Balayage vs highlights, Ombré or babylights.. There are different trending colour techniques out there.

And the different types of techniques can be confusing, especially for your clients!

As a professional hairdresser you have probably had your share of conversations and questions regarding what balayage vs highlights is. And maybe you have asked yourself; which technique should I use to create the look my client is actually looking for?

Originally posted: Apr 1, 2019
Updated: Jan 6, 2022

No Problem!

To remove all confusion once and for all, ZASA concept from Marseille wrote down everything there is to know about this decade’s most common colouring techniques. 

This guide is not only for your clients. It can also help you to refresh your knowledge about the small application differences to help create the WOW-effect you’re looking for.

Keep reading and your clients will love you for your professional knowledge and skills about this very topic!

We promise you will feel more confident next time you advise your clients about the different techniques and which technique is the right for fulfilling their wishes! 

What is the difference between Balayage and Highlights?

Balayage and highlights are used for hair-lightening effects. So what is the difference? It’s all in the technique. 

Keep reading and we promise it will all make sense by the end!

A French Original: Balayage

Beautiful balayage hair

The beautiful Balayage technique was born in Paris in 1965 and, back then, it was known as “Balayage à Coton”, due to the fact that the hand-painted hair strands were separated by the rest of the hair using cotton strips. This natural and revolutionary sun-kissed look quickly became a favourite of both hairstylists and their clients.

Hair Painting: From Dip Dye to Ombré

From darker roots to much lighter ends! This transition hasn’t always been as subtle and natural looking as we know it today.

This might come as a surprise to you.. but the beautiful Ombré is actually a modern version of the Dip Dye hairstyle.

Do you remember Madonna’s 80s’ blonde hair with dark roots at the beginning of the 21st century? It inspired many actresses such as Drew Barrymore to renact this rebel look..

Over the years, the technique of gradually lightening the hair has become highly appreciated by hairstylists. Nowadays, it has evolved into a natural look that we absolutely adore: The Ombré Hairstyle!

What’s the difference between the Dip Dye technique and Ombré? The answer is: Transition!

Dip Dye means lightening up the hair base colour by displaying a clear line of demarcation, with almost no transition at all.

Ombré means gradually lightening up the hair base colour, with a subtle, but well-saturated transition from roots to edges.

What is the difference between Balayage and Hair Painting?

Balayage: The colour is beautifully and effortlessly applied on the hair strands’ surface.  This results in a more natural, sun-kissed effect in the hair. You can apply the colour by using a 1-point, 2-point (V) or 3 point (W) method.

With the Balayage technique, the colour is gently applied by using a hand-painting technique (without foils), only on the surface of the hair strands. The colour should blend in perfectly and leave no signs of demarcation for a more natural-looking result.

Hair Painting: With the Hair Painting technique the colour is applied more uniform and heavier, often similar to the foil technique. It also has to be retouched more often as the hair grows, to prevent any lines of demarcation from showing.

The difference between Balayage and Hair Painting thereby resides in how the colour is applied on the hair strands.

Balayage vs Highlights

Okay, so Balayage is the hair colour technique where colour is hand-painted on the hair without the use of foil. 

It gives a more subtle and natural result, because the technique allows the colour to blend more easily with your natural hair colour.

What about highlights? And when do you know which technique is best suited for your client (or yourself)?



Highlights creates a more structured effect, as it is created with foil.  With this foil technique, you can add highlights onto specific hair sections. The hair gets evenly saturated from root to tip, whereas Balayage results in lighter hair tips.

Usually it is recommended to insist with the colour closer to the hair tips or on the hair strands contouring the face. Just like make-up, which outlines your clients’ facial features, this technique aims to highlight the best parts of their hair!

As opposed to Balayage, highlights needs to be touched up more frequently to avoid that root-outgrow-look.

How-to: Apply the colour on specific hair strands only, in order to reflect light and create the impression of more volume. Insist on the hair edges and on the hair strands outlining the face.

So..How do you know which technique to use?

It all comes down to which look you or your client are dreaming about.

Is it the more subtle, natural look? The look that gives the “I just came home from a vacation at the beach”-vibe? Then go for the Balayage!

If you or your client are going for a more structured lightened hair, then go with the traditional highlight technique.

Babylights (Baby Blonde Balayage)

Let’s talk a little bit about Babylights, which is another kind of foil highlighting technique.

The Baby Blonde Balayage or Californian Balayage is a foil highlighting technique applied on very thin hair strands. The hair is lightened up to several tones, using variable levels of transition.

This technique reminds us of the naturally sun-kissed hair small children usually have, hence its name. Applying this fine colouring technique is a bit more time-consuming than the usual highlights, but the result is low-maintenance and very natural-looking!

How-to: Gradually lighten up very thin hair strands, by applying the colour closer to the roots. Separate the painted hair strands with foils. It is time-consuming, we know, but the highly natural-looking result is totally worth the effort!

If you are not sure which technique to go for, bear in mind that the French Balayage is the point of departure for all the others! For example, in order to achieve a perfect Ombré Hairstyle, you need to hand-paint some fine strands of hair closer to the roots, for a more subtle transition. Moreover, each Foil Highlight technique shares the same method, the difference consisting in the foils used to separate the hair strands and their variable level of thickness.

Psst.. Have you tried our NATULIQUE BALANCE Sparkling Shine?

Model after Balance Sparkling Shine service

It is an innovative NATULIQUE way to offer your clients a natural and shiny sun-kissed effect.

It is ammonia-free and is perfect for a first-time service, between hair colour services or as a final touch after a just-completed hair colour service.

Read more about our BALANCE Sparkling Shine here

With NATULIQUE BALANCE Sparkling Shine you can create soft highlights, a natural balayage effect, instant illumination or an authentic sun-kissed effect.

NATULIQUE BALANCE Sparkling Shine is still part of the NATULIQUE Natural Colours family, so you can expect the same quality and integrity as you are used to with all of our other colours.

Now you got knowledge on different colour techniques..

And we can’t wait to see you create magic in your salon, whether it is blonde balayage with babylights or a natural-looking Ombré!

We have talked about colour techniques, but do you ever wonder on how to advise your clients about the right hair colour for them?

You’ve probably had some clients asking “What hair colour do you think will suit me?”

Click here and read our in-depth guide about how to choose the best hair colour for you or your client. This knowledge will for sure help to create long-term customer satisfaction!

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