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The Difference Between Balayage and Ombre Hair Color

Posted on January 08 2018

Even though these two French words look like similar hairstyles, these hair trends have some pretty significant differences. Both terms represent a gradient-like transition of color on hair—one more dramatic and the other subtle. Learn more about these artistic color application techniques that have taken the hair-world by storm.

 

Balayage—Sun-Kissed Hair

Typically leaving 70% of natural hair color, balayage is the perfect approach to spice up your color in a low-commitment way. A good canvas for a balayage application is darker hair with one color or darker hair that has notably grown out roots. Balayage hair is usually darker towards the roots and lighter towards the bottom. It’s for the long or short-haired beauty that doesn’t have time to catch some rays at the beach to create a natural sun-glistened look. Of course, beach blondes can get balayage—just with funky colors. Many stylists even think redheads make an excellent canvas for balayage because of their natural hues’ ability to create color-shifting magic. The color combinations for balayage are endless, but there is only one—(at least correct!)—way to achieve this dimensional hair color effect.

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Seriously—don’t try this at home. A good balayage requires a good hairstylist. This no-foil technique literally uses a coloring brush to paint hair. In fact, balayage comes from the French word balayer, which means to sweep. Stylists section out triangular portions of hair and skim the top layer with the chosen color. The goal is not to be heavy-handed and only lightly saturate the parts closest to the scalp to avoid strong, streaky ribbons. Stylists then pull the brightness all the way through the tips of strands. The closer to the crown of the head, the smaller the triangular sections to condense the lightened effects creating depth. Most stylists lighten hair right behind the ears for that face-illuminating effect.

 

Ombre—A Bold Contrast

Speaking of depth, be fully aware heads will turn when sporting an ombre hairstyle. Ombre translates into English as shadow. It stands for this hairstyle because of the 3-D, jump-out-at-your-face effect. With infinite hue pairings, ombre simultaneously shows off the discreet and loud.

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Requiring a little more maintenance, stylists use foil for this color application. Because the color blend is less gradual with ombre, any hair can be a good canvas. Salon experts often use color-lifting agents to achieve the look—black and red, blonde and rose gold, dark brown and silver. Professionals use a fine tooth comb in a teasing motion to push back strands towards the scalp. Usually sorted into four sections, the color-lifter saturates the hair at different lengths. Just like balayage, lighter parts of the hairstyle surround the face. (Many experts claim this thins the face—score!) The hair strands stylists initially push up and leave out of the foils are brought back down to create that color melting effect.

 

Which Hairstyle to Choose

Balayage and ombre hairstyles have made their mark in the 2010’s. The average person and celebrity alike don’t just settle for “natural-looking” highlights or one color for their hair. Instead, an interesting progression of tints and shades is the mainstream look. As mentioned previously, balayage is more subtle, while ombre is more striking. And, if it’s too difficult to choose between the two hairstyles, there’s always sombre.

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