Balayage vs. Ombré Highlights — What’s the Difference?

by Colleen Welsch on August 15th, 2019
A blonde woman in the salon has her curly, balayage hair tousled. Balayage vs Ombre, What’s the Difference?

Are you looking for a way to change up your look without cutting your hair? Try highlights. While traditional foil highlights will always be in style, balayage and ombre highlights are still some of the most popular highlighting techniques in 2019. But balayage and ombre are not actually the same! Before you visit your colorist for some new highlights, learn the difference between balayage vs. ombre (and which one is right for you)!

What Is Balayage?

The term “balayage” (pronounced “bah-lie-AHGE””) comes from the French word “to paint.” Instead of using foils, hair colorists accomplish the balayage look by free painting highlights onto the top layer of hair.

A woman with brown, balayage hair looks over her shoulder. Balayage vs Ombre, What’s the Difference?

Since the balayage technique doesn’t limit your colorist to the rectangular shape of foil, they’re able to accomplish a subtler look that mimics the effects of natural highlights from the sun. The results are soft, dimensional highlights with movement and body. When pairing the contrast between light and dark shades with a body-boosting leave-in treatment like Viviscal Gorgeous Growth Densifying Elixir, it can actually make hair look much thicker!

We especially love balayage highlights because they’re so low-maintenance. Balayage highlights are concentrated towards the end of the hair, leaving the roots natural with no color. So as your hair grows, the look remains seamless and beautiful. That’s why balayage highlights only need to be touched up a couple of times per year. When you compare that timing to traditional highlights, which need to be touched up every six weeks or so, you can understand why so many people choose balayage hair!

The back of the head of a woman with wavy, brown, balayage hair. Balayage vs Ombre, What’s the Difference?

Also, because balayage highlights are painted on, the look is very customizable. Your colorist can create highlights to showcase your haircut or facial features. For natural-looking, sun-kissed results, ask your colorist for balayage highlights within two shades of your natural hair color.

What Is Ombré?

Ombre is another popular highlighting technique. Pronounced “om-BRAY”, the word is actually French for “shadow.” Like balayage, ombre highlights work on all hair types, hair lengths, and on virtually all natural colors.

Side view of a woman with long, curly, ombre hair. Balayage vs Ombre, What’s the Difference?

The ombre technique uses foils to create a look with dark roots that gradually lighten as they go down the strands, with the lightest part of the highlight at the end. Ombre hair should have a smooth, gradient hair color with no harsh transitions.

Ombre highlights are bolder than balayage highlights, so they can require more upkeep (though not nearly as much as traditional highlights). But since the look is bolder, it’s not necessary to choose natural shades for your ombre highlights. In addition to more traditional shades, pink, apricot and blue make fun ombre highlight colors!

Back view of a woman’s hair. It is curly, ombre hair that goes from dark brown to ice blonde. Balayage vs Ombre, What’s the Difference?

Tips for Balayage & Ombré Hair

  • You can DIY ombre or balayage highlights at home, but we don’t recommend it! These are advanced coloring techniques, so it’s smart to choose an experienced hair colorist to get them right.
  • Look at your colorist’s social media portfolio to make sure you like their technique.
  • Bring photos of the look you want to your appointment to make sure that you and your colorist are on the same page.
  • After your appointment, wait at least 24 hours before washing your hair. Then use a color-safe shampoo and conditioner whenever you wash your hair to help maintain your highlights.
  • Some highlights use bleach to lighten hair, which can damage your strands. Use a moisturizing hair mask once per week to keep hair healthy and help prevent breakage.

If you’re seeking out balayage or ombre hair as a way to make your hair look thicker, don’t forget to take your Viviscal! Viviscal hair growth supplements work from the inside, promoting thicker, fuller and healthier-looking hair in three to six months. The combination of the exclusive marine collagen complex, AminoMar™, plus key vitamins and minerals in Viviscal supplements is clinically proven to nourish thinning hair and promote existing hair growth.*

Do you prefer balayage or ombre highlights? Let us know in the comments!

Existing hair growth