Balayage or Ombre? Partial Highlights, Full Highlights, or Babylights?
At most salons, a skilled stylist doesn't need a pair of scissors to transform a hairdo—expertly applied color is a makeover in itself, whether you're getting ombre highlights or hand-painted balayage strands. But just what is the difference between these two trendy color services? And how do they differ from traditional highlights? Read on to learn what makes each of these treatments unique and whether they're right for you.
Melted balayage ombre highlights courtesy of our merchant partner Color Love by Alisha and stylist Alisha
What is ombre hair color?
Ombre is a gradient of hair color that combines darker roots with lighter ends. Ombre takes its name from the French for "shadow" or "shade." Older two-toned ombre looks offered a stark division between the dark roots and light ends. Nowadays, it's more common to see a subtle transition from dark to light—a transition created with a balayage hair-painting technique (see below).
So what's the difference between ombre and balayage? Ombre is a type of hair color, whereas balayage is a coloring technique that can be used to create subtle ombre hair.
Is ombre hair right for me?
Though ombre hair is suited to complexions of all shades, only careful consultation with a professional stylist can determine which colors will flatter your look. For example, those with darker skin can shoot for deep reds and coppers, while fairer tones can experiment with blondes and caramel colors. Daredevils of all skin types can turn to unnatural hues such as pink and blue for an even more dramatic effect.
Be forewarned that although the ombre look is similar to that of grown-out highlights, previously color-treated hair will often need at least some color correction to achieve the desired effect. Similarly, complex color combinations can require more frequent touch-ups to maintain this seemingly low-maintenance look. Color-treated shampoos and conditioners can help you get the most mileage out of ombre tresses, as can regular coats of gloss.
Sunset balayage ombre highlights courtesy of our merchant partner Color Love by Alisha and stylist Alisha
How much do ombre highlights cost?
Depending on your hair colorist's experience level and the look you're going for, you can expect to pay somewhere between $100 and $200 for ombre highlights. Click here to find deals on ombre hair color near you.
Caramel balayage on dark hair courtesy of our merchant partner Jon Charles Salon and stylist Anline
Balayage is a type of hair-coloring technique in which a stylist hand-paints the highlights so that they look even more natural, with depth and dimension that resemble the effects of the sun. Balayage means "sweeping" in French, and is a reference to both the sweeping motions of the painting process and the small brooms used by Parisian stylists.
When painting, stylists start at the middle of the strand and sweep out toward the root or tip. As a result, there is no severe line of color at the root and the grow-out is more natural looking, which translates into longer-lasting results.
Is balayage right for me?
If you want stunning hair color without laborious upkeep, balayage may be right for you since stylists usually recommend a touch up only every two to four months (as opposed to every six weeks for foil highlights). Often used on flowing hairstyles with loose curls or beachy waves, balayage highlights can be low-maintenance, and stylists say they tend to look most organic on hair longer than shoulder-length.
The technique can add dimension to all hair colors. It's even ideal for unwanted gray: stylists can target gray strands more precisely, avoiding single-process color and its attendant stress on the scalp and on non-gray hairs.
Sun-kissed balayage courtesy of our merchant partner Jon Charles Salon and stylist Andrea
How much does balayage cost?
Because it's so time-consuming to complete, balayage tends to be one of the priciest forms of hair coloring. While highlighting may only cost $150, expect to pay about $200 on average, for balayage. Snag a service for less with one of our deals for balayage near you.
Full Highlights, Partial Highlights, and Babylights
Foiled blonde babylights with balayaged ends courtesy of our merchant partner Jon Charles Salon and stylist Anline.
What are highlights?
Highlights are strands of hair that have been isolated and treated with a lightener. Here are the three main types:
- Full highlights: Applied evenly throughout the entire head, full highlights can give you a totally new color that still retains a bit of your old color for some contrast and dimension.
- Partial highlights: Partials brighten up only parts of the hair, drawing attention to specific features. Highlighting the strands nearest your face, for instance, can have a framing effect.
- Babylights: These micro highlights mimic the hair colors found on small children who spend their summers in the sun. Because these are created using tiny sections of hair all over the head, babylights take much longer to do than full and partial highlights. They're also generally more expensive. But the result is more subtle and natural.
Are highlights right for me?
If you're looking for a more traditional look, highlights may be a better option than either balayage or ombre hair color. They do tend to be more maintenance than the other two coloring techniques, which embrace darker roots. However, finishing off your highlights with a root drop/root smudge—i.e., adding a toner on top to darken your roots—can help you go longer between appointments.
Classic babylights courtesy of our merchant partner Bristle + Grace and stylist Sarah C.
How much do highlights cost?
As with all the items on this list, cost for highlights will vary drastically from salon to salon. On average, you can expect to pay about $75 for partial highlights and closer to $100 for full highlights. Babylights might run you closer to $120. And some salons charge more if you have longer hair. As always, before booking a service, don't forget to check out our deals on highlights near you.
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