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  • Writer's pictureBrittaney Rigaud

Balayage vs Ombre - What's the Difference?

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

Working behind the chair, I hear this a lot. I'm about to break it down.

The word 'ombre' literally means a graduation in color from dark to light. So think dark roots, light ends. It could look like a grown out highlight or root color, but what makes it look beautiful is the second part of the definition; which is 'having shades of color that shade into each other'. This is what takes a grown out color service and makes it look purposeful.

Originally, the inspiration for the "ombre" was to mimic what a little girl's hair looks like after she's been on the beach all summer. We live in Florida, so we know this look well. Visualize it with me. She wears it up in a pony every day, all day, and the sun lightens it. So when she pulls it back into her pony, you see all this dimension and highlights and lowlights. But think about what it looks like when she takes it down. Where do those highlights go? They start around her face and they show up underneath her hair, usually getting more solidly light on the ends. We all admire how beautiful their hair looks when they're getting that haircut before school starts in August. But I know I'm usually cutting off some blonde ends. And what does the rest of her hair look like when it's down? Uh huh, that's right. Darker, natural colored roots that gradually lighten to those blonde ends I cut off in August. And that, my friends, was the inspiration for the "ombre".

So, how does one achieve this look, besides the obvious, which is to spend the summer on the beach? What if lightener was painted onto the hair, where it would air process and have a softer lift? What would we call that process? We would call it balayage! Balayage means "to sweep" in French, and describes the motion of sweeping lightener onto the hair. This process affects the way the hair lightens based on the saturation of lightener. Often it is lightly painted at the root and more saturated towards the midshaft ends. This also allows for a softer grow out because it omits the harsh lines caused by foils.

This is just a very basic explanation of the difference between an ombre and balayage, but hopefully now it's clear. To summarize, an ombre is an over all look of darker roots blending into lighter ends. Balayage is the technique of painting lightener onto hair. Balayage is often the technique used to create an ombre, but its certainly not the only way. That brings me to my next blog post idea... babylights and balayage…. So now you know what to ask for and why when you visit your stylist.

Love Your Hair!


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