If you thought the word balayage was French for some fancy dance move, you're not alone. Here are the answers to some common questions about it. The highlights (no pun intended):

  1. It doesn't mean painting. Balayage literally translates to "sweeping." When done correctly, the colorist takes a small section of hair and sweeps the color onto the top. Then, he or she may use a paddle to apply more color toward the bottom. This method of lightening the ends gives the colorist more control—and creates the effortless sun-kissed highlights everyone wants this time of year.

  2. It's not just for blondes. Balayage can be used on brunette and redhead clients for multidimensional color.

  3. It works on gray hair. Balayage is a smart solution for gray hair because it allows the colorist to specifically target gray strands without touching the scalp. And, because you don't need to do a single process to cancel out a few grays, it's easier and more natural on your hair overall.

  4. You should cut, then color. In most salons, women get their hair colored, cut, and blow-dried by a stylist. But by booking a trim beforehand, your colorist can work specifically to the cut, which minimizes the risk of chopping off the pretty, lighter ends (and ruining the effect).

  5. You don’t need to wash your hair beforehand. If you're adding highlights with balayage, clients can come with oily hair to protect the scalp. If you're getting a single process, there is no need to shampoo before, just make sure your hair isn’t loaded up with products which could interfere with the color coverage.