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Balayage and Ombre

Whether you are looking for something new for your hair or trying to recreate a favorite color from the past few years, you have probably considered both ombre and balayage coloring techniques.  Both looks are fashion-forward, add dimension and movement to your hair, and are easier to maintain than single-color techniques or traditional highlighting foils.  Depending on your color pallet, they can even create a similar color palette.  However, there are differences in the two techniques.  Read on to find out more.


Ombre hair has been on-trend for years and it is expected to keep going strong.  The word ombre means shaded or shading and, in hair, it refers to hair going from dark to light.  Usually, we think of this as hair going from dark at the roots to lighter at the ends, but it can also be light at the roots and darker at the ends.  The shading can be gradual, with hair only changing a few tones along its gradient, or it can show a dramatic color shift.  The most dramatic ombres shift completely from black to white or feature a rainbow shift in the hair. 

While the hallmark of ombre hair is that the color changes vertically, you do not want a striped look.  Subtle ombre styles can look like hair that is gradually lightened towards the ends, as if lightened by exposure to the sun.  Even dramatic ombre styles carry darker color down and lighter color up, breaking up the lines of demarcation and creating a beautiful shading of colors rather than a sharp demarcation line. 

The technique I choose may vary depending on your hair texture, length, starting condition, and your desired outcome, and for maintenance I will use a root shadow or color melt approach to continue the faded appearance, while also giving you low maintenance color. 

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If ombre is hot among hair trends, balayage is a five-alarm fire!  People often think of balayage as a result, but the word is actually derived from the French word “balayer,” which means to sweep.  It is an application technique where color is swept, or painted, onto the hair.  When done properly, the result is more natural looking highlights or lowlights that give the same intermittent brightness of a classic foil highlight approach, but in a way that looks more natural and sun-kissed.     

Balayage is so popular for several reasons.  If used on a natural base color, it may be the lowest-maintenance hair color technique ever.  The highlights are going to mimic what the sun would do, so even if you let them grow out without getting color maintenance done, you should have a natural look.  It is fully customizable.  I can look at your hair texture, your face shape, your skin tone, and the pattern of your hair and color paint the exact areas that are going to add the best dimension and pop to your appearance, bring attention to your best features, and help detract from features you don’t love. 

Because of the approach, balayage is not usually used for dramatic color differences, but I can combine it with other techniques if you are looking to add even more lightness and movement to your hair.  You can also choose balayage over a single process color, which results in a more natural look in a shade other than your own, but you do lose some of the easy maintenance benefits of balayage.

Balayage vs. Ombre:
Which one is right for you?

Trying to decide whether balayage or ombre is right for you? Generally, I will tell you that if you are looking for a dramatic appearance that changes several tones over the length of the hair, you are probably looking for ombre, and if you are looking for a more subtle appearance that looks like sun-kissed highlights along the length of your hair, you are looking for balayage. 

That said, every stylist knows that what one client thinks of as subtle is a dramatic look to another client.  I want you to have hair you love.  That’s why I encourage clients to bring in pics of the look they want to achieve, and why I ask plenty of questions before starting your color.  Whether you are looking for a dramatic ombre, a subtle balayage like Blake Lively, or a look that is somewhere in between the two, I can give you the look you want.