The Difference Between Ombre and Balayage

November 04, 2017

The Difference Between Ombre and Balayage


You may be familiar with the names of the color techniques of Ombre and Balyage, but do you know the difference?

Let’s start with the Ombre (translation: shadow) technique. This type of color, in its’ basic application, is a solid root line of whatever color is chosen, and the balance of the color being a different color, and solid in appearance. Generally speaking the root color is darker and the balance is lighter, although it can be in reverse. It kind of looks like you’ve neglected to touch up your roots for a while, but the look lends itself to a more natural appearance. Since it starts out with a darker and longer root line, the regrowth is not as obvious as it is with other color techniques. In this way, retouching the root line is not nearly as demanding as a traditional color is.

There are ways to soften the hard line of an Ombre color, and that is with a Sombre color technique. Soft Ombre, equals Sombre. This technique involves softening the hard line of the Ombre by adding some random pieces of hair colored up to the scalp area to eliminate the hard line. This can also be achieved by using more than the colors used on the root line and the balance. This technique of using a few colors fools the eye in that it breaks up the solid root line without completely eliminating it.

This can be achieved with any number of color choices, it’s all about the creativity of the stylist, and what the client desires.

 The difference between ombre and balayage

What exactly is Balyage? (translation: sweeping). The technique of Balyage has been around for a very long time, but recently has made a resurgence in the world of hair color. Balyage is a hair painting technique which traditionally involves free-hand painting of color onto the hair without the use of foil or papers to cover or secure it. This allows for much creativity in the use of color, as it can be painted on in any custom fashion chosen by the colorist.

Balyage can also be employed by using foils, paper or plastic to separate the hair that has been colored to preserve the integrity of the color service. Sometimes a colorist will need to keep the hair that is being colored from touching the hair that is not. This might be to keep the color from drying out (as in using bleach) or simply to keep the color from bleeding onto the hair that is not to be colored. This does not diminish the artistry of the Balyage technique, it makes the service more precise. (This technique of using foil to Balyage is sometimes called Foilage).Also you could get balayage hair extensions.

Can you have an Ombre and a Balyage at the same time? Yes! These two techniques can be used together to get the look that you want. The hair is simply painted (Balyage) in a fashion that leaves the root line longer and leaves the shaft and ends in a heavier saturation of color (Ombre). As mentioned above the Sombre technique can be used as well to achieve a softer look from root line to shaft and ends. The possibilities are varied based on color, length of hair, intensity of the color pattern and more.

Balyage allows for a colorist to be quite creative in the color service. Painting is crafted individually and creatively to be customized for each and every client. More than one color can be used for a very carefree look; the root line can be softened to avoid the demand of a hard line of regrowth; the colors can be changed to suit the season and the individual client.

Another technique that has been trending in the world of hair color is Dip Dye. As the name implies, the ends of the hair are colored in a dipped look  for a fun and flirty pop of color. Any color can be used in this method, but care should be taken when pre-lightening the hair to achieve a color change. The ends of the hair are finer and can break when over exposed to lightening and color.

With this Dip Dye method, sometimes pre-lightening the hair is necessary to be able to see the end result of color, especially if the hair is dark. One way to keep the hair in better shape is to pre-lighten in the beginning, then apply the desired color. Going forward, it’s best to let that color fade, then re-apply that same color or change to a different color. This way the lightening effect on the ends of the hair is minimized.

This method of Dip Dye also allows clients to experiment with color without commitment. The ends can be cut off, or dyed back to their natural color with ease. It’s a great way to get a different look without committing to being in the salon every month for a touch up. There are many colors that can be used from pale pink to bright red, the choices are as unlimited as your imagination!


If you’re thinking of trying a Balyage and/or Ombre or Dip Dye technique, talk to your stylist about what’s right for your hair and your commitment to color. Don’t go in with expectations of what the technique will look like; each stylist has their own creative way of achieving the hair color that is right for you. Ask questions and make sure you are getting what you want, then have fun with it!