Balayage vs. Ombre: What’s the difference?

Ever look in the mirror and think — “I’m ready for a whole new look”? Many of us answer the call with a fresh chop or switching up our hair color. Year after year, two of the biggest color trends are Balayage and Ombre. What’s the difference you ask? Luckily, we’re breaking it down. We’ve outlined the two french-inspired styles to help you pick the right for (the new) you.

First, a Quick French Lesson

Like most chic things, these color trends are rooted in France. Balayage (pronounced: bal-yee-ahhge) in french means “to sweep.” This technique is all about painting color on in a sweeping motion to create a gradual effect dark to light. Ombre (ohm-bray) is french for shadow. With this style your hair will start darker at the roots and look drastically lighter at the ends. Bottom line, Balayage is more of a natural progression from light to dark, while with Ombre is a more dramatic — but blended — transition. Tres chic, no? 

How They’re Applied 

For Balayage, a stylist will take sections of your hair and hand-paint the color on a few pieces at a time. This precision helps the pigment look naturally sun-kissed and give it a soft grow out.

Ombre hair starts with applying a lightener horizontally on an entire lower section of hair and then brushing it up. This technique uses bigger pieces vs. Balayage’s smaller section. Ombre is great for people who want to try something new but aren’t sure they’ll love it because it’s easy to crop dye sections if it doesn’t turn out just right. 

How it Looks 

Using Ombre on darker hair is a great way to add dimension to your locks. The color contrast adds body and is anything but dull. This is also a god-send for people who want to avoid a skunk-like effect when growing out their dark roots.

Red Ombre
Ombre by Cindy Thongrivong

Balayage will give your hair a sun-kissed highlight — with the lightest hair at your ends. Proving to be a great summer look, even if you spend more time at the office than the beach.

Balayage by David Martinez
Balayage by Mileydy Garcia

Let’s Talk Maintenance

Unlike a full-head dye job, both Ombre and Balayage are easy to maintain for long periods of time. Most people can go to the salon about every 4 months to keep these styles bright and use a purple conditioner or toner in between visits.

Armed with this intel you’re ready to refresh your hair game. Browse color-gurus and lightening pros on StyleSeat and together you can create a whole new Ombre or Balayaged you.