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Balayage Vs. Ombre: What's The Difference?

In the world of hair color, two terms that often cause confusion are "balayage" and "ombre". Both techniques produce beautiful results when done by the right hair stylist but they're distinctly different from each other and traditional highlights. Let's dive into the details to understand these differences and help you decide which one might suit your style preferences best.

Balayage Explained

Before we delve into what the balayage technique is, let's clear up a common misconception. Balayage isn't a look, it's a technique used by stylists to apply color to hair. The same as foil highlights are a technique and not a look but balayage hair color is a much more subtle version to enhance your natural hair color.

Originating from the French term for "sweep", it refers to the freehand painting of color onto sections of hair. This hair coloring technique gradually saturates the color from roots to ends, creating a natural-looking, sun-kissed effect. Unlike other methods, balayage does not typically involve foils or meche.

Types of Hair Suited for Balayage

Balayage technique is a versatile technique that can be adapted to suit a wide array of hair types. It works exceptionally well on long, layered hair as the freehand painting technique allows for a natural transition of color along the layers, adding depth and dimension. However, it's not just limited to long hair; even those with shorter styles like a bob can enjoy the benefits of this technique, with the natural colors adding texture and visual interest to the cut.

For curly-haired women, balayage can enhance the natural curl pattern by adding lighter color and shadow throughout the hair. It's also perfect for those who have never colored their natural hair color before, as it offers a subtle change rather than a dramatic transformation.

One key thing to note is that balayage works best on virgin hair or hair that's only been colored a few shades off its natural state, as the purpose of balayage hair color is to enhance and enrich the natural hair color rather than overhaul it completely.

Pros and Cons of Balayage

Pros of Balayage:

  • Low Maintenance: Since balayage highlights are hand-painted and start away from the roots, the regrowth is less noticeable which means you can go longer between hair stylist visits.

  • Natural-Looking Results: The freehand technique of balayage allows for a soft and natural gradation of lightness towards the ends, giving you a sun-kissed, natural look.

  • Suitable for Various Hair Types: Whether your hair is curly, straight, long, or short, balayage can be tailored to suit your hair type, enhancing natural characteristics.

  • Less Damage: Compared to other techniques that use foils, balayage is less damaging to your hair because it doesn’t saturate the entire strand with color.

Cons of Balayage:

  • Can be Pricey: Depending on the stylist’s experience and the complexity of the desired effect, balayage can be a bit costly upfront.

  • Not Ideal for Gray Coverage: If you're looking to cover up a lot of grays, balayage may not be the best choice as it's designed to add highlights rather than full coverage.

  • Results Depend on Stylist's Skills: The outcome of a balayage treatment largely depends on the skills of the stylist, as it requires a good eye and a steady hand to get the color placement just right.

Ombre Explained

Unlike balayage, ombre is not a technique but a gradient of color. The term ombre comes from the French word for "shadow", and it involves a fading of color from dark color at the roots to lighter at the ends. Ombre can be dramatic or subtle, and requires minimal upkeep. Although the initial process of these hair color techniques can be lengthy, the low maintenance and striking appearance make it a popular choice.

Types of Hair Suited for Ombre

Much like balayage, ombre is suitable for all hair types. It works well on both short and long hair, and the extent of the gradient can be adjusted to suit individual preferences. It can be great with brunette hair, blonde hair, brassy hair or any hair with the right inspiration to present your ombre hairstyle to your licensed hair stylist.

Pros and Cons of Ombre

Pros of Ombre:

  • Dramatic Effect: Ombre is known for its bold, dramatic effect that truly stands out, making it a great choice if you love making a statement with your hair.

  • Low Maintenance: Like balayage, ombre is a relatively low-maintenance option. Since the roots remain untouched during the coloring process, you won’t have to worry about frequent salon visits for touch-ups.

  • Versatility: Ombre works on a variety of hair lengths and textures and can be customized to suit your personal style, whether you prefer a subtle or a stark transition.

  • Less Damage to Roots: Since the roots of your hair are left natural in an ombre, there’s less risk of damage or dryness to your new growth.

Cons of Ombre:

  • Can be Costly: Achieving the perfect ombre look can be expensive, as it often requires several rounds of lightening to achieve the desired level of color fading.

  • Potential for Damage: Depending on your hair type and condition, the lightening process necessary for ombre can cause some damage to your hair, especially at the ends where the lightening is most intense.

  • Requires Skilled Stylist: Getting a beautiful fade that looks natural and not like a harsh color block requires a skilled colorist. Not every stylist has experience with this technique, so it's important to do your research.

  • Not Ideal for Certain Hair Colors: For people with very light-colored hair, achieving a noticeable ombre effect without going into extreme shades can be challenging.

Hair Maintenance Tips After Getting a Balayage or Ombre Hair Color Treatment

Regardless of whether you opt for balayage or ombre, maintaining your new hair color is crucial. With the right care and attention, you can enjoy vibrant, healthy-looking hair for longer. Here are some tips to help you maintain your new color:

  • Use Color-Safe Shampoo and Conditioner: To help preserve the vibrancy of your color, use a shampoo and conditioner specifically designed for color-treated hair.

  • Avoid Frequent Washing: Over-washing can strip hair of its natural oils, causing the color to fade faster. Try washing your hair every other day or every third day instead for the most healthy hair.

  • Get Regular Touch-Ups: Whether you go for balayage or ombre, regular touch-ups will help keep your color looking fresh and prevent any noticeable regrowth.

  • Sun Protection is a MUST: UV rays can dull and fade hair color, so protect your locks with a hat or scarf when spending prolonged time in the sun.

  • Use Heat Protectant Products: If you use heat styling tools, such as blow dryers and flat irons, make sure to apply a heat protectant product beforehand to prevent damage and color fading.

  • Deep Condition Regularly: Coloring can be harsh on your hair, so it's important to replenish moisture regularly with deep conditioning treatments. If you want silky hair deep conditioning is highly recommended.

Professional Cuts, Trims, Treatments to Maintain Color Vibrancy

On top of at-home care, regular visits to the salon for trims, cuts, and treatments can help maintain color vibrancy. Regular trims prevent split ends and maintain the overall shape of your hairstyle. Consider protein treatments to strengthen and nourish the hair after the coloring process, and ask your stylist about color-refreshing treatments and glosses to enhance and revive the color.


At Twisted Scissors Salon, we aim to simplify the difference between balayage and ombre selection process for our clients. Our highly skilled stylists will guide you through the various techniques, showcasing a variety of examples to help you visualize your potential transformation. We serve a wide range of clientele from all towns nearby including Burnt Hills, Ballston Lake, Saratoga, Latham, Clifton Park, and Schenectady.

So, no matter where you're coming from, you'll receive the same high-quality service and expertise. Don't let the abundance of choices deter you from achieving your dream hair color. Instead, call us today for a personalized consultation and let's embark on this hair journey together. We're excited to help you reveal your best self through the power of exceptional hair color.

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