Balayage vs. highlights, which one is the right hair lightener for you?

blonde curly hair

blonde curly hair

blonde curly hair

Balayage vs. highlights: There’s a subtle distinction between these two hair-lightening effects, and it’s all in the technique. If you’ve never heard of balayage, fear not. We’ll delve into the differences between balayage and highlights so you can decide which color technique you want to try to get the look you crave. 

What is Balayage?

Honey Balayage Hair On Young Woman

Balayage is a French word that means “to sweep.” In this hair color technique, highlights are hand-painted or “swept” on the surface of random sections of hair. Dye or lightener is usually painted on starting midshaft and becomes denser as it moves down the section of hair to the ends. And because the color is swept onto the surface of the hair, the effect created is a natural sun-kissed glow. 

Balayage highlights are usually just a few shades lighter than your base color, giving your locks natural depth and dimension. And because it blends so seamlessly into your natural color, balayage is easy to maintain with the right products and techniques.

What are Highlights?


Traditional highlighting is the more conventional way to lighten and add depth to your do. Highlights are created using aluminum foil to help saturate precise strands of hair from root to tip for a more intense lightening effect. In this technique, strands of hair are precisely sectioned out by weaving a pick through small subsections and wrapping the separated strands in aluminum foil.

The effect? A more pronounced contrast between the lightened strands and your base color that frames your face and adds beautiful dimension to your mane. Highlights follow a more structured pattern and will need to be touched up more often to combat that obvious root grow-out look. For more subtle highlights, try babylights, a hair dying technique that mimics the dimensional hair color commonly occurring naturally on young children’s hair.

Which Hair Lightening Technique Should You Try?


When it comes to balayage vs. highlights, it really comes down to what look you’re going for. Balayage creates a natural, sunlit dimension that gives your mane that “I just came back from the beach” vibe girls everywhere swoon over. But if you want a more structured, tonal do, it’s best to go the traditional foil highlights route.

Whether you choose a subtle, shimmery balayage or traditional foil highlights, both can be damaging to those lovely locks. Keep that new ‘do looking healthy and lustrous with products that are specially formulated to strengthen and protect colored hair.

Use a hair mask for blonde hair to protect lightened locks from further damage. Seeing red, orange, or brassy tones in your new highlights? Try a purple shampoo to help neutralize warm tones in blonde hair.

Need more help choosing between balayage, highlights, and other hair colors? See even more beautiful John Frieda blonde hair ideas here.

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