Upon entering the Pierre Michel Salon in New York’s Midtown East, I was welcomed into a bright and warm space. The clientele have clearly made this beauty haven into a comfortable home. Not a single client so much as paused at the front desk because they already knew exactly where they were headed within the salon. I was escorted to celebrity colorist AJ Lordet’s station and my lesson in balayage began, from the expert herself.
The first thing Lordet explained was the difference between balayage and ombré. This enigma of a hair trend debate was immediately deduced to, well, no debate at all. Simply put, balayage is a technique while ombré is a style. “Balayage is a way of hair highlighting and can also be called hair painting. It’s a French technique. It’s derived from the French word balader, which means to sweep; so essentially the paintbrush sweeps the hair with color,” Lordet says. I quietly wonder how many times she has had to explain this difference throughout her extensive career.
Lordet, who has been practicing balayage in place of popularly used foils since the late 90’s, got her training at esteemed salon Frederic Fekkai, one of the few salons teaching this now trendy and unexpectedly not-so-new practice. “It was famous for celebrities flocking to have custom painted hair. The technique offers truly custom highlights to every haircut and face,” Lordet says of why balayage is preferred.
For an expert like Lordet, it only took 20 minutes to apply the color to my short albeit thick hair. At that point, it became evident of how much of an artful craft balayage is. With precise detail, a lot of cotton in place of foil and beautiful strokes made by what looked and felt like a real paintbrush, balayage is done.
When asked why balayage is stepping into the spotlight while ombré enjoyed its moment a few years back, Lordet explains it’s easier to maintain because with distinct strokes looking more natural, clients don’t have to get touch-ups every time their roots grow out. She continues, “It’s much more widespread, especially through social media.” And that proves true by the 13.1 million public posts with the hashtag ‘balayage’ that can be found on Instagram.
Even though some still don’t know the difference between the technique and the style (as told by the 426k posts on Instagram with the misspelled hashtag ‘bayalage’), or maybe even how to pronounce either, the trend (while far from new), is a craft that the Pierre Michel Salon boasts from their many luxury colorists, including the master herself AJ Lordet.
Upon exiting the salon packed with loyal customers and the most knowledgeable stylists, I left with a confidence-boosting color, a newfound comprehension of hair color movements and a comfort in knowing that this salon would welcome me back any time.