Ombre vs balayage feature

Balayage vs Ombre: Which is Best for You?

Balayage and ombre are two of the most common hair colouring techniques, but it’s easy to get them confused. They are, after all, quite similar! Balayage is the process of hand-painting lighter streaks through the hair, while ombre involves creating a graduated fade of colour from root to tip.

Thinking about trying a new hair hue but can’t work out which style will give you the results you want? Our cheat sheet will help you work out the difference between the two colouring techniques and decide which option to go for.

What is Balayage?

Woman with long brown hair with blonde balayage highlights
Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

The French word ‘balayage’ translates as ‘to sweep’ and is a highlighting technique that involves a stylist ‘sweeping’ or painting individual sections of hair to create a subtle sun-kissed effect.

Using a freehand technique and barely touching the roots, the aim of a classic balayage is to create a natural-looking result that can’t otherwise be achieved with foils or meche highlights.

Woman with caramel balayage worn in a glamorous, wavy style.

Depending on the desired results, this bespoke method usually uses colour only a few shades lighter and/or darker than your natural hair. So if you’re looking for a subtle change to help make your natural tones pop, balayage is perfect.

What is Ombre?

Woman with dark to caramel blonde ombre hair
Credit: Unsplash

Ombre seamlessly blends two contrasting hair colours, normally starting from a darker shade at the roots and gradually melting into a lighter shade towards the tips. If you like the look of a more graduated colour, or a dramatic colour blend (e.g. pink tips) is what you’re after, then ombre might be more suitable.

The fading from one colour into another usually starts from half or two-thirds of the way down the hair shaft and resembles a fairly straight (but still soft) line.

This two-toned effect can, however, (and here comes the confusing part!) be achieved using the balayage technique for ultra-precise results. This is also known as a balayage ombre or ombre balayage.

A 900ml bottle of TRESemmé Revitalise Colour Shampoo front of pack image

Editor’s tip: If you colour your hair, make sure you’re using a shampoo and conditioner that are designed to care for it. We suggest using the TRESemmé Revitalise Colour Shampoo and TRESemmé Revitalise Colour Conditioner to gently cleanse and protect the vibrancy of your hue.

What is the Difference Between Balayage and Ombre?

The main difference between balayage and ombre is the technique. Balayage is a highlighting technique, while ombre, which means to shadow, graduates from dark to light hair.

Balayage Ombre: The Best of Both Worlds

Still can’t decide? Thanks to technology and the increasing number of highly skilled colourists, finding a method that’s completely bespoke to you is no longer impossible. Combining two or more techniques to get your perfect look is becoming more common. In fact, we highly recommend taking the extra time to discuss all the possible options with a stylist you trust.

Woman with light-brown / blonde ombre and balayage hair combination.

It’s very likely they’ll know about a trick that you don’t, and can even suggest the most appropriate colouring methods for you. Want a reverse ombre? Or a more dramatic balayage? There’s always sombre (subtle ombre) and flamboyage (with lighter ends to add more depth and polish) to consider, too.

Who Should Get Balayage vs. Ombre?

Woman with brunette balayage hair from behind.

The length and texture of your hair should be considered in the decision-making process. While balayage works well on both straight and curly locks, subtle waves and curls can make the effect appear more natural-looking.

A similar principle applies to ombre, but because the two-toned effect is not designed to look natural, the results are bound to be more dramatic than balayage. What this means is that the effect on straight hair will be far more prominent than on wavy or curly tresses.

Generally speaking, both balayage and ombre are suitable for long and short lengths. However, that said, if you have a short pixie, the balayage effects may not be as visible.

Is your hair in good condition? Can it handle bleach? If you’ve answered no to one or both of these, you might want to rethink both options.

Because the ends are usually much lighter than your natural shade, it’s likely that the dyeing process will involve bleaching your hair. However, if the colours picked are no more than a few shades lighter than your natural colour, bleach can be avoided, depending on the desired results. So, these are all factors to consider when you book in for your colour consultation.

How to Maintain Balayage/Ombre Hair

Woman with brown-to-blonde ombre hair on the catwalk.

Once you’ve got your beautiful balayage or ombre, aftercare is important for maintaining your colour and the health and condition of your hair. Just because ombre and balayage look more natural than an all-over colour, don’t forget that your hair has still been lifted with bleach so will be more prone to damage and dryness.

Ask your stylist about treatments they would recommend. And at home, try to use masks and leave-in conditioners to keep hair soft and nourished.

SheaMoisture Miracle Hair Styler Leave-In Treatment Front of bottle view

Editor’s tip: For coloured hair, we suggest using a leave-in treatment like the SheaMoisture Miracle Hair Styler Leave-In Treatment. It detangles, softens and nourishes hair so you can enjoy a healthy-looking shine and colour that pops.

TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Heat Protect Spray Front of bottle


We also recommend reducing the heat you use on your hair as much as possible (that includes blow-drying!). And if you do use heat, make sure you use a protective spray like TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Heat Protect Spray.Balayage vs Ombre: Discover the differences between balayage and ombre plus figure out which colouring method is best for you.

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