Balayage was created in the 1970s at the Carita salon in Paris – although people have been highlighting their hair in streaks, strands and sections for centuries. (There’s an amazing 16th century print of a Venetian woman wearing a hat with hair woven through holes in the top in order to bleach her highlights in the sun.)
The Carita sisters coined the term balayage – meaning ‘to sweep’ in French – for the technique they developed: painting fine strands with a brush, working visually to create natural highlights. Hair was then placed on cotton to process, rather than being wrapped in foils. A 1974 New York Times article on the trend claims a hairstylist called Yvan from the salon used 1,000 feet of cotton wool to balayage just one head of hair.
Compared to rubber highlight caps, uniform foils and solid all-over colours, balayage offered incredibly soft and subtle results with no obvious grow-out, making it the perfect choice for low-maintenance colour results. Despite this, and its popularity in French salons, it took another 30+ years for balayage to become the mainstream global technique it is today.