BALAYAGE VS HIGHLIGHTS: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? 

Highlights vs. balayage. Which one is the right hair lightener for you?

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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 that you can decide which color technique you want to try to get the look you crave. 
 

What is Balayage?

 
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 becoming denser as it moves down the section of hair to the ends. Because the color is swept onto the surface of the hair, the effect is a natural sun-kissed glow that is not as strictly patterned as normal highlights.  

Contrary to a common misconception, balayage is not a look itself. It’s a technique, where the process of adding highlights is done without foil like traditional highlights. It is often compared to the natural effect of the ombre style.  

Balayage can be applied as a full balayage throughout all of your hair to give you the lighter look all-around without needing to maintain inevitable root grow-out as you would for other lightening methods. It can also be done as a partial, or mini, balayage, such as only around the face or upper area of your hair. 

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

“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 becominges denser as it moves down the section of hair to the ends.”
 

What are Highlights?

 
Traditional highlighting: This process 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.  

“Highlights are created using aluminum foil to help saturate precise strands of hair from root to tip for a more intense lightening effect.” 

Babylights: For more subtle highlights, try babylights, a hair-dying technique that mimics the dimensional hair color commonly occurring naturally on young children’s hair. Babylights can add a soft glow, especially when they are applied to framing pieces around your face.  

Lowlights: This technique is a great option if you already have highlights. The color used for lowlights is as dark as, or darker than, your base hair color. It results in more dimension and complexity in the tone of your hair, and there is no lift or lightening done, as opposed to highlights.
 

What's the Difference Between Balayage and Highlights?


 
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. If you want a more structured, tonal do, it’s best to go the traditional foil highlights route. Both options, however, will help you add a beautiful dimension to your hair. This chart helps you break down the differences between balayage and highlights so that you can choose which is the best fit for your hair.
 

Balayage Highlights
Technique
  • Painted on without foil around the hair strands
  • Lightening gets gradually denser as you move down so that the tips of the hair are the lightest
  • Aluminum foil wrapped around hair and dye is painted on more precisely
  • Hair is evenly saturated from root to tip
Results
  • Blends seamlessly into your natural hair color
  • Creates the effect of a sun-kissed glow
  • New color is usually just a few shades lighter than your natural hair
  • Pronounced contrast between lighter highlights and darker natural hair
  • More structured pattern of lightened hair
Maintenance
  • Lasts longer than regular highlights because of the seamless transition
  • Can go many months without needing a touch-up
  • Generally lasts only a couple of months before root color starts to show
  • Greater contrast in color means a little bit ore maintenance.

How to Keep Your Balayage or Highlights Healthy

Whether you choose a subtle, shimmery balayage or traditional foil highlights, both can be damaging to those lovely locks if they aren't properly cared for. 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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