Balayage vs Ombre

Gradient hair has been slowly gaining popularity, and as of now, it is an integral part of hairstyling. Plain colors are no longer as appealing as they used to be, with even the blondest of hairs looking pale compared to the simplest balayage or ombre dye job. While the two techniques are equally popular, it is almost impossible to distinguish between them most of the time, which is I am comparing Balayage vs Ombre to show you the key difference between the two.

Before I highlight the differences between balayage and ombre (or as it is known these days, sombre), let’s take a look at what makes the dyeing styles so similar. Their most notable resemblance is that they are both slow-fade dyeing techniques that employ a gradual color transition rather than sharply contrasting color changes. Smoother color transitions help keep your hair looking natural, no matter what color you dye it with. Both techniques are also incredibly low-maintenance and can go for weeks without requiring any touch-ups.


Balayage is a word derived from French that means “to sweep,” which in essence describes the shape of the final result of a balayage dye job. The technique is executed freehand by hand, painting sections of hair against a backing board before covering them up with cellophane to prevent the colors from bleeding out into different sections of hair.  Originally, the foil was used to cover the painted strands of hair.

Balayage results in a smooth, symmetrical, thicker, and more random color infusion that really plays up the naturalness of your hair. Here is an example of what a finished balayage hairstyle looks like.

The perfectly balanced color combination results in the popular sun-kissed look that makes hair look naturally radiant. The graduated lightening of sectioned strands of hair also helps achieve a more dimensioned color infusion and gives the body of the hair more depth while enhancing its volume.  Balayage is a lot easier to execute on blonde hairstyles since adding darker roots is easier than streaking blonde color through the hair.

The beauty of balayage is that whether you opt for crisp or muted shades, the result is almost always exquisite and natural. The soft touches of color in the first example dramatically enhance the radiance of the dark hair, while the bolder accents in the second example give the hair a stormy finish with a deeper, more naturally radiant body.


Compared to balayage, ombre offers a much starker contrast between the lighter and the darker sections of hair. Traditionally, it entails darker roots, and lighter ends joined together using a smooth gradient, although not as smooth as that of balayage hairstyles. While ombre does not necessarily involve the random color placement common with balayage hairstyle, it is still a lot more nuanced and natural than techniques such as dip-dye.

With ombre, the roots are almost always dark, the lighter sections start high, and the lower sections often feature a few dark streaks that help soften the transition and instill more depth into the look. Here is an example:

If you look closely, you will notice that, unlike balayage, the color is restricted to the lower sections of hair and that thick streaks of dark color have been allowed to run through it. This is the best way to rock a two-toned color mainly because of the wonderful way it helps balance the merging of the two colors and brings out the best aspects of the hair. Ombre can also be beneficial in highlighting sculpted curls or generally adding some character to a plain hairstyle.

Another distinguishing aspect of ombre hairstyles, as you can see from the pictures, is that they rarely feature any clear lines of demarcation. Although the color transition is smooth, growth will not easily show through the colored section, especially since it is lighter than the darker roots. This makes it the perfect low-maintenance option for people looking to give their hairstyles a bit of color.

Balayage and Ombre dyeing techniques are two uniquely different dyeing techniques that have their strengths and weaknesses. For hair of all lengths and types, go for balayage as its transitions are always smoother and natural. For vibrantly colored hair, the blending power of ombre is unmatchable, especially when it comes to vivid blues, greens, reds, and purples.

What is the difference between Balayage and Ombre?

♦   Ombre color keeps hair dark at the top and goes lighter till the end of the hair. It looks as you got bleach and since then have not touched up hair.
♦  The line of demarcation is prominent in Ombre, while in Balayage, there is no such demarcation. This is why Balayage is considered a very economical coloring system, as you can have re-growth, and it will not make a difference to the sun-kissed effect because the colorist applies very light strokes at the top of the hair.
♦   Balayage is subtle, while Ombre is very striking.