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Balayage vs. Highlights: What’s the Difference?

June 29, 2022

1 Min read

Lightening sections of your hair is a great way to add extra dimension and movement, and there are several techniques to choose from. Balayage and highlights are two of the most common methods for creating a beachy glow, and the difference between the two lies in the application technique. Understanding balayage vs. highlights provides the knowledge you need to create the sun-drenched locks of your dreams.

Balayage and highlights share some common features, one of the main ones being that they both achieve a stunning depth of color. However, the technique you choose will change the overall effect and your maintenance schedule. To help you decide which one is right for you, let’s take a look at the differences between balayage and highlights.

What Is Balayage?

Balayage is a type of hair coloring technique that gives the hair flattering, natural-looking depth. Its name comes from the French verb “balayer,” meaning to brush or sweep. The term describes the method used by stylists to sweep lightener or dye through the hair by hand. You can opt for full-head balayage lightening or ask your stylist for a partial balayage around the face to highlight your features.

One of the reasons balayage is so popular is that it offers plenty of customization options. Hand painting the colored sections of hair instead of using foils allows stylists to create a range of effects using colors that flatter your skin tone. Typically, balayage incorporates colors that blend with your natural hair color to create a look that’s sun-kissed instead of dramatic.

Balayage is generally applied starting from the mid-shaft, giving a flattering grown-out effect that lightens the hair without looking stripy. Leaving the roots natural means that you can leave longer gaps between treatments without a stark contrast between your roots and the rest of your hair.

What Are Highlights?

Highlights are a more common technique used for lightening distinct hair sections and adding depth and dimension to the hair. Stylists use a pick to section out the strands and apply a lightener from root to tip, wrapping the treated sections in foil while the color develops.

Highlights create a structured lightening effect and a more dramatic contrast between the colored sections and your natural hair color. Therefore, regrowth looks more pronounced, and you’ll need regular touch-ups to keep your color looking fresh and cover dark roots.

Babylights are an alternative to traditional highlights that recreate the natural dimensions of children’s hair. They produce a more subtle, sun-kissed effect than regular highlights and are ideal for framing the face.

You could also consider adding lowlights to highlighted hair to create greater color depth. This technique involves adding precise slices of color that are similar to or darker than your natural hair. Unlike highlights, stylists use dye instead of lighteners to apply lowlights.

Balayage vs. Highlights: What’s the Difference?

Balayage and highlights have a lot in common — after all, they’re both ways of lightening the hair to achieve depth of color. However, balayage typically produces a more natural, beachy effect, while highlights are more structured.

The key differences between balayage vs. highlights come down to the application technique. Balayage looks more sun-kissed because stylists tend to use a color just a couple of shades lighter than your natural tone and brush it on in unstructured sections. Meanwhile, applying highlights precisely using foils creates a structured pattern and a more noticeable difference between colored and uncolored sections.

Changing up the application method also makes a difference to your maintenance routine. Balayage is usually easier to maintain than highlights because the stylist applies the color from mid-shaft. They also apply more color to the ends of the hair to create lighter tips, allowing you to go as long as you like between touch-ups.

However, you’ll need to refresh your highlights more regularly than balayage to avoid obvious roots. That’s because applying color to the entire hair shaft creates a greater regrowth contrast than the seamless effect of balayage.

Balayage vs. Highlights: Which Is Right for Me?

It’s worth considering the look you want to achieve and how much you’re prepared to maintain your hair color when you’re weighing up balayage vs. highlights. If you’re looking for a dramatic color change and like a more structured look, highlights could be the way to go. Meanwhile, balayage creates natural-looking, sun-kissed locks.

Highlights can be a good option if you’re prepared (and can afford) to have your color touched up every couple of months at least. However, balayage may be the best choice if you prefer a low-maintenance look that allows you to skip a trip to the hair salon if you need to.

Caring for Your Balayage or Highlights

Whichever side you fall on the balayage vs. highlights debate, proper at-home haircare is essential to keep your color looking its best. Lightening your hair using balayage or highlights is great for adding more dimension to your look, but it can also change the structure of the hair shaft. These changes can lead to dryness or hair breakage if you don’t care for your hair between treatments.

One of the best ways to care for your new hair color is to use moisturizing products designed with colored hair in mind. Leave-in conditioners can give your hair an extra moisture boost and prevent snapped strands and dry, lackluster locks. It’s also worth treating your hair with a regular hair mask to restore lost moisture and repair any damage to the hair strands.

Everyone’s hair is unique, and customized haircare can help you find the right formula for keeping your locks strong, healthy, and beautiful. Taking the Prose hair consultation is a great way to choose the best products for your hair to create a natural, cruelty-free haircare routine.


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  1. Switching around the styles are had a huge impact on taking care or doing hair care routine. But finding the more compatible and compatible style for you are more important. Thanks to this Blog anyway to clarify the differences about this two. I enjoy and learn something about this….