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  • Monika Knotts

Which Is Right For Me? Balayage Or Ombré

Hair color has evolved far past the definitive terms blonde, brunette, and redhead. These days, you really can have it all, in any combination and dozens of stylized placements. Balayage and ombré are two extremely popular examples of this, allowing for less maintenance because the natural root is generally left untouched. But, in this world of social media, terms like “balayage” can take on new meanings as they filter through the news feeds of the masses. So, what actually are balayage and ombré, and what’s the difference?

So What's The Difference?

Balayage is a French word that means “sweep” and refers to a technique of lightener application in which the brush is ‘swept’ on the surface of the hair to create a natural-looking highlight.

Ombré is also a technical term, referring to the process of backcombing hair, and saturating the ends that are left out with lightener so that, when the hair is combed back out after processing, there is a blend from the natural color to the lightened hair; like a gradient effect.

Generally speaking, an ombré is going to be more of a solid root color, fading into a more solid color on the ends, while balayage is more blended and natural looking, and has highlights closer to the root. So those photos on Pinterest of a black to silver “balayage” are more likely a few sessions of meticulously placed “foilayage” (another technique of creating a balayage effect with foils, where hair can be lightened more drastically because the foils are more uniform in processing) with a color melt at the end.


As a stylist, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that these terms that were originally used by stylists to describe techniques have taken on a meaning of their own. The world is confusing enough, there’s no need to be nit-picky with terminology. The important thing is, when someone sits in my chair and shows me their inspiration photos, I am able to determine the best method to achieve that for them.

It is to be noted, though, that some of these methods vary in timing (that black-to-silver look ain’t happening in 2 hours babe), so a consultation is always recommended to make sure we have the time we need.

So feel free to save those Pinterest photos, and I’ll mix some bleach, and we can balay-foil-bre ourselves all the way to our hair goals!

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