and my favorite lightener is Joico Freeplay or Blonde Me by Schwarzkopf. Both work quickly!
The overall result
Coloring or lightening over damp hair is going to create a softer overall look for your clients’ hair. A lot of seamless transitions! It really creates a beautiful outcome. I do think this process can also be slightly more forgiving than it would be on dry hair if your blend isn’t perfect.
Who wet balayage isn’t for
I would say someone who has a significant amount of dark running through their ends would not be a good candidate for wet balayage. Or someone looking for a pretty significant amount of lightness added to their hair would benefit more so from applying on dry hair.