Highlights vs Balayage: What's the Difference?

Highlights vs Balayage

By now you have probably heard the word “balayage” tossed around as the hottest color technique in hair this year. We have clients asking about balayage more and more at Whip Salon, but traditional highlights are also widely used.

Confused by the lingo of balayage versus highlights? We asked our color experts at Whip Salon, Danielle and Laura, who are well versed in both techniques, to help clear up the confusion so you can make your next appointment with confidence.

Question: What is balayage and how do you even pronounce it?! 

Danielle: Balayage, Pronounced bah-lee-AHZGE is a French word meaning “to sweep”. It is a technique used to apply color.

Question: So how is balayage different from highlights? Is the application time the same?

Laura: Highlights and balayage are both techniques used to lighten hair. Most often, highlights are placed within foils and balayage is applied in a free hand painting technique predominantly in “open air” meaning, without the insulation of foils. Application time will depend on density and length of hair and desired outcome. You can achieve a variety of looks using either technique. It's really up to the stylist to decide based on your consultation.

Question: What kind of look do you get with highlights versus balayage?Danielle: Highlights give a more polished “to-the-root” look and tend to yield a more even result from root to end. Balayage is a feathered, more “lived-in” look which can achieve that ombre look starting with dark roots and blending down to a lighter shade at the ends. In our consultation, we discuss what you would like your end result to be, then it's up to the stylist to choose the technique that will achieve it. A skilled colorist can use either technique to achieve the result you're looking for!

Question: How is upkeep for highlights vs balayage? Will I need to get my hair colored as frequently with one over the other? 

Laura: Think of balayage as having a more “lived-in look” from the start. You’ll likely get longer wear out of it between appointments. The softer root blend allows the grow out to appear less harsh. A traditional highlight (8 to 10 weeks) does typically demand more upkeep than the lived in blended balayage or ombre look (12 to 18 weeks). We do however recommend coming in between balayage lightening session for a gloss to keep your color bright.

Question: What products should I use to keep my color-treated hair looking on point?

Danielle: After you make an investment in your hair, it's absolutely critical to use the right products. We always recommend that our clients use a sulfate-free shampoo like Davines Minu illuminating shampoo for color-treated hair and the Davines Melu hair shield for blow-drying which has a heat protectant. Also, the Shu Uemura Color Lustre shampoos and conditioners are unbelievable. The bonus is they have color depositing conditioners - for example, if you're an icy blonde it will help maintain that look without drying out your hair. 

Learn more about Whip Salon and make an appointment HERE.


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