Ombré, Sombre, Balayage...What's the Difference?


Summer is winding down and labor day is insight. If you are not ready to let go of your summer, sun-kissed look, why not try some new highlights?

Ombré, Sombre, Balayage...What's the Difference?

With so many color techniques and trends out there—which style do you opt for and what's the difference between them? Here's your guide to ombré, sombre and balayage.

The Ombre hair color technique has been around for awhile, influencing colorists and stylists alike to test their hand at new techniques and transitions. From free-flowing balayage to the subtle shading of sombre, multicolored highlights are totally in.

Use warm shades and earthy tones for natural-looking dimension or opt for bold colors and contrasting shades for eye-catching style. We’ve got the perfect highlight guide to explain three of today’s major highlighting trends and help you pick your perfect shade.



Ombre means “shaded” in french, and that’s the perfect way to describe this popular style. Ombre is characterized by dark roots that gradually get lighter towards the ends. In other words, your hair transitions from one color to another by shading into each other.

Ombre quickly caught on about six years ago and has remained a popular highlighting technique, because it works so well on a wide variety of hair types, lengths, and colors.  

Options are endless but typically include warm shades and earthy tones for natural-looking dimension or bold colors and contrasting shades for trend-right style.  Keep in mind, with this technique bleaching hair ends can cause damage and breakage, so leave this color process to the professionals.

Note: Initially, ombre can be a time-consuming process, between two and thee hours but once done it can be low-maintenance. It grows out very naturally.  Even though ombre techniques have evolved, it is still known for dark roots of any color contrasted by lighter ends.  

Want a little less contrast, and a more subtle look?  Then sombre may be for you.




Like it sounds, sombre is characterized by a subtle color transition from roots to tips. It’s ombre, but softer. This creates a less contrast between the roots and the ends but adds just enough color to stand out.

Shading should be more seamless and gradual than ombre. This can be done by weaving your natural root color throughout the hair, allowing your highlights to blend in naturally.

Note:  Sombre like ombre can be a time-consuming process at the beginning, but once done the touch-ups are relatively low maintenance.  You hair colorist can add different shades and tones that are similar to your natural color for added dimension and texture and a more natural look than ombre.



Balayage, meaning to sweep or to paint in French, is characterized by sweeping highlights that appear as if the sun kissed your hair itself!

Unlike traditional highlighting techniques, balayage is a freehanded technique in which the stylist applies the treatment to the surface of the hair without using foil. This allows the highlights to be less saturated and appear more natural against your original hair color rather than strategically placed.  

For more strategically places highlights, you may want to consider another new trend called  layage. This technique is applied freehand without foils but designed to be done while the client is lying down for a more precise application

Note: The most natural and arguably the most popular highlight technique is balayage.  After the initial process, It requires little maintenance and provides gorgeous, crave-worthy, "I woke-up this way" locks!

Whichever highlighting technique you choose - Ombré, sombre, or balayage make sure you know the difference between these popular styles - and understand which highlighting technique will fit your lifestyle, budget and desired look. Lastly, do not try this at home. For best results, consult a professional hair colorist.

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