Balayage vs Ombre: What Is the Difference?

Looking to show your locks some love?

If you want to cause hair envy, it may be time to head to the salon for a specialized color treatment.

Women spend an average of $80 to $120 per month on their hair. So you want to make sure you’re getting exactly what you paid for.

Hair coloring techniques will give you lustrous shine, soft texture, and flawless color. But if you’re looking to match those celebrity-esque pins and posts you see online, Balayage and Ombre are the hair services you seek.

Before booking your salon appointment, it’s important to know which of these techniques will be best for your look.

So Balayage vs Ombre, what’s the real difference?

The Look

Are you going for soft and sunkissed or bold and color-blocked?

Both of these color techniques take professional skill and look chic with short or long hair. But they use different application methods, resulting in different looks for your locks.

What Is Balayage?

If you’re looking for a more natural look, then you want Balayage. The final color of your hair will be a few shades lighter than your roots. This achieves the look of soft and natural highlights straight from the sun.

Much of the bottom of your hair will remain untouched by color. As your natural color shows through, it will further add dimension to your hair.

It may seem like a new technique but it’s actually been around since the 1970’s. Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez, and Blake Lively are a few celeb favorites who rock Balayage.

What Is Ombre?

Ombre is a bit bolder than its Balayage cousin. It creates a sharper contrast between your roots and the rest of your hair. Your color starts dark at the roots, grows medium, and ends in a lighter shade.

Unlike Balayage, the bottom half of your hair will be saturated with color. With Ombre, there will be a fade line where your natural color turns lighter. Your hair will show off the transition to your desired color change.

When comparing Balayage vs Ombre side by side, Ombre’s color change will be more noticeable and dramatic. Emily Blunt, Kate Beckinsale, and Kim K have all dabbled in Ombre styles.

Don’t confuse Ombre with dye-dipping. Dye-dipping will have a hard, noticeable line that divides the new color and your original hair. The Ombre look still has a nice blend between your natural color and the new color shade.

The Application

It’s not possible to have Ombre without first having Balayage. It may sound confusing but think of Ombre as being another step after Balayage. It requires more saturation to make more of a statement.

The Balayage Process

The Balayage technique involves sweeping or painting color onto the surface of the hair. The colorist works in sections, moving up and down the hair.

So what’s the difference between Balayage vs natural highlights?

Balayage is free-hand and doesn’t saturate your strands. It’s more about working from the bottom to the top, rather than applying color all around your roots. Some stylists will use foils to achieve a brighter Balayage, rather than a stronger bleach.

Flamboyage is a variation, which uses more saturated color for lighter results.

The Ombre Process

The Ombre technique uses more saturation. This results in the top half of your hair staying dark, while the entire bottom half lightens to your desired shade. The colorist works horizontal, moving across your hair.

This process also involves a bit of blending, to break up the horizontal line between colors. The middle of your hair should show a gradual blend between old and new colors.

If you’re worried about having too harsh a line between colors, try Sombre. It’s more subtle and requires less maintenance. The color gets applied higher up on your hair shaft than traditional Ombre.

The Style

Before selecting one or the other, you may want to think about how you style your hair.

As shown on Instagram and Pinterest, most hair models wear a soft curl or wave in their tresses. This breaks up the different hair colors and adds depth.

Pay attention to your ponytail. If you always wear your hair up, Ombre will show dark roots and a light pony. Balayage will look more natural as the lightened color breaks up your roots more.

If you use a hair straightening brush or flat iron, it will also make Ombre’s color contrast more noticeable.

The Upkeep

The beauty of Balayage and Ombre is that they involve less maintenance. They have a longer and more expensive process, but it’s worth it in the long run. Both techniques look great as they grow out, leaving more time between salon appointments.

For Balayage, plan to be at the salon for about an hour and a half to two hours. You can go about 4 months before you’ll need a touch-up.

Ombre will take about the same salon time as Balayage. But you can stretch salon appointments about 6 months. Some styles can even go a year between salon visits.

Note that Ombre can take more than one process to get the exact look you want. If you are going for a drastic change (a.k.a fire engine red), it may be best to start subtle then work up to the desired color.

The Secret to Long-Lasting Hair Color

It’s as simple as keeping your hair healthy.

Prevent damage to your hair by conditioning and protecting from sun damage. Use natural hair care products that are gentle on color treated hair. Wash with a sulfate free shampoo to keep locks shiny and strong.

What to Know Before You Go

Before booking your hair appointment, make sure you’ve settled the Balayage vs Ombre debate and decided on a look. As this hair salon would tell you, it helps to first have a consultation to discuss desired color, texture, and any additional hair treatments that could affect the process.

Be sure to bring pictures to share with your stylist. This will help them pick the right color. They can give you an idea of whether you will need additional processes.

Balayage vs Ombre, Which Is Best for You?

So, which wins in the Balayage vs Ombre battle? Both will leave your locks beautiful, multi-dimensional and Insta-worthy.

It all depends on the look you want to achieve and the level of maintenance you are comfortable with.

To get you inspired, here are a few quick and easy hairstyles that go great with either look.