Ombre vs Balayage The Difference Between Ombre and Balayage


Balayage vs Ombre: The Difference Between Ombre and Balayage

You know that you want to use a modern hair coloring technique to highlight your hair in a way that’s trendy and flattering, but how do you know what style to choose? Balayage and ombre are the two most popular hair coloring techniques right now, and while we’ve all heard of them, sometimes it can be tricky to figure out the difference between them. Since the last thing you want to do is walk into a hair salon without being sure what you’re asking for, we’re breaking down the difference between balayage and ombre styles, and giving you the details on some of this year’s other hot hair coloring trends.

1All About Ombre | What Is Ombre?

From the French term meaning “shaded”, ombre is used to describe the blending of one color into another. Ombre color isn’t just popular in hairstyles, and can be seen on fabrics, fingernails, and shades of lipstick. In the world of hair, ombre refers to a style that’s one color at the roots and a different (usually lighter) color at the ends. This technique can begin at different heights along the hair shaft and exists with pretty much any combination of shades, but if the entire head of hair is one color at the roots and another color at the ends, you’re looking at an ombre hairstyle.

2Balayage Basics | Balayage Meaning

Also a French word, balayage means “to sweep”, and refers to the sweeping or painting on process used to apply balayage highlights. By sweeping color through small, usually triangular sections of hair, a balayage style adds lighter color to only some pieces of hair. The resulting style still features highlights throughout the ends of hair, but unlike ombre some pieces of hair are still darker at the ends. Balayage tends to look more natural than ombre, often creating a look that’s described as sunkissed.

3High Blonde Ombre

There’s lots of room for variation depending on how close to the roots your ombre color begins. Starting lower down generally creates a more subtle look, while ombre closer to the roots can have a big impact on your overall style. Be sure to consider your skin tone when choosing your shade for a high ombre style, as color that’s up against your face can either work for or against your complexion.

4Ashy Blonde Balayage

This hairstyle is a great example of how to tell balayage apart from ombre. Because this style features hair that’s lighter at the ends, it could easily be mistaken for ombre. But look closely at the ends of hair and you’ll see that some pieces are a darker blonde color all the way down to the tips. Also notice that there are a few lighter pieces extending quite close to the roots, which is typical of the painted-on balayage style.

5Denim Blue Ombre

The most popular ombre styles tend to feature brown roots and blonde ends, but unnatural hair colors offer up a whole new world of possibilities. This muted denim blue over a natural black base color creates a bold but sophisticated looking ombre color style.

6Light Lavender Balayage

Lavender has never looked so chic! Just because balayage highlights create a natural look doesn’t mean they can’t be worn in unnatural colors. This light brown hairstyle features an ever so slight dusting of lavender balayage that adds fun color to the hairstyle without turning it into an overly bold look.

7Blonde on Red Ombre

With the ends of this style all a much lighter coppery blonde compared to deep red roots, this is another great example of bold and beautiful ombre. We’re very used to seeing blonde ombre on brunette base colors, but red hair provides a great background for this fiery ombre style.

8Copper and Red Balayage

This subtle balayage technique creates an amazing copper-on-red style that can bring warmth and dimension to any red base color. If you’re torn between loving your natural red hair and wanting to try out a trendy new color technique, this balayage style presents the perfect compromise.

9Braided Ombre Style

Although ombre hair look good nice in any style, it’s especially flattering in braided looks. Intertwining hair allows you to show how different tones play off one another, and looks great whether you’ve got a boldly contrasting or more soft and subtle ombre color.

10Smoky Balayage

Some women with naturally dark hair are hesitant to try a balayage style. They don’t want to lighten their base color, but feel that blonde highlights on dark hair will look too jarring. A smoky palette like this allows you to enhance your dark hair without having a crazy contrast. Not only does this color style look rich and sophisticated, but it’s trending big in 2017.

11Ombre Bob

Ombre color is bound to look more bold on short hair, as you can’t really avoid having two colors right up against your face. But for short haired women who love to play with their style, ombre is a great way to liven things up without making any changes to length.

12Balayage Bob

The internet is full of amazing photos of balayage color on super long strands, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the technique on shorter hairstyle. This bob makes excellent use of balayage, enhancing curls with ribbons of color that highlight the short hairstyle without completely overwhelming it.


Sombre is a subtle and soft style that dials down the contrast of a typical ombre look. To get this less obvious look, sombre styles are created using shades that are quite close together, and often employ more than two shades to create a more blended look. Try a sombre style if you’re generally low-key with your hair or you work in a corporate environment where bold ombre might not be appropriate.

14Rich Brunette Sombre

Lily Aldridge is well-known for her drool-worthy hair, which she loves to wear in ultra rich brunette shades. This sombre style is a perfect example of how ombre color can be applied lightly enough to enhance your hairstyle without being obtrusive or overpowering on first glance.

15Dip Dye

Dip dye hair color is a bold version of ombre where hair looks like it was literally dipped in hair dye. Unlike more subtle ombre styles, dip dye makes no effort to hide the line of demarcation that separates the two colors. If you’re looking for an edgier way to take on this popular color technique, going dip dye will help you to stand out from most ombre hairstyles.

16Pastel Dip Dye

Even though this dip dye style features pink and purple pastel, it’s got quite a subtle feel. By applying color to the very ends of hair, this dip dye style looks soft and low maintenance.


The latest color trend that everyone is talking about, flamboyage is a specific technique that’s described as a combination of ombre and balayage, where adhesive strips are used to give your colorist precise creative control. Flamboyage allows for incredibly dynamic but natural looking highlights, and is probably the best choice for women who want people to think they were born with such gorgeous hair color.

18Pastel Flamboyage

Flamboyage highlights do look incredibly natural, but that doesn’t mean you’re confined to working with natural hair colors. This style applies a variety of pastel shades over dimensional blonde hair to create a completely fresh take on the pastel hair trend.

19Golden Flamboyage

Chrissy Teigen’s amazing golden mane shows just how vibrant yet natural looking a flamboyage style can be. Highlights are distributed throughout her long hair to create a radiant style that plays up her golden skin tone.


This specific balayage technique concentrates highlights around the face to create contoured looking waves that can will work wonders up against your face.

21Subtle Contourage

This chilled out contourage style takes a laid-back approach to the brushed-on face framing highlights. With contour color in the same family as the base color, this hair color technique enhances both your hair and face without looking too bold or unnatural.

22Tiger Eye

The tiger eye hair trend mixes warm browns and blondes to mimic the look of the gorgeous banded gemstone. This pictured style applies tiger eye colors using a balayage technique, creating a warm, high contrast look that’s perfect for reviving your single-tone hairstyle.

23Tiger Eye Ombre

Tiger eye colors are popular using a balayage technique, but you can use them in a more straightforward ombre style too. This look features golden blonde ombre color over a dark brunette base, with some medium warm browns in between to help create a smooth transition between the two.

24Color Melting

This high-tech transitional technique features hair that appears to blend seamlessly from one color into another. You can use this technique on a wide range of palettes, with the end result being an ultra sophisticated take on two-tone hairstyles.



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