Difference between Balayage and Ombre

It is already difficult to keep up with all of the fashion, hair and nail trends, but when some of them turn out to be more than just fads, then maybe it’s time you knew a little something about them. It is the case of the balayage and the ombre hairstyles. Can you tell them apart and do you know what makes them different? Who knows? You might even find your next hairstyle this way!


Balayage vs Ombre
Balayage hair dyeing style

Balayage is not a new hair dyeing technique, but one which has been gaining more and more ground in recent years, as A-list celebrities have switched to it. Balayage was created in France in the 1970s and it is a freehand technique in which the stylist colors strands of hair in lighter colors than the natural color of the hair, thus creating depth and more natural highlights. It can be done with colors that are lighter than the natural shade or with completely different colors, for a dramatic change of look. Some of the highlights start closer to the top of the head, others lower, thus the contrast with the natural hair color is created.

The best thing about it is the fact that a person who has had balayage done can even go 4 months between touch-ups, provided that the proper care is taken to protect the hair color. It goes well with all hair lengths, although it is most visible for over-the-shoulder hair with a layered cut.

Image from the L’Oreal Preference Ombre hair dye collection

Ombre is a hair dyeing technique whose name means shade in French. Therefore, it is the style which creates a contrast with the natural hair color by gradually becoming more faded at the tips while keeping the natural hair color of the roots. This style has been around since the early 2000s and is now experiencing variations from the boldest to more natural applications. One good thing about it is that it is low maintenance and that there is no hair growth line to tend to every month.

The style of faded coloring under the name of ombre is now applied to a variety of other things, such as nail painting and baking. Technically, it can be applied to anything that has a color based design and whose colors can become faded.

Balayage vs Ombre

So what is the difference between balayage and ombre?

Both hair dyeing techniques have French names and are revived techniques which have made a remarkable come-back. Balayage refers to hand painting every highlight and keeping it at the surface of the hair for a more subtle sun-kissed look. Ombre means discoloring the bottom part of the hair for a gradually faded look. Both balayage as well as ombre have variations from natural to bold as the colors used can complement and highlight the natural shade, or make a dramatic change with colors such as green or blue, grey or red.

Maintenance is simple in both cases, as the roots have the natural color and since the color is faded, there is no hair growth line to worry about for a long time. However, the color needs up-keep from time to time in both cases.

Comparison Chart

Balayage Ombre
A French technique developed in the 70s A technique with a French name developed in the 2000s
It means hand painting highlights on the surface of the hair for a soft sun-kissed look It means a faded look with lighter hair at the bottom and natural roots
Easy maintenance; does not require monthly up-keep Easy maintenance; does not require monthly up-keep