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difference between balayage and ombre

The average woman changes her hairstyle around 150 times during her lifetime. And it’s no wonder with celebrities leading the charge on the latest hair trends each year.

A whopping 64% of women decide to change their hair is simply because they grew bored with their current style. Other reasons women change their ‘do’ has to do with milestones: birthdays, babies, breakups and new jobs.

So whatever your reason, if you want to do something different with your hair, read on. We’ll cover the difference between balayage and ombre as well as other similar techniques that are all the rage right now.

What is Balayage?

People mistakingly use the term balayage color. But balayage is not a color. Balayage is a technique hairstylists use to apply color to hair.

Balayage means “sweeping” in French. The term is aptly used for the balayage technique because hairstylists literally sweep color through the hair.

In one sense, balayage is the opposite of highlights. Instead of painting color from the root down, with balayage, color begins at the tips and feathers up to the tips.

Foil is not used in balayage. The lightener or color is applied directly to the hair.

The end result is hair that looks naturally lightened by the sun. There will be darker pieces at the bottom with a natural-looking transition of color.

To show off your hair for full impact, learn how to blow dry your hair like a pro.

What is Ombre Hair?

This term again comes from a French word. Ombre means “shadow” in French. Where balayage is the technique, ombre is the style.

You can say to your stylist that you want ombre highlights and she will know what you mean but the word highlights is not really needed. With ombre hair, your roots and top of your hair is dark and transitions to a lighter shade until the tips.

Ombre is bold and more noticeable than hair color applied with balayage. It works best on brunettes because their natural hair color is dark enough to allow for a lightening at the middle and tips.

Ombre hair does not have any dark pieces at the tips. It is a drastic color block fade from dark to light.

One of the best things about this hair color is that it is long lasting. As the hair grows, the darker section simply becomes larger. Some women find this style easy to maintain because it looks good even as it grows out (unlike highlights).

Sombre Hair

Women who want a more subtle look often opt for the sombre. It is similar to ombre hair but a tad more conservative.

Sombre hair usually keeps your roots your natural color with ends that are a shade or two lighter. The contrast between the colors is less intense.

The lighter sections typically begin higher on the head for a look that is blended and gradual.

Homebre Hair

Homebre hair is something you do not want to be accused of having. This is a term that means that a person’s hair looks like she did it herself at home.

Ombre hair is a difficult technique that should be left to the experts. Women who try to do it themselves at home with drugstore products usually don’t achieve the look they were going for.

Check out these DIY ombre hair fails to see how wrong it can turn out.

Other Similar Techniques

Besides balayage and ombre there are other hairstyles that use a blend of colors.


Many stylists are changing the way they do balyage to foilyage. The process is exactly the same as balyage except that the stylist will use foil to get the results.

This is great news for those of you with dark hair because you are able to go lighter once foils are used.

Color Melting

Color melting uses 2-3 shades on each strand of hair. All these colors are blended together as they are brushed on so that they look like they melt together.

This technique can be done with a blend of similar colors for a natural look or bright colors for a rainbow hair effect.

Hair Painting

Similar to balyage, hair painting is done freehand. In this technique, a paintbrush and palette are used. The end result is a soft, natural-looking blend of colors.

This technique does not require foil and is faster than highlights. However, you should make sure your stylist has experience with this technique. Since the stylist eyeballs where to place the lightener, it’s imperative that they know what they are doing.


Babylights like the name implies are softer and more delicate than highlights. You see this type of coloring on kids (hence the name).

If you want sun-kissed hair, babylights is how to do it. Babylights put much less hair in each foil. You won’t get anything resembling the chunky highlights that Jennifer Aniston was famous for back in her Friends days.

Instead, it will look like various individual strands of hair have been sun bleached. The look is subtle and excellent for blondes, redheads, and brunettes.

Difference Between Balayage and Ombre

We hope this post has cleared up the difference between balayage and ombre. There is always a new hair trend that is all the rage. Make sure to consider how much time you are willing to invest in maintenance before you decide on a new look.

And always consult your stylist about how much work is required to get your hair to look a certain way.

Don’t you just love the way your hair looks and feels after a visit to your hairstylist? Check out these 10 hair care tips to help maintain that salon look.

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