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Ombre Vs. Balayage: What is the Difference Between Balayage and Ombre?

November 03, 2021

Caramel Balayge
Photo Credit : @balayage.by.kass

If you're looking to change up your haircolor and can’t decide between Ombre and Balayage because, well, you don't know the difference between balayage and ombre: you are not alone. While ombre made a strong comeback in 2021, these current styles tend to be more subtle and blended than before, only adding to the confusion between ombre and balayage. Lucky for you, we've brought in a few of our Redken Artists to explain the difference and help you decide which is right for you. Marie-Eve FaucherJaclyn Harwood and Twylla Jane are here to help you decode what you actually want to ask your stylist for. Read on for their insight into the ultimate match up: ombre vs. balayage.

What is Balayage?

Blonde Ombre
Photo Credit : @ericmichaelhair

Balayage is a hair color technique that creates a natural, subtle highlight effect. Originating from the French word term "to sweep," Balayage (pronounced "baa-lee-ahge") speaks to the way the color is applied. With this technique, the color is hand-painted onto the hair, creating a more graduated, natural effect with the same gorgeous dimension and color from traditional highlights. While highlights typically require foils, the painting technique allows the transitions between dark and light colors to be much longer and more natural looking than stripy highlights.


What is Ombre?

@marieevefaucher brunette ombre
Photo Credit : @marieevefaucher

Ombre is a dramatic color effect where hair is split into two contrasting color sections and gradually blended from one hue to the other. Also with French origins, the word ombre means "to shade." Typically the darker shade is at the top and the lighter shade on bottom, but some prefer the opposite effect (this is called reverse ombre!). This gradation of color primarily affects the ends of hair, with the transition from the roots to light ends being pretty short. 


So what is the difference between balayage and ombre?

Ombre VS Balayage Infographic

In short, balayage is a technique for applying color and ombre is more of a style or effect.

We asked Twylla Jane to break down the technique between both to help further differentiate. “Ombre is typically done with lightener being placed horizontally with full saturation of the section and is then blended upward to diffuse the line. Balayage takes smaller sectioning, where color will be painted onto the surface of the hair,” she explains. So while ombre is more of a horizontal placement, Balayage is more vertical.

The good news is both result in a pretty low maintenance routine, since the haircolor placement is not strict but done in gradual (for Ombre) or sweeping (for Balayage) placement. Regular foil highlights, for example, require more regular visits to the salon. However, it will cost you. Getting the actual service done and achieving the result you’re looking for can be expensive, but do keep in mind the final look will require much less maintence! 

“Balayage and Ombre are both specialized, often times requiring a higher beauty budget and time in the salon,” Jaclyn adds. “It is a low maintenance result, but important to continue haircare treatments and consistent visits to the salon to maintain optimal color results."

What does the difference between ombre and balayage mean for me?

The good news is that anyone can try either look, depending on their desired result. The two techniques can even be used together on any desired haircolor.

Choosing which one is right for you really depends on the look you’re trying to achieve. Whether you’re looking for a blonde, brunette, red, rose gold or vivid colors, your artist should be able to work with you on either technique to create what the color effect you’re going for. 

For a more natural, subtle look you might prefer balayage, but talk to your stylist about your desired end result. “The creative possibilities are endless,” Jaclyn says. 

Depending on how much you’re changing your hair can also determine how many times you might need the processes done at the get go. For example, if you’re looking to lift your natural color to a much lighter state, your stylist will probably need to work on achieving your desired color over a few visits. “It takes time and is not guaranteed that your hair will lift that much in one visit,” she says. “A slower lift is a safer lift.”

How can I make my ombre or balayage last?

Keeping your hair protected during ombre or balayage is vital for achieving and maintaining the color. When your hair is colored in any way, whether it’s lifted to a brighter color or altered to a darker one, it changes the pH balance of your scalp. You should talk to your stylist about what’s best to keep your hair feeling and looking healthy. Our Acidic Bonding Concentrate treatment is a must-have after lightening services, rebalancing the pH of your hair and strengthens weakened bonds. Ask you stylist if they have the treatment in stock and be sure to stock up at home! Twylla also recommends asking your stylist about the Color Extend Care line if you're treating your hair with Ombre, Balayage or both!

Need More Hair Inspiration?

For more styling inspiration, check out @Redken on Instagram and explore our lookbook for more inspo!

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