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Balayage vs. Highlights - What’s the Difference?


Have you noticed that social media, especially Instagram, has caused a rise in the popularity of hair colouring trends? Social media’s influence has resulted in words like micro highlights, foilyage, sombre, and balayage becoming part of our everyday hair vocabulary. But have you ever paused to think about what the real differences are between these hair colouring treatments?


Here we’re going to tackle the difference between balayage vs. highlights so the next time you visit Thair Hair Boutique & Spa, you’ll feel like a hair super pro!


What is Balayage?

Balayage comes from the French word meaning ‘to sweep’ or paint and it’s all about sweeping on the hair colour. When using the balayage method, the dye is swept or painted onto sections of your hair in a freehand fashion. Typically, the dye is swept from the mid-shaft to the end of the hair.


One characteristic feature of the balayage technique is that it’s done in revolutions around the head. First, the colour is applied to the bottom-most section of your head (close to the nape of your neck). Next, it’s applied to the midsection of your head, and then the top section of hair is coloured right at the end. A piece of cellophane or foil separates each layer of hair. The end result of balayage is that it looks more sunkissed and you don’t have colour at the root. This technique achieves a more ‘‘rooty’ look. Quick tip - if you have some grey hair, this technique isn’t recommended, as the grey will still be visible. Highlights (right to the root) would be a better option to help ‘blend’ the grey.


Balayage highlights are all about adding lots of depth and dimension to your hair because the colouring is not as saturated and the bottom sections of hair are left dark. This gives it an almost ombre-like effect with the lighter tips giving your hair that perfectly sunkissed appearance.


What Are Highlights?

Most people think highlights are just streaks of blonde hair running through a brown base colour, but that’s actually a very common misconception. Highlights are small sections of your hair that are lighter than your base colour, but your base colour does not have to be brown! Highlights can be a lighter shade of blonde, red, and even black hair too.


When using the highlights technique, hair colour is applied to small sections of hair from the roots to tips, which is then covered with aluminum foil to trap heat so that your hair gets lightened more intensely. Highlights can be precisely planned out for size, placement, and tone of each highlight so you can achieve your desired look.

Ok… so…


What’s the Difference Between Balayage and Highlights?

Still confused? No worries, we’ve got you! Here are the really definitive factors between the two techniques:


  • Highlights are more carefully placed than balayage and follow a more structured pattern, whereas balayage is a freehand technique painted onto larger sections of your hair. The end result? Balayage blends more seamlessly into your hair than highlights.

  • Highlights saturate the section of hair all the way from the roots to the ends, but balayage dye is only applied from the midshaft to the end of each section.

  • Highlights use aluminum foil to saturate the colour, which will give you a more intensely lightened look. However, balayage is less intense because it’s only a few shades lighter than your base colour with a softer, more blended look.

  • Highlights require a little bit more touching up; since they are done right from the roots, it’s more noticeable when they grow out. Because balayage only starts from the midshaft of your hair, it grows out more naturally, so it requires less maintenance.

  • Highlights are used to frame your face and accentuate the base colour of your hair while the balayage look is about adding depth and dimension to your lovely locks.


Achieve Either Look Organically

No matter which look you’d like to go for, at Thair Hair Boutique & Spa we carry only the most natural and organic hair dye products. Our Organic Colour Systems line of hair colour uses high grade organic and natural ingredients, as well as the lowest possible levels of PPD. These dyes stay away from harsh chemicals, which you absolutely don’t need, including ammonia, parabens, resorcinol, and formaldehyde. Yuck! So no matter which hair colouring treatment you’d like to go for, you can rest assured that the health of your hair (and you!) is not being jeopardized.


So book your appointment today. Our team of hair experts will help you achieve the look you want. Whether it’s structured highlights or natural balayage, you’ll be sure to leave our salon not only looking great but feeling fabulous too!


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