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Balayage Arrives in Women’s Bathrooms: eSalon Ventures Into Highlights

The digital hair-color provider's highlighting system called Lightlab could attract a younger demographic.

Digital hair-color specialist eSalon is putting the spotlight on highlights.

With popular balayage services often exceeding $100 at salons, it’s introducing a highlighting system called Lightlab priced at $14 to $35 that provides customers with the tools to paint highlights on their hair in the comfort of their homes. Lightlab is designed to brighten hair up to three shades in a single application.

“With our custom color, we are only able to lift one to two shades depending on where a person starts. This will give them a little lighter color that looks natural and complements their base color,” said Lani Kuramoto, vice president of brand marketing at eSalon. “This gives them the ability to build dimension into the hair, and that’s what a lot of clients have for years asked for.”

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Upon ordering Lightlab, eSalon customers receive a package with activator, lightener to combine with the activator, a toning mask, sulfate-free shampoo formulated for highlighted hair, a dual-ended comb and brush, a mixing tray and personalized instructions covering how to use the items. Videos are also available to steer them through the process of highlighting with Lightlab.

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“It’s a very comprehensive kit. We wanted to give you the full suite you would find in a salon with easy-to-follow simple solutions,” said Kuramoto, noting, “A lot of highlighting kits don’t come with much guidance, and that’s something we wanted to solve.”

Translating a service commonly handled by hair colorists to women more generally was challenging, and it took eSalon several years to finalize Lightlab. To understand how highlighting could work outside of the salon, eSalon color director Estelle Baumhauer observed people trying everything from art supply to chefs’ implements to apply the highlights, eventually settling on a comb that’s shorter than most combs with a ledge on one side to facilitate small strokes around the head and blending.

Courtney Goebel, public relations and events manager at eSalon, compared the look eSalon customers achieve with Lightlab to babylights or delicate highlights. She explained, “There are two different types of highlights. There is balayage and traditional foil. The hair, when it grows out of a foil highlight, it looks stripe-y. It is not really soft. We wanted to have something that was a bit more manageable, and it was easier to grow out for them, so they didn’t feel tied to it.”

The hope for eSalon, which generated roughly $30 million in revenues last year, is that Lightlab will draw additional purchases from existing customers largely dependent on its hair color to cover grays, while broadening its audience to customers yet to spot grays. Last year, eSalon divulged to WWD that its typical customer is a woman aged 40 to 59 with long, light-brown to black hair colored every 6.5 weeks. Highlighting doesn’t require the same commitment as color for concealing grays, and eSalon recommends customers highlight their hair with Lightlab a couple of times a year.

“We’ve had to turn away clients who had highlights and wanted a service to maintain their highlights. This will move the needle for us by giving our clients all the options we can to allow them to do what they want to do,” said Kuramoto. “Secondly, there is an opportunity for us to reach a new type of client, somebody who doesn’t necessarily use a base color on a regular basis and could be a bit younger.”