How Long Does Balayage Take to Do or Process In a Salon

A young lady with naturally dark hair used the balayage technique with traditional foil highlights on natural curls.

If you’re thinking of getting balayage highlights, one of the first questions you’re likely to ask is, “how long does balayage take?”

It’s a valid question and one that deserves a concrete answer. This article will discuss everything you need to know about how long the balayage technique takes. We’ll also provide some tips on how to make the process go more quickly. Let’s get right into it!

How Long Does Balayage Take?

You can expect the balayage process to take anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours. We estimate approximately 45-90 minutes for partial balayage treatments. Full balayage applications usually range from 90 minutes up to 3 hours.

However, as frustrating as it might be, the answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might think. Every head of hair and hair color process is unique. But in a general sense, these timeframes are reasonable.

A cheerful young female with a dark natural hair color just had a natural lightening technique at her local hair salon.

Factors Affecting How Long Balayage Takes

Now that you have a general idea of how long the balayage process can take, it’s essential to understand why the time range for balayage is so broad.

Several factors can affect how long it takes to create your balayage hairdo. Here are the most common ones:

  • The thickness of your hair
  • The length of your hair
  • Your current hair color and desired result
  • The type of balayage you choose

As you can see, quite a few variables can affect the amount of time it takes to balayage your hair. In the following sections, we’ll examine how each factor affects how long you’ll spend in your stylist’s chair.

A lady with a white skin tone and sun-kissed tones wearing a reverse balayage hairdo with traditional highlights.

Hair Thickness

If you have thick hair, the balayage process will take longer than it would if you had thin hair. This is because thicker hair takes more time to dye and style. So, if you have extremely thick hair, you can expect to be in the salon for closer to 3 or 4 hours versus 45 minutes.

Hair Length

If you have very long hair (e.g., past bra strap length), it’ll take longer to dye, rinse, and style than it would if you had short hair. So, anyone with Rapunzel-like hair should plan on a lengthy salon visit for a balayage appointment. 

A white female wearing a two-tone style with blonde hair highlighting her naturally dark brown hair color.

Your Starting Hair Color and Desired Result

If you’re starting with a darker hair color and want to go considerably lighter, you’ll need to spend a lot of time in the lightening step of the balayage process.

Depending on how light you want to go, it could take several rounds of bleach to get you there. On the other hand, if you have a lighter starting color and want to go just a bit brighter in some areas, the process will be quicker.

The Type of Balayage You Choose and the Technique Used

You may not have been aware, but there are two main types of balayage: full and partial. With full balayage, all of your hair is lightened.

Partial balayage, on the other hand, focuses on lightening only a specific portion of your hair. Full balayage requires more time than partial balayage, as more of your hair is being dyed. It’s that simple.

A cute white woman with a blonde balayage hair treatment paired with typical highlights using a completely free-hand technique.

Also, stylists use several balayage techniques, each of which can affect how long you’ll be in the salon. The two most common balayage techniques are hand-painting and foilyage.

We’ll get into them below, so you’ll know how they affect your appointment time:

  • Hand-painting is the traditional way to do balayage. It’s a freehand dyeing technique in which the stylist uses a brush to paint bleach or dye directly onto your hair.  While it creates stunningly natural results, it is time intensive because each section of hair must be colored separately.
  • Foilyage, a fun name for balayage done with foiling, requires the stylist to hand-paint sections of your hair individually and then apply foil to each section before waiting for the dye/bleach to process. Since there’s another variable thrown into the mix (foils), the entire dyeing process may take longer. But since foils speed up the lightening process, it shouldn’t be much longer than hand-painting.
A young girl with curly hair has a dark brown natural hair color, wondering about the balayage cost for highlighting individual strands.

How to Speed up the Balayage Process

If you’re short on time, you can do a few things to speed up the balayage process. Read the below list to learn how to do it:

  • Opt for partial balayage. It doesn’t take nearly as long as full balayage.
  • Come to your appointment with clean, dry hair. That way, you can skip the sometimes-lengthy wash and dry process.
  • Choose a quality salon that doesn’t keep clients waiting. The balayage process takes long enough – you don’t want to wait additional time while your stylist does other clients’ hair or chats with their coworkers.
  • Select a stylist that knows their stuff. A skilled and experienced stylist will be able to do your balayage quickly and efficiently.
  • Talk to your stylist. Be upfront about your time constraints. They may be able to accommodate you.
An excited young girl with a 2C hair type and a rock balayage style that involves bleaching the hair to create sharp underneath layers.

Prepare for a Long Balayage Color Appointment

Sometimes, how long your balayage takes is totally out of your control. This is especially true if you’ve got long, thick hair or you want to go several shades lighter.

You’ll need to make peace with the fact that it’s going to take a while.

How to prepare for your color service appointment at the salon! Tips from a color specialist.

So, instead of trying to shorten the appointment, get prepared so your experience will be as stress-free and pleasant as possible.

The best way to prepare for a long hair appointment is to bring something to keep you occupied. A book, crossword puzzle, or laptop will help pass the time.

You should also bring snacks and drinks to keep you satiated and energized.

No one likes being hangry, especially while you’re stuck in a salon chair. If your salon allows it, you can even play music – it’ll take the atmosphere of the salon up a few notches. 

A white girl with a standard balayage hairstyle with a soft transition from dark to light hair, creating a natural look.

How Long Does Balayage Last?

Once you’ve got your perfect balayage, you’ll want to know how long it’ll last before you need a touchup. The good news is that balayage can last up to 4 months without a touchup. 

The key to the long-lasting nature of balayage is that it results in a natural, gradual color transition and doesn’t leave any harsh demarcation lines at your roots.

As a result, it won’t be obvious when your hair grows out.

This means you can get away without a touchup for an extended time. So, the few hours you spend in the salon getting your balayage highlights will be well worth it.

A cheerful female with a dark brown natural hair color wearing a balayage created with the free-hand painting technique.

Does Balayage Last Longer than Highlights?

Balayage and highlights are both great options for enhancing your hair color. But which one lasts longer? The answer is balayage. As mentioned in the previous section, balayage can last up to four months without a touchup. 

On the other hand, highlights typically need to be touched up every six weeks. And that’s because highlights don’t usually have a smooth gradient.

Therefore, it’s noticeable when your hair grows out. Considering that, you won’t be able to go very long without a touchup. Balayage is definitely the way to go if you’re looking for a natural-looking low-maintenance hair color option.

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Now that you know everything there is to know about how long balayage takes, you can go into your appointment with realistic expectations.

Remember, the amount of time you’ll spend in the salon depends on several factors, including your hair thickness, length, starting color, and desired result.

And if you’re short on time, you can do a few things to speed up the process. But, most importantly, relax and enjoy your time at the salon. After all, you’re in for a treat – you’re getting a balayage hair color transformation!

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