'Ribbon Lights' – The Balayage Method Doing Away With Streaky Colour

Just when we think there are enough hair colour trends to last us a lifetime (midlights, gemlights, negative space balayage...), Instagram throws up yet another style you'll be tempted to take to your colourist yesterday.
Sure, the balayage technique – which consists of painting or sweeping on hair colour – is everywhere at the moment. But there are different techniques depending on the result you want to achieve, whether it's a soft, natural, sun-kissed finish or something a little more experimental. Currently on our radar? 'Ribbon lights' or 'balayage ribboning'. As the name suggests, it's balayage, but it consists of dyeing much larger chunks of hair to look like ribbons of colour floating through the lengths, as opposed to streaks or lines, which some highlighting techniques result in.
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Josh Wood, expert colourist and Redken Global Colour Creative Director, first touted ribbon lights as the trend to watch after the Valentino couture show last year, demonstrating the method on Kaia Gerber's towering wig, styled by Guido Palau. Like most catwalk trends, ribbon lights made its way onto Instagram, and it seems hairstylists are using the look as a springboard to create their own version of the trend.
"Balayage ribboning is actually the way balayage was always supposed to be," explains Sophia Hilton, director at Not Another Salon. "The 'thin' highlights look that we see here in the UK is actually a diluted version of the beautiful French technique which is over 60 years old. The French are not scared of chunky. I’ve personally always created ribboned balayage for my clients, because I love the classic look it lends hair."
Sophia continues: "I’m a balayage educator, and what I find is that because British hairdressers are not very well practised at this technique, they tend to make the work more blended as it’s safer against errors. But as education moves on, colourists feel braver to dye thicker sections of hair." The results speak for themselves, with hair that has both dimension and warmth from root to tip.
But there are rules. "It’s important to remember that balayage is not really supposed to be cool toned," adds Sophia. "Very dark bases will find this technique hard, as balayage should always look a little warmer." According to Sophia, though, the good news is that while the technique looks just as stunning on straight or wavy hair, it actually works best on curly hair types.
Of course, whatever your hair texture, it really pays to take care of your lengths post-balayage. "Balayage is bleach," Sophia tells R29, "and where there’s bleach there is damage. I recommend making sure your colourist uses a bond builder to minimise breakage. We use INNOluxe at Not Another Salon and I wouldn’t colour without it." You can also opt for Olaplex in salon or at home, as the brand has just launched a shampoo and conditioner duo for over-processed strands.
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