Secrets of a Balayage Specialist – News


  • This balayage specialist loves to paint in thin, clean “ribbons.” 
  • She branded herself with her Instagram handle, @xoxo_balayage, and found a unique way to show off her work on her feed.
  • Whether bronde, platinum, ash, honey or vanilla,  her lived-in looks are beautiful examples of hair painting.



Hair by @xoxo_balayage

We’ve featured Ellie Toia @xoxo_balayage, one of our MODERN SALON 100, and a member of the MODERN SALON Artist Connective, for the many different times she has lifted a head of hair to balayage greatness. 

Working out of Deep Roots Salon in Cedar Park, a suburb of Austin, TX, she is known for her careful, clean application and resulting balayage beauties.  

“My first salon owner, who I apprenticed under, taught me how to balayage all the way up to the root, without making it splotchy,” Toia shares. “I like to do ribbons of balayage– single pieces that are very small. This makes the pieces pop a little bit more and makes it a little lighter.”


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Hair by @xoxo_balayage

But before she mixes any lightener or picks up a brush, she has a long discussion with her client.

 “I have super thorough consultation. We won’t go in the back room unless we’re 100 percent on the same page,” Toia says. “I’ll grab a reference like @modernsalon to show them examples, and to ask, is this too light, is this too dark, how do you feel about the lightness at your face, where do you want the placement to start?  How bright or how cool do you want it?

“Sometimes, they can feel overwhelmed; I don’t think anyone has ever asked them that much before and showed them how to look at these different elements in a picture.  They don’t really notice these things until you point them out.”


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Hair by @xoxo_balayage

The Balayage Ribbon Technique

Toia paints those ribbons without using clay lightener (which is often used for hair painting because of the way it creates a “shell” around the hair) and she paints right up to within inches of the crown of the head. But because she has perfected her Ribbon Technique, that is the only part of the blend she has to worry about — that place where the points are coming together.

“ I just lift it up and check underneath and make sure that tiny little transition area is painted the same way and not just a blob.

“I’m one of those stylists who really works on my blending so I don’t have to shadow root,” she explains.  “I don’t like to shadow root, either, because it takes too much time.”

Her precision and personalization extend to her formulations.  “I don’t write down my color formulas because every time a client walks in, their hair is different.  Every time I want to tweak it and have fun with it.”

Getting to this point of hair painting mastery didn’t come easy.  


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Hair by @xoxo_balayage

“It’s a lot of trial and error.  When I first did it it’s no way like it is now.  My first ombre was atrocious.  It’s a lot of messing up to figure out what you like and don’t like.  I don’t feel like anyone knocks it out of the park the first time.”

Even today, she says she nitpicks. “It might look perfectly fine, but I’ll still look at the hair and make a note to set the highlight further back, next time.”


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Hair by @xoxo_balayage

Since salons have reopened, Toia has been doing less of her signature balayage, post-quarantine, than usual.  

“After the quarantines, I have been doing so much more foilyage than balayage and I think it’s because people couldn’t get their hair done for so long and they want this huge transformation,” Toia explains. “They are trying to fix six months of not seeing me.”

“I actually love all the dimension they’re coming in with because the more grow-out they have, the more that money piece stands out for me.”  


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Hair by @xoxo_balayage

Balayage Branding

When we see one of Elle’s pics, we know it’s hers.  She started illustrating her different balayage finishes with photos of color inspo and worked with a knot styling that showed off the dimension and lived-in look she loves so much.

“I had seen @thebeautybyabigail do a post where she showed hair next to different dogs and because I have a French bulldog, I jumped onto Pinterest and just started pulling up pics of French bulldogs. I was dying laughing as a I was doing it.”

Now, she says, she puts her own spin on it, showing how dogs, donuts, cupcakes, coffee, flowers and fall leaves can be color inspo.  

Ultimately, this balayage specialists hopes that the demand for her favorite technique never goes out of style.

“I love doing hair, I love painting hair and I feel like the result I get is just so natural –I adore it!”


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Hair by @xoxo_balayage

 

 

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