20 Must-Try Subtle Balayage Hairstyles

Looking to switch up your basic, tonal locks without a full on commitment? You may want to give subtle balayage a chance. This style of highlighting applies color to only certain parts of the hair, specifically places where light catches or where color would fade out naturally.

Why Try Subtle Balayage?

By going subtle, you’re keeping your hair’s original base color without too much drastic change. Plus, it’s freehanded nature let’s you control how much shading you want to incorporate. While you’re totally in charge with balayage, you’re still open to having a little fun!

#1: Dark Brown Hair with Cinnamon Balayage

As you can see, a brunette balayage adds texture to one-dimensional brown hair. Where light would normally fall, hair is kissed with slightly lighter cinnamon shades for a vibrant effect.

Chocolate Brown Lob With Subtle Highlights

Instagram / @hairbykatlin

#2: Beachy Caramel Balayage

Tousled caramel-tipped locks are a great way to rock subtle balayage blonde without going bleach crazy. No matter how dark your hair is, taking it to blonde requires lightening. If your hair is already warm, incorporate some caramel highlights and even go blonde at the very tips for a beachy, natural vibe.

Medium Shag With Blonde Balayage

Instagram / @soraverly

#3: Brunette with Subtle Highlights

Employing the balayage technique with just a shade lighter than your own hair is not only subtle but soft, pretty, and easy to maintain. You won’t be heading to the salon too often with this easy breezy style.

Balayaged Layers For Thick Hair

Instagram / @petermenezes

#4: Subtle Ash Balayage

Ash tones are all the rage in hair coloring these days. Transform your brunette or even blonde hair with a cooler silver, more muted tone.

Ash Blonde Balayage For Long Hair

Instagram / @anthonyholguin

#5: Subtle Chocolate Balayage

Richness and depth is what balayage is all about. At first glance, its hard to tell that this hair is even highlighted. However, you can see delicate brushes on the edges of some strands, giving this woman stunning subtle balayage hair.

Silky Waves With Caramel Highlights

Instagram / @hairluvbytiffany

#6: Tonal Strawberry Blonde Balayage

While red hair is naturally warm, incorporating highlighting techniques turns simple red into dimensional balayage beauty. Here lighter, more blonde highlights are painted on, especially framing the face to brighten this strawberry blonde.

Ginger Lob With Bareley There Highlights

Instagram / @prettylittleombre

#7: Brunette with Blonde Tips

If you’ve wanted to go full blonde but aren’t willing to bear the commitment, take tonal ash brown hair a few shades lighter with blonde highlights . Focus on the ends of hair but don’t forget to streak through from the top of the head for a natural look.

Long Layers With Dirty Blonde Balayage

Instagram / @brandynolanhair

#8: Red Balayage on Dark Hair

Dusting the tips of sleek black hair with a vibrant red or purple hue may sound a bit harsh, but in reality it’s nothing short of striking and chic. By free-handing this subtle balayage hair technique, the reddish purple hue is blended with your natural, dark hair.

#9: Dimensional Copper Balayage

Enjoy the richness of this highlighting technique by brightening up dark brown hair with light copper balayage. The focus here is not the tips of the hair but rather where the light would naturally catch.

#10: Dark Roots with Honey Balayage

Shorter styles like a bob or a lob bring out the fun balayage was always meant to have. These styles read more playful and spunky and give off a lighter appearance than longer hair with colorful tips would. Bump up your natural hue by lightening the ends one or two shades, or you can take things a bit more drastic by taking nearly black roots dusted with light brown tips.

Wavy Bob With Honey Blonde Babylights

Instagram / @hairbynoora

#11: Light Brown Balayage

A great subtle brunette balayage involves an ombre technique. Focus the lighter tone on the ends of the hair and around the face for fresh look that is great for curly hair.

Finger Waves And Soft Balayage

Instagram / @ulissessj

#12: Dark Gray With Violet Balayage

Gray and violet are both on-trend hair colors. In the right shade, they can blend together perfectly for a modern, edgy appearance.

Messy Bob With Purple Streaks

Instagram / @angelkosio

#13: Brown with Auburn Balayage 

Auburn highlights freshen up dark shades of brown beautifully. If you have reddish undertones to your natural color, play them up with warm auburn balayage.

Chestnut Hair And Copper Balayage

Instagram / @nataliakop

#14: Tonal Ash Brown Balayage

Unlike other ash subtle brunette balayage styles, this color scheme stays within the same tone instead of transitioning into an ashy brown with blonde highlights. A totally ash brown balayage stays within the exact same tone and color range and only strays a shade or two away from the color at the roots, for a perfectly sun faded and subtly grown out look.

Long Hair With Ash Gray Coloring

Instagram / @hairbyamberjoy

#15: Perfectly Peach Balayage

If you’re looking for a bright or jewel-toned color for your hair, consider a incorporating highlights to add dimension to an otherwise flat scheme. This playful color palette lets you incorporate a popular trend in a unique way.

Rose Gold Balayege For Blonde Hair

Instagram / @maeipaint

#16: Soft Honey Highlights

A light brown with blonde and honey colored highlights gives you the best of both worlds: a pretty brunette base with the sunkissed glow of bleached out blonde hair! Don’t focus on any pattern when adding in subtle blonde highlights.

Side Swept Lob Woth Blonde Balayage

Instagram / @hairbynoora

#17: Rose Gold Balayage

Rose gold is a huge highlighting trend. Freshen it up with some blonde subtle balayage streaks. The contrast of lighter highlights against a darker, rosy base is rich and interesting.

Red Waves And Multi Colored Highlights

Instagram / @hairbycrista

#18: Dark Brown to Ash Brown Balayage

Long bobs may be shorter, but you have more to work with in terms of spunk! Take on the ash tone trend and lighten up some darker brown with this tone at the tips.

A Line Lob With Gray Balayage

Instagram / @susan.aw

#19: Subtle Deep Red Balayage

Play up a pretty lob with highlights in a deeper, reddish shade that are perfect for any season. Take basic black hair to a new level with this added dimension.

Shaggy Lob With Center Part

Instagram / @mizzchoi

#20: Playful Purple Highlights

Rich purple highlights make great contrast with jet black hair. Pulling off a style like is easy with beautiful Asian hair thanks to the blank canvas the dark, straight hair provides. This subtle balayage reads very well done with a hint of fun.

Blunt Bob With Purple Balayage

Instagram / @off7thsalon

The beauty of balayage is not only in the variety of tones and shades it can work with but also its versatility. Highlights can be placed anywhere your hair needs and with any technique you desire. Add a few streaks for that coveted subtle balayage that gives a natural, lightened effect that comes off as truly effortless.