Balayage vs. Ombre: What's the difference?

This is one of the most common questions that I get asked about quite frequently in the salon- (other than how to pronounce "BA-LAY-AGE").

Today I'm here to break down the difference between these two looks/techniques so that you can have a better understanding of what to ask for in the salon!

First, I want to start by saying that balayage and ombre are not the same thing. Balayage is actually a technique, while ombre is a specific look. Balayage can be used as one of the many techniques to create an ombre look, but they do not have interchangeable meanings.

Balayage is a French word that literally means "sweeping". This is in reference to how the hair is painted. It is a blended, hand painted technique that is applied to the hair with a brush in a sweeping motion. Since the hair is only painted on the surface of the strands, the look created with balayage is typically more sunkissed, blended and natural.

Contrary to popular belief, balayage is not new. It was created in Paris, France in the early 1970s before it was more recently adapted in the U.S. Balayage has become widely popular in recent years because it is a lower maintenance color option. The results are a soft look with no hard lines of demarcation, which when done correctly allows for a beautifully blended grow out. I often have clients who tell me that they love it even more as it grows out because they enjoy the depthy "rooted" look. You can even go longer in between color visits which makes it a great option for today's busy lifestyles.

Balayage is also a more advanced technique that requires extensive education that most stylists do not receive through their initial training. It requires an artist with a well trained eye to know where to paint, how heavy to paint and proper saturation. Placement and movement of the hair are both huge factors that the balayage artist must consider while hand selecting pieces to paint. It takes years of practice to master the art of hair painting and no two applications are ever the same! My favorite part about balayage is that it is completely customizable to each person and it is a useful technique to create a myriad of different colors and looks!

Ombre is also a French word meaning "shadow". It refers to the color of the hair transitioning

from dark to light. The different hues in the hair melt together to create gradient effect from scalp to ends. Typically it is a more dramatic look but can also be a more subtle contrast known as "Sombre". Ombre also sometimes known as a "Color Melt" which is when shades from different color families melt together.

There are a few techniques that are often used to create an ombre look such as Foilayage, Teasy Lights, or Root Shadow, but Balayage is used most commonly or in conjunction with the other mentioned techniques. The use of multiple different tones is key when creating this gradient look so that it transitions seamlessly and there are no start/stop points. I have found in my own experience that it often requires at least three or more different shades to create a perfectly blended ombre look. The most important factor is the "mid tone" or the tone(s) that blend the darkest shade to the lightest. Creating that melted look relies heavily on the color that blends the dark to the light.

Since ombre looks often use several advanced techniques in order to achieve a seamless shadowed effect, it can require multiple salon visits to create the desired end result. However, just like balayage, ombre has a low upkeep regimen and also does not require frequent salon visits to maintain.

I hope that helps you to have a better grasp on what these two terms mean and have clearer picture of what they are! Would you be interested in a blog post on the difference between balayage highlights and foils highlights? I wonder if I showed you some photos of both if you'd be able to tell which is which?? Let me know if you'd like to see that in the comments below!

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