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Balayage vs. Ombre: Which Hair Coloring Technique Is Right for You?

Balayage vs. Ombre
Balayage vs. Ombre

Balayage vs. Ombre

I first experimented with hair colour nearly ten years ago with thick, blonde streaks in my naturally dark brown hair. I wouldn't call it my best look. A string of highlighting disasters followed over the next few years: caramel highlights fading into an unnatural red-ish hue, my blonde money pieces turned an artificial white from excessive sun exposure, and my hair increasing so that it left me with a harsh ring of colour about two inches below its roots.

I tried every technique in the book, from balayage to ombre to baby lights, to reach great hair (which I now have). I experienced pronounced and, at times, life-altering differences from my boyfriends-of-the-moment, whereas they were always subtle to them. Instead of playing on my phone while a stylist slapped some dye on my hair and hoping for the best, I had to learn what was being done to my hair.

What has been my biggest lesson in hair colouring? Here is what separates balayage from ombre and why they're not necessarily close competitors. The pros of Justin Toves-Vincilione, glendale americana Cody Renegar, and Harry Josh explain everything you need to know about balayage and ombré.

What Is Balayage?

It is a hair colour technique where the stylist strategically hand-paints the colour directly on the hair to produce a more natural, blended, lived-in result, says Renegar. Generally, the French technique emphasizes the top layer of hair to create a semi-gradient effect, making it possible to transition from dark to light naturally. According to all three experts, balayage results are more natural-looking than traditional highlights.

Soft highlights and darker natural strands create this dynamic look. Thin hair can even benefit from it since it can make it appear thicker.When it comes to sweep, longevity is a significant advantage. Toves-Vincilione describes how hand-painted applications and blending create lasting dimensions. Any new hair growth blends in seamlessly since the colour isn't directly on the scalp.

The highlights grow out evenly without harsh colour separations as hair grows on top of the first layer. Therefore, it doesn't damage the hair as much and is relatively low maintenance.

In addition to its customizable nature, Balayage also has a lot to offer. In addition to blending unwanted hair colours, Toves-Vincilione says it can also illuminate dull areas.

It takes an expert to perform Balayage properly despite its many benefits. In addition, Josh warns about the dangers of balayage touch-ups. Toves-Vincilione and Renegar note that balayage takes several sessions to achieve your desired look.

In open-air balayage, the lift is slower than in traditional highlighting methods, so it may take two or three sessions to make things come to life how you want them to. According to Toves-Vincilione, balayage doesn't look as flattering on haircuts with many layers due to the limitations of the technique. Astute stylists would, however, suggest this or another method in this case.

Balayage comes with a few cons; you might call it hair colouring with a laissez-faire attitude, other than finding a well-trained and trustworthy professional.

Ombré: What Is It?

Ombre is more of an effect than a technique. Ombre hair is characterized by a colour gradient from dark roots to medium in the middle, then becomes lighter at the ends. According to Renegar, this results in hair that is dramatically different at its roots and ends. The colour of the hair changes from darker at the roots to blonde down the length, creating lived-in results that mimic hair's natural colour change in the summer.

In particular, blondes who want to incorporate more blonde into their hair but may need a skin tone that complements those lighter hues or who want to experiment with colour without being overly dramatic will benefit from the effect. A blonde look can be achieved with ombré by keeping the dark, more natural tones near the face and lighter midshafts and ends.

According to Toves-Vincilione, maintaining ombré hair is easy because new growth blends naturally into the dark top layer. Due to minimal processing at the roots or scalp, it also has minimal hair damage (except on the ends).

Despite minimal maintenance, Josh notes that the initial process can be lengthy and uses more colour than standard highlights. Because the ends of ombré hair require bleaching, Toves-Vincilione advises against it for someone with dry or fragile hair.

The procedure is also only feasible for individuals with virgin or previously lightened hair. When you have permanent colour already in your hair, getting an ombré without damaging it is next to impossible. Yet, ombré is still a popular choice that's bold and natural-looking and doesn't require much maintenance or damage.

What Makes Them Different

Balayage and Ombre share some similarities but differ in several important ways. According to the simplest definition, balayage involves hand-painting or sweeping hair colour across the hair's surface. Meanwhile, ombré results in a dramatic, two-toned hair colour effect that's typically darker at the top and lighter at the bottom. Here, the difference in word usage is essential: Balayage refers to highlighting, whereas ombre refers to a colour change.

Josh explains that ombré is a more uniform way of changing the colour of the hair when it reaches the ends, even though both ombré and balayage can add some lightness to the hair. According to Toves-Vincilione, balayage creates natural looks and has dimension colour. A style with ombré highlights does not have any dimension between the highlights. Because of this, ombré techniques require more shade (and cause more hair damage) than balayage styles.

A balayage is sun-kissed and lived-in, whereas an ombré is more dramatic.

What to Look for in a Good One

There is usually no correct answer, so ask yourself what you want. What about something a little more subtle, natural, and dimensional? You should get a scan then. Shaded will likely work for you if you want something bolder with a gradient.

If you are having a colour consultation, you should bring inspirational pictures. A good colourist can help you determine which look will look best on you and which one is most suitable for your lifestyle and hair type.

Similar techniques

In addition, let's go over some similar techniques while we're at it.

  • Lighteners or hair colours are applied to pieces of hair before they are wrapped in foil. Highlighting falls into four categories: foil highlights, hair painting, frosting, and chunking. Using foils allows you to place highlights more precisely.

  • In contrast to highlights, lowlights are darker. The lowlights are applied evenly throughout the hair rather than lifting the natural base with a lightener or hair colour. If you're into balayage, you can even use lowlights that way.

  • In this case, babylights are very subtle and lightly applied highlights intended to mimic the look of childish, baby-blonde hair (hence the name). This excellent technique generally creates a natural-looking, radiant, and dimensional blonde hue to the hair due to its superb approach.

  • The shaded look adds dimension and subtlety to the hair by blending highlights to create a more gradual, natural transition from root to tip.

Final Thoughts

There is no right or wrong answer to "To balayage or to ombré?" Is much more, "Well, what kind of look are you going for?"?" Do your research, but don't be afraid to ask an expert for their opinions or suggestions. Incorporate regular hair masking into your routine to combat dryness and help nourish your strands.

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