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A recent balayage done at Fabio Scalia

What’s the Difference between Balayage and Ombré?

You may have heard these terms “balayage” and “ombré” used interchangeably in recent years. Perhaps you’ve heard a friend talk about someone’s ombré hair or say something along the lines of “I love your hair – where did you get that balayage done?” when talking to someone with faded, natural-looking highlights.

While there are some similarities that make conflation of the two more than understandable, you’re clearly interested in being able to tell the difference between the two methods. In this blog, we’ll discuss how each technique differs and what the contrasting results that they offer are.

What is Balayage?

Balayage is a French word that means “sweeping”. The definition of the word betrays the essence of the process – it’s a method characterized by hand-painting (with a sweeping motion) hair color onto hair. It does not involve foil applications to the hair, as some highlighting treatments do.

Balayage allows for a natural, sun-kissed look reminiscent of a child’s hair: it gives an effortlessly blended look with lighter ends.

Other than the summerish and stylishly beachy look that a professional balayage treatment will provide, the method has another advantage: it requires less maintenance than most hair-color. While you can touch it up every 6 weeks or so, some customers find that 6-8 months between visits is enough to maintain the look.

Because of the craftsman-like nature of the work, balayage also has the advantage of being able to be tailored to the client’s features. Stylists can accentuate or diminish the prominence of facial contours by using the subtleties of the brush. It is, no doubt, more of an art than science.

What is Ombré?

Also developed and subsequently named by the French, ombré, which means “shaded”, is another hand-painted style that emphasizes a shorter, but still somewhat gradual transition from the ends to the mid-shaft portion of the hair. It’s a more abrupt transition that allows for less of a vertical, highlighted yet blended look that balayage offers. Ombré is often (but not always) used by those sporting “unnatural” hair colors to keep naturally-colored roots for a unique and “softer” look.

Ombré also allows for easier and more infrequent maintenance, just as balayage does. Foil highlights tend to require more frequent touch-ups than an ombré or traditional balayage look do, for example. However, ombré and balayage treatments generally take more time and cost more than foil highlights.

What’s the Difference?

Brunette Balayage

Balayage done by expert Lucio Galano at Fabio Scalia

Technically, balayage is a technique and ombré is a style. In essence, ombré is a style that can be achieved through hand-painting hair. What is generally referred to as “balayage” is the longer, more vertically dispersed look achieved by painting. Ombré offers a two-toned look that doesn’t look as blended as balayage, although both looks use the same method and techniques.

Both ombré and balayage do not use foil, and as a result offer softer-looking coloring and transitions than traditional foil highlights do. Thanks to the the open-air process of balayage and ombré, the grow-out stage is less pronounced than it is with foil highlighting, which is exactly what makes it easier to maintain without touch-ups for a longer period.

Where can I get Balayage and Ombré Done in New York?

Fabio Scalia is an upscale hair salon with locations in SoHo and Brooklyn that offers a full complement of luxury salon services including haircuts, styling, balayage, coloring extensions, and Japanese hair straightening. They offer intimate consultations and can custom tailor your look to incorporate your newly-straightened hair into your style. The SoHo location is at 311 West Broadway and can be reached at (212) 343-0523, or book at the Brooklyn Heights location at 148 Montague Street at (718) 855-5777 for your new highlights!