Matrix Artistic Director Michelle O’ Connor Shares Her Best Balayage Tips for Curly and Textured Hair


Often when we think of balayage, we have a tendency to picture long, straight strands with perfectly placed highlights. But, it’s totally worth noting that balayage isn’t just for straighter locks and can look quite beautiful on a head full of curls. 

“In my opinion, balayage is more ideal for curly strands than it is for any other type of hair,” says Matrix Artistic Director Michelle O’ Connor. “Curly hair is very organic and it’s very lived-in, therefore the technique of balayage lends itself to being creative and interpretative to the hair, allowing for a curated look for each individual person. No two heads of curl are alike, therefore a freehand painted technique supports having a unique color specifically designed for each client.”

With it being National Balayage Week, we couldn’t think of a better time to chat with O’Connor to get the inside scoop on everything there is to know about how to get and maintain balayage on curly or textured hair. Scroll through for her best tips!

Tip 1: Preparation is Key

As with any color service, it’s important to prep your client’s hair prior to their balayage service. “One tip for preparing balayage on natural or curly hair is to make sure that the hair is optimally strong,” O’Connor explains. “Protein or strengthening treatments prior to color service is key.”

Additionally, you want to make sure that the hair is healthy to start with as you don’t want to perform color on unhealthy locks. “On the day of the service, it’s important to make sure that the hair is thoroughly cleansed and clarified prior to receiving your color,” says O’ Connor.

Tip 2: Straightening is Not Necessary

When it comes to doing a balayage on a client with curly hair, straightening the hair prior to the service is not always needed. “Straightening the hair first is only a technique that is utilized to manage hair that might have thick density and a tight pattern. It helps to create an ease of application while working quickly,” O’ Connor says. “Working quickly and efficiently is key. However, a professional stylist can work with the hair and its natural state, therefore, being able to see where the color will live once the hair is worn curly.”

Tip 3: Take Into Consideration the State of Your Client’s Hair

When it comes to doing a balayage on curly or textured hair, there are certain things to consider before the service. “One factor to consider is the condition and the health of the hair,” O’ Connor says. “You want to make sure that the strands are strong as curly hair tends to be more fragile than straight hair.” Plus, if you want to lighten the hair, keep this in mind: “Going blonde for a dark level may require two to three visits to get there in a healthy way.” That’s why it’s important to consider how light you want to lift the hair in one visit.

Tip 4: Pick the Perfect Products

“During the balayage process, stylists can protect the client’s hair by using the appropriate products,” O’Connor shares. “One such product is called Matrix Total Results Instacure Anti-Breakage Leave-In Porosity Spray ($24.00). This will even out the porosity of the hair strands which will lead to consistent and even color results all while strengthening the hair.” She adds, “This also entails using professional color products that have a bonder built within it such as Matrix Curl Lights or Matrix Light Master Lightening Powder with Bonder Inside

Tip 5: Avoid These Balayage Mistakes

Just like with any other color technique, mistakes are bound to happen. According to O’Connor, these are the ones that you want to do your best to avoid when working with curly hair: “Some of the biggest mistakes I see are not enough products to provide saturation. Another mistake I see is not having the adequate sectioning for the area you’ll be working on. Lastly, not understanding the actual texture of the hair —whether it’s fine, medium, or coarse—can lead to the wrong strength of developer which results in damage.”

Tip 6: After Care Is So Important

After getting balayage your clients expect to make some changes to their current routine to maintain their color and keep your curls looking healthy. First, make hair treatments a weekly habit. “After balayage, the biggest change you want to make to your routine is making sure you carve out time to do treatments,” O’Connor explains. “Curly hair is naturally drier, therefore adding color will create more of a reason to maintain consistent moisturizing as well as strengthening conditioning treatments.”

With that being said, O’Connor suggests clients stay away from straightening chemicals such as relaxers, after getting their balayage service. “Two chemical services on the same strands of hair can lead to compromised strands,” she says.

Last, but certainly not least, they should expect to head back to the salon for a touch-up to keep their color looking fresh. “Due to the nature of curly hair and how it grows (it takes longer to show growth), typical maintenance could be between every three and four months for a retouch,” says O’Connor.

For more balayage tips and tricks, be sure to follow Matrix’s National Balayage Week programming over on their Instagram. And, follow @michelleoconnorbeauty for more expert advice from Matrix Artistic Director Michelle O’ Connor.

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Camille Nzengung

Camille Nzengung is a Features Editor at The Tease, where she covers all things hair. You can find her writing about the best hair products, the coolest hair trends, and all the exciting new hair launches. Send her a pitch:

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