Strand & Lock

What’s the Difference Between Ombre and Balayage?

When it comes to colouring your hair, there are many different terms used from ‘foils’ to ‘sombre’ and more. Needless to say, it can all get a little bit confusing.

If you’re looking to lighten your hair or experiment with different colours without fully committing, a balayage or an ombre are great choices. But, what exactly is the difference between the two?

As hair colour experts, we are here to explain the difference between balayage and ombre, so you know which one to go for!


When translated from French, the word ombré means “shade” or “shadow.” In the world of hair, it is known as a colouring technique where the hair is transitioned from light to dark or dark to light.

It is a popular style for brunettes, with darker hair colour at the roots which gradually gets lighter from the mid-shaft to the ends. This style gained its popularity in 2008 when there was a need for a low-maintenance hairstyle during the recession.

For a more subtle look, there is another type of ombre called sombre. With this hairstyle, the contrast between light and dark is softer but the colour is seamlessly melted together.


So, what is a Balayage? Balayage is also a word taken from the French and means “sweeping.” When applying the colour, it is hand-painted or swept through the hair to give a natural transition down into the lighter colour.

The application begins at the roots and gradually gets heavier, with the heaviest application of lightener or colour at the ends. When the hair is lightened with balayage, it creates a more natural “sun-kissed” effect.

How are they different?

Whilst they may sound similar and both transition the hair from dark to light, they do achieve different results.

The key difference is the techniques used to achieve them. Foils are used for ombre to fully saturate a section of hair which is then blended to diffuse the line between dark and light. Meanwhile, balayage involves hand-painting highlights onto the hair to look like the sun naturally lightened it.

So, if you’re after more of a dramatic finish with a light colour saturated at the ends, ombre is the perfect choice for you. Meanwhile, if you’re after something a bit more natural and to keep bits of your natural colour throughout the hair, a balayage will suit you better.

Benefits of Ombre and Balayage

While balayage and ombre have their differences, they do offer similar benefits:

Easy to maintain

If you’re looking for a style that is low-maintenance and doesn’t require constant trips to the salon, an ombre or balayage is ideal. Instead of 4-6 weekly trips to the salon, it can be left for much longer.

This is because you already have that grown out effect so don’t have the harsh regrowth you get from dying your hair one colour. Getting your hair dyed less frequently also results in less damage to the hair.

It’s customised to you

Whether you are after a natural or bold look, balayage and ombre are colouring techniques which can be easily customised. They are a great option if you are looking to try going lighter without getting a full head of highlights or dying it all one colour.

Your stylist will also customise your balayage style based on your hair colour, length and texture, so the style will always be truly unique.

It’s stylish

According to Google Trends, people’s interest in balayage has actually soared over the last 6 months during the period of lockdown. It’s also a style loved by celebrities including Jessica Alba, Gigi Hadid and Emma Watson.

So, while the balayage and ombre trends have been around for a while now, they are certainly here to stay.

Balayage and Ombre at Strand & Lock

If you’re looking for bespoke ombre or balayage in London, Strand & Lock is just the place. Our expert stylists will give you a personalised, complimentary consultation to ensure we achieve your desired look.

If you’re unsure which colouring service to go for, we will also advise and recommend the best option for your hair type.

Book your appointment now at our modern salon in stylish Bermondsey.

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