Balayage vs Ombre Hair: What is the Difference

Balayage vs Ombre hair coloring techniques – what makes these techniques so popular and how can you spot the differences?

There are many different hair color techniques, but the two that stand out the most are the balayage and ombre.

From the moment that they appeared on the scene, they have become so popular and demanded that there is no girl or a woman that so far has not tried either one of them.

balayge vs ombre hair

Different than the traditional highlights, the balayage and the ombre bring a new, fresh dose of color that is perfectly blending with the natural hair color, delivering truly an art and masterpiece look on one’s hair.

What makes these two techniques extraordinary is that they are perfect for any hair type and length, and they can be done in all color options.

So, here we are not talking about the regular brown and blonde blends, but everything from red, pink, green, and blue. Pretty cool right?

Balayage and ombre are very popular hair coloring choices among celebrities and they were the ones that have introduced these trends a few years back. Each of the coloring techniques looks really great with both straight and curly hair.

An especially popular look is the beach waves when done in each of these techniques, present the color shift most originally and cool. With the beach waves and ombre or balayage, the hair looks well-defined, textured, and sun-kissed – a look that is hard to achieve with any other coloring technique and approach.

One of the most asked questions about these two techniques is what is the real difference between balayage vs ombre, and how to choose between them? Here is everything you need to know about the balayage vs ombre hair coloring technique.

What is ombre?

Ombre comes from the French word that means shade or shadow. With that in mind, the ombre in the hair coloring industry means a dramatic, two-toned hair color effect that has darker roots with light ends.

These perfectly blended hair colors on the top and the bottom of the hair are lightened with a hair lightener.

There’s also reverse ombre which features a lighter shade on top that transitions to a darker shade at the bottom.

If you have dark roots or dark hair, the best option for you is the regular ombre if you want to go longer between regular visits and for a pretty low maintenance routine.

Balayage vs Ombre | What's the Difference

The hair lightener is placed horizontally across one region of the hair, usually near the ends. The transition is done upwards, along the hair shaft. The ombre hairstyle can be any color combination – natural blonde, brown, red, and even some strong and unexpected colors like pink, blue, green, or purple.

The look the ombre provides is versatile, unordinary, and suitable for all hair lengths, but it always looks the best for the long and medium hair lengths. It is also a common choice because it is a relatively cheap hair coloring solution and you do not have to do regular touch ups because the top section remains dark.

The overall look that comes from the ombre hair coloring technique will change as the hair grows, which is pretty great because you will always have a different look.

What kinds of ombre are there?

There are different versions of the ombre. The one, that is very popular and is a much subtler version of the classic ombre is called sombre. The main difference comes from the softer contrast that comes between the two colors. Another option is the color melting.

woman with ombre hair in jeans and white tshirt

Here, there are two or three color shades that can be used on each strand, and each shade is blended with the side of the hair color brush so that the looks are like they are melting into each other.

Just like the ombre, hair coloring can be done with similar and natural-looking color shades but also with strong and vibrant ones.

Why is ombre a good choice?

Ombre is a good and suitable choice if you want to make a statement with the look of your hair. It is a creative and adventurous way to add some colorfulness to your hair.

What is important about ombre is healthy hair, because otherwise, the colors will start to fade and the entire look will be dull.

What is balayage?

Also coming from a French term, the word balayage means sweeping. In the hairstyling world, this means doing balayage highlights that are hand-painted or swept along the surface of the hair.

Balayage hair

The balayage technique begins with an application directly from the roots and gradually becomes heavier as it comes through the ends of your hair. The ends are in a lighter shade.

Since the hair color or the lightener is concentrated on the surface of each section, the inside parts remain a darker shade. This is how you get a super beautiful, natural look.

The choice for doing a balayage is the sun-kissed look it provides to the hair. It can be done on any hair colors from blonde to red and brown hair. It looks extra stunning on medium and long hair lengths but you can still do this technique on shorter hair.

Just like the ombre, one of the best things about balayage is it’s less maintenance than an all over color and doesn’t require regular touch-ups.

What kinds of balayage are there?

The artistry of this coloring technique comes from the hand-painting technique. Because of that, there are many variations that deliver unique and beautiful looks.

Usually, several shades are combined together so that dimensional results can be achieved. For women with darker hair, foliage is also a great technique. It allows the highlights to process air after the color is applied when applied in foil, which provides more heat and adds to the lightening process.

woman with balayge hair

What is 3d balayage?

3D balayage is a coloring technique that includes the traditional balayage and makes it more multi-tonal, instead of streaky or flat. The results are different than the regular balayage because the hair is not colored with only one lighter color, but with two shades, one of which always slightly darker.

Why is balayage a good choice?

Balayage, like ombre, delivers gorgeous and natural-looking hair color. The gradual change and presence of colors deliver fabulous hairstyles that can work on every hair type and make it look livelier and more beautiful.

It’s also incredibly easy to grow out making it an excellent choice if you want a low maintenance hair color.

What is the main difference between ombre and balayage?

The major difference between ombre and balayage is the contrast of the color on the hair.

Ombre is done by placing lightener horizontally with full saturation of the section while balayage is painting the lightener on the surface of the hair and not underneath.

Ombre has a much more vivid color look while balayage is more of sun kissed look. They also use a different techniques to create the end results.

How to extend the color and make it last longer?

No matter if you have ombre or balayage, or in fact, any hair coloring treatment, maintaining the color and keeping it in good condition is essential if you want your color to last and look good. Here are some useful tips about how to care for your colored hair:

  1. Wait at least 72 hours before shampooing your hair, and this is after the time that the hair color is applied.
  2. Always use a shampoo and conditioner that are specially designed for colored hair. (And if your blonde hair gets brassy, be sure to check out this purple shampoo post!)
  3. The hair will need additional moisture, so add in a hydrating hair mask to your regular routine.
  4. Use a UV hair protection to prevent your hair from fading from the sun.
  5. When styling and blow-drying, always use heat protectant. (These 9 tips will help prevent your hair from getting damaged.)


Which is better balayage or ombré?

This is more of a personal preference but if you want to go longer between salon visits, go with the balayage! It grows out easier than ombre.

Is ombré a type of balayage?

No, ombre isn’t a type of balayage.

Is ombré hair less damaging?

Ombre is less damaging than all over color but about the same as balayage.

What is the downside of balayage?

The downside of balayage is the cost. It can be very expensive since a hair stylist need additional training for this technique. You also need to be sure you go to someone who knows what they’re doing or it can end up looking not so great!

How to pick between balayage vs ombre?

As mentioned above, the gradual and natural-looking hair comes to form the balayage, while the drama effect comes from the ombre. Both techniques are easier to grow out because the roots remain in their natural color.

With the other hair coloring techniques, the roots need a frequent touch up which can be expensive and require spending a lot of time at the hairstylist.

While ombre and balayage can deliver very similar looks, they’re quite different. For one, ombre is more of a style than a technique, and balayage is definitely a technique.

The ombre look comes with a distinction between the roots of the hair and the tips, and there is usually a horizontal line that is dividing the sections. The balayage gives the middle of the hair shaft boost in color and then brushes the color up and downward to perfectly blend it.

Both coloring processes deliver beautiful and trendy looking hair, but if they are not properly cared for, then the color will quickly fade. For those who are not coloring their hair, these two processes are very good options to brings some vibrancy to the look.

They are safe to use and create a beautiful change in the color that can rarely be seen with any other coloring technique.


  • Jen Biswas

    Jen has styled women for photo shoots, fashion shows, board meetings, work trips and most importantly, every day life! She's been hired to style many homes as well. Her aesthetic aims to make style approachable and practical, and most of all fun! She's a mom of 3 who loves frozen cookie dough, plants and a generous pour of creamer in her coffee. Her biggest joy is helping others find joy in personal style through practical tips and inspiration. She loves to share all of her styling secrets on Paisley & Sparrow! Feel free to send Jen a message or join the fun on Instagram!

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