If you’re ready to change your hair color and can’t decide between Balayage and Ombre – well, because, you don’t know the difference between the two – don’t’ worry, you’re not alone!

You’ve probably heard the terms Balayage and Ombre thrown around and wondered, “What’s the difference?” Both refer to hair coloring methods. In essence, it’s about technique, time and subtle coloring. Here are the essential elements and some tips to determining which one will look better on you!

Both Balayage and Ombre allow for darker (often the natural hair color) at the roots with lighter color towards the ends. This mimics the sun-kissed looks where highlights show up in hair, the way that young kids’ hair reacts to summers at the pool.

Both ombre and balayage are French terms and they were both invented and named in France.

What is Ombre?

Ombre means “shadow”. Ombre is defined by dark hair at the top of the hair by the crown and often to the horizontal line where the ears are, but sometimes higher, sometimes lower. Below the dark line, hair is bleached or even lightened and colored (if you’re looking for the vibrant color scheme.)

Ombre can be a combination of any too colors, like two vibrant colors or any dark color towards the top.

There are variations on ombre. Sombre, is a “softer” ombre, with a more muted line between the two colors. Another technique is called color melting, which requires using multiple colors (at least three) along the strands, which creates complexity and/or subtlety, depending on what kind of look you are trying to achieve.

What is Balayage?

Balayage means “swept”.  This sweeping refers to the way that color is swept or painted along the hair. Balayage color treatments involve sweeping the lighter colors (the highlights) from the roots to the ends, applying less color at the crown and lots of lighter color at the ends. The underside of the hair is typically left its natural color, although complicated color treatment can also address the underside of the hair, if the budget allows!

How to choose between Balayage and Ombre:

Your hair length: Ombre is best utilized with mid-length hair. Balayage can be used for mid-length and long hair.

Your natural hair color: Balayage is not a perfect system if you have ebony or super dark brunette hair.

Your desired look: Ombre is the more radical look of the two with a clear demarcation of color. There’s no denying that a color treatment has occurred, and you just own it!

Balayage can look a touch more natural with more of that sun-kissed look. There is no place where the lightening starts, as it’s all over the hair, swept in various patterns. A version of Balayage is foilayage, which refers to the foil wrapping used to create areas of color, as opposed to solely sweeping or painting. Foilayage is often used to implement more extreme color, particularly platinum, white and vivid coloration.

Your budget: Ombre doesn’t require immediate touch-up treatment. As your hair grows, the line between the two hair colors will move further down your hair. However, the lightened section will need to be serviced as the color fades. Balayage, however, is more subtle and will need to be retouched more often as your hair grows.

Balayage is the more expensive treatment of the two, which could explain why it’s another status symbol among celebrities and their wannabes.


Both Balayage and Ombre offer depth and beauty as they can emphasize the different colors that your hair already has or create these distinctions in either a natural or vivid way.

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