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Hair terms explained: Ombré vs Balayage

ombre vs balayage

Ok, so you’re sat in the salon chair and you know exactly what sort of colour you want but you have no idea how to explain this to your stylist. Sound familiar? Well, a number of our guests have requested a short guide on the difference between two of the most frequently used hair terms: ombre and balayage. Gone are the days where our options were one of two: an all over colour or some highlights. The options now are endless and with various terms used to describe similar techniques and styles, it’s easy to see how these terms get mixed up. So, here’s our straight forward guide to knowing the difference between an ombre and a balayage, and which one is right for you. 

What is ombré?

The French term means “shade” or “shadow” and in the world of hair colouring it refers to a dramatic two-toned hair colour effect. Typically, the colour is darker at the roots and lighter at the ends. Quite often, you’ll find that ombres use a colour close to your natural hair colour at the roots (if not your actual natural hair colour) and lighten the bottom section with a hair lightener. The great thing about ombres is that you can have literally any combination of colour from blonde, browns and reds to something more eccentric like pinks, blues and greens. Suitable for most medium to long hair lengths, this customisable and versatile colour style is also low maintenance as it requires minimal touch ups thanks to your natural looking root shade.

pink ombre
purple ombre
natural ombre


If you’re after something a little more subdue you can opt for a subtler version called sombré. With this colour style the contrast between the two shades is softer. Another term you may have heard is called colour melting. This is when your colourist uses two or three hair shades on each strand, and each shade is blended with the side of the hair colour brush so that they appear to melt into each other. Like ombré, colour melting can be done with natural-looking hair colour shades or with any of the eccentric pop art colours.

Is ombré for you?

If you’re the type of person who loves to make a statement with your hair (or otherwise!) then you’ll love the sense of personalisation with an ombre. You can be as creative and adventurous as you like with your bespoke colour choice. The only thing our stylists like to make sure of is that your hair is in good condition to begin with and that you’re ready to maintain your colour at home using specialised shampoos and conditioners that help to retain your colour. Otherwise, particularly with bright fashion colours, you’ll find that they tend to wash out and fade quicker. But don’t worry, we have a whole team of professional Master Colour Experts up and down the country ready to transform your hair!

What is a balayage?

It’s easy to see how a balayage and an ombre get mixed up as they can look very similar, but there are differences! Knowing that the term ‘balayage’ derives from another French word meaning “to sweep” will probably help you to spot the difference. With a balayage technique, our stylists sweep the colour using a free-hand method through small sections of the hair onto a foil, giving it the natural transition down into the lighter colour. You’ll also find that there are darker strands left on the bottom to help create dimension and a more natural look. Sometimes when we talk about natural sun-kissed highlights (like our new collection) it is usually the works of a balayage technique.

Mink Balayage
Blonde balayage
copper balayage


The bespoke nature of a balayage means your colourist can cleverly influence your hair’s colour composition meaning there can be a number of beautiful balayage variations. Using this hand-painting technique you may even find that your hair stylist has combined several shades for a shimmering, 3-dimensional result. If your hair is dark, your colourist may opt for a foilayage technique. This is where instead of allowing the balayage highlights to process in the air after they’re applied, they’re wrapped in foil, which provides more heat, and therefore intensifies the lightening process. Your colourist may also opt to combine your balayage with conventional highlights closer to your face, or with fine, baby-lights placed around the hairline to give your complexion a radiance-boosting glow.

Is a balayage for you?

If you love a sexy, natural-looking hair colour then a balayage is the perfect choice. Depending on how dark you decide to leave your roots, it can also be a good low maintenance option.

Book in

So, what are you waiting for? Take advantage of your nearest Master Colour Expert’s hair artistry and bring your hair colour back to life.  Find your local salon and book in now.  

Stay Social

Have you opted for an ombre or balayage recently? Tell us all about it @regisuk using the hashtag #regisuk for your chance to be featured on our social media channels! 

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