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Balayage vs. Highlights: What’s the Difference? How to Choose?

June 10, 2021 · Posted in: Beauty, Hair, Inspiration

Balayage HairThe biggest question for long hair wearers when making a salon appointment – what should I do this time? It can be hard for those not immersed in the beauty industry to choose between one hair coloring method and another. In the last few years, balayage has taken over the scene as the newest and most popular hair coloring technique. But what about the classic highlights? Here we’ll break the coloring processes down to help distinguish differences so you can find what’s right for you. 

Traditional Hair Highlights 

 Highlights are a classic technique that easily adds depth to your hair by selectively lightening hair pieces. It’s been around for years, and most hairstylists learn how to do this technique in training. If you go to older salons, only a few stylists will likely be versed in balayage, but it’s a given they will all know how to provide you with highlights. 

According to (a pinnacle brand in salon and hair care) 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 frames your face and adds a 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” 

While there are plenty of DIY, boxed highlight applicators, it’s important to understand that this is not a DIY project but a time to visit a professional. A stylist will be able to tweak the traditional highlights to fit your hair type and length and have all the professional products on hand that make a difference in this service. Just using the wrong lightening agent for your hair can put you in a place where it gets too light, too damaged, and falls out. Don’t take the chance; call up your local salon, and ask what they recommend for your hair type. 

Balayage Hair Highlights

This trendy hair technique is named after the French word for sweeping and has emerged in the last few years worldwide as the superior method for sprucing up your hair. The Balayage technique is an easy way to lighten your hair without compromising your natural color. 

Balayage is painted brighter around the face and done mostly on the body of your hair, while blending your roots. The hand-painted process guarantees a naturally lightened look without any chunkiness.

Most often used without foils, Balayage breaks the mold on how traditional hairdressers learned to lighten hair and produces a naturally multi-tonal look. The vertical sweeping motion of the application helps create the sun-kissed, effortlessly light look that Balayage is famous for. The look mimics the style of the technique, creative and natural. 

But be careful, Balayage is sometimes used in conjunction with bleach and, depending on the desired color, finished with a toner. Bleach strips your hair of color and is used to help the lightning process, while toner brings in ashy tones and controls the actual color your hair will end up being. 

This technique works well for people with darker hair to achieve dimension easily. Balayage can create caramel and mocha tones, lightening it without having to bleach or dye your hair completely. Every style and texture of hair can be Balayaged, and some stylists even prefer to work on curly hair because they can pick out specific curls to highlight based on how they fall and decide which look will be the best for you.

Balayage is a commitment. Not a commitment like dyeing your hair pink, but a commitment of your time. For a successful Balayage session, salons usually recommend a consultation before booking an appointment, so your colorist can assess your hair and decide what method will be the best to lighten it, while keeping the look as natural as possible.

 Including the consult, the average Balayage session can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. But everyone, hairdresser and customer alike, will agree the time and money spent in the salon to achieve this look is well worth the outcome. 

How to Choose Between Balayage & Highlights? 

When choosing between the two techniques, it comes down to what kind of look you are trying to achieve. Balayage will give you a more natural look that appears more sun-kissed, but traditional highlights tend to me a lot more structured, you know what you’re getting, and they are tonal and a great depth-adding option to get your hair exactly how you want it. 

Whatever technique you choose, talk to your stylist and with their help you’ll be able to pick out what will work best for your hair and the look you’re trying to achieve. 

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