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Your Questions, Answered: What is the Difference Between Ombré and Balayage?

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

Decoding the difference between two of the most popular hair color techniques.

Ombré and Balayage are two of the most in-demand and requested hair color looks that we create at Leilani Artistry Studio. These trendy techniques are popular because they look great and offer a low maintenance lightening option, unlike traditional highlights. Even better, Ombré and Balayage regrowth looks natural and subtle, rather than the traditionally harsh look we associate with highlighted hair regrowth (we've all had that dark stripe down the center of our heads at one point or another!) 

It seems the two terms are being used interchangeably, but there is a difference between Ombré and Balayage, and knowing which is which will help you to communicate to your hair stylist exactly what you want. Today, I'm going to help you decode the difference between the two!

Balayage is a technique of applying hair color, coming from the French term “to sweep.” With Balayage, not all of the ends of your hair will have hair color applied. This creates a natural, sun-kissed look. 

Ombré, on the other hand, is a technique from the French meaning, "color that is shaded or graduated in tone." With an Ombré application, all of the ends of the hair have color applied, creating a more dramatic look than the subtle Balayage technique.   

Most often, Balayage is done with a free-hand painting method, without the use of foils. This hair color application technique creates a natural, done-yet-undone look. With a Balayage application, expect dark pieces of hair toward the bottom to create dimension and a more natural look. When done properly by a professional hair stylist, this technique looks like natural sun-kissed highlights throughout the hair. Balayage works really well on our clients with finer hair, because it creates a look of depth and dimension throughout the entire head.

With an Ombré application, expect a short and dramatic transition from the deeper roots to the light ends. Ombré coloring offers a more stylized, trendy final look. Ombré is like color blocking, so there won’t be any dark pieces left on the bottom. The goal with Ombré is not to look natural, but rather to look dramatic.  We LOVE the Ombré look – but it needs to be done right! Always, always, always trust a professional (like us!) to create this look for you.

Here's a quick round up:

Which technique looks more natural? 


Which technique looks more dramatic? 


Which technique requires less maintenance?


How can I prolong my Ombré or Balayage?

Keeping your hair healthy and protected with an Ombré or Balayage is vital for achieving and maintaining the color. We highly recommend adding Olaplex to your service to protect and strengthen hair during the lifting process.  When your hair is colored in any way, it changes the pH balance of your scalp. Using professional shampoo for color treated hair (our favorite is Amika Color Lock) will also help keep the longevity of your color.

Which technique is right for my hair?

The good news is that anyone can try either look, depending on their desired result. The two techniques can even be used together! Choosing which technique is right for you really depends on the look you’re trying to achieve. Whether you’re looking for a blonde, brown, red, rose gold or even vivid color look, your hair stylist should be able to work with you to create the color effect you’re going for. The creative possibilities are endless!

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