Balayage Vs Highlights: What’s The Difference?

Learn the actual difference between these two hair highlighting techniques.

Reviewed by Precious Rutlin, CAHP-BC
By Ramona Sinha, Certified Skin Care Coach

If you plan to color your hair but are confused between balayage and highlights, you have come to the right place. We will answer all your queries related to the balayage vs. highlights debate.

In balayage, a color is ‘swept’ on hair to give a warm look. On the other hand, aluminum foils are used to secure the hair section in highlights. It gives an intense look in comparison to balayage. Continue reading to know more about them.

Hair Highlighting: A Brief Background

Close up of hair with highlights in them

Shutterstock

Hair highlighting is a hair coloring process to lighten a few hair sections. You can use any color for highlighting as long as it is lighter than the natural hair color. The highlighted sections against the base hair color add a visual appeal to the overall look.

Balayage is also a hair highlighting technique. However, there is a subtle difference between balayage and traditional foil highlights. The next sections take a deeper dive into the differences.

What Is Balayage?

Balayage hair

Shutterstock

The word balayage is derived from the French word “balayer,” which means “to sweep.” Balayage is a freehand painting technique where the color is “swept” on random hair sections to give a super-blended, muted and warm sun-kissed result.

The color is applied in a different way than traditional highlights. The application is super-fine at the top of the hair section (for blending) and gradually gets thicker as it moves through the mid-shafts to the ends. This gives natural-looking and soft-swept highlights. Compared to balayage, traditional foil highlights follow a conventional technique.

What Are Traditional Foil Highlights?

Traditional foil highlights

Shutterstock

Traditional foil highlights use aluminum foils to secure and saturate the hair section for an intense result. All the thin subsections are colored and wrapped with aluminum foil separately.

Unlike balayage, traditional foil highlights follow a structured pattern. Even the effects are more pronounced than a balayage. However, foil highlights need frequent touch-ups.

In the next section, we have highlighted a few more key differences between a balayage and foil highlights.

Balayage Vs. Traditional Foil Highlights: Key Differences

Woman getting a balayage done by a salon professional

Shutterstock

1. Application Procedure

Balayage follows a freehand painting technique. Hence, the dye application is rather random. Traditional foil highlights require a more structured approach. The sections are strategically planned to give the desired result.

2. End Result

In balayage, the color is mainly concentrated on the top of each section, leaving the underside dark. As a result, the colored sections seamlessly camouflage with the hair, giving a more blended and natural effect.

Traditional foil highlights give you intense streaks of hair sections, creating a dramatic contrast.

3. Application Region

Balayage involves highlighting the hair from the mid-shafts to the ends. In traditional foil highlights, the sections are saturated from the root to the tip.

4. Maintenance

Balayage requires less long-term maintenance as you can grow it out more naturally. Traditional foil highlights need regular touch-ups to maintain the look as your hair grows out.

5. Degree Of Personalization

The hairstylists can personalize the balayage technique to accentuate your features or frame your face. On the other hand, traditional foil highlights do not have scope for personalization.

6. Time Required For The Process

A simple balayage application can take 45 minutes. However, if you have long hair and want layered balayage, it may take up to three hours. Traditional foil highlights may take 1-3 hours, depending on your hair’s condition and status.

Still confused about which one to go for? Read on to clear your confusion.

Balayage Or Traditional Highlights: Which One To Choose?

It all boils down to personal tastes and preferences.

Go for balayage if:

  • You want subtle highlights.
  • You have never colored your hair.
  • You want low maintenance results.
  • You want face-framing highlights.
  • You want natural gray-coverage.

Go for traditional highlights if:

  • You want prominent and high-contrast color patterns.
  • You want a uniform hair color with multiple shades for a natural look.
  • You can commit to regular touch-ups and maintenance.

Whether you choose balayage or traditional highlights, coloring your hair can damage your hair. Moreover, brassiness can be an issue for colored hair. In the next section, we have listed a few tips to care for your colored hair.

Tips To Prevent Hair Damage And Maintain Hair Color

Woman with highlighted hair at a salon for her appointment to maintain her hair highlights and texture

Shutterstock

1. Moisturize Your Hair

Switch to color-safe shampoos and conditioners. They are sulfate-free and help maintain the hair color. Hair colors contain chemicals that may strip your strands dry. Use deep conditioners to keep your hair moisturized and seal the cuticles.

2. Do Not Miss Salon Appointments

While balayage is low maintenance compared to highlights, it does not mean that you should take it for granted. For both treatments, make it a point to visit the salon for weekly treatments to tone, restore, and nourish your hair.

3. Avoid Frequent Hair Wash

Frequent shampooing can fade the color and dry out your hair, leaving it dry and brittle. If possible, wash your hair only once or twice a week. Also, once in a while, use a purple shampoo to minimize brassiness and keep the color fresh.

4. Care For Your Hair

Protect your hair from direct sun exposure and stay away from chlorinated or salt water. Avoid using heat styling tools. Use heat and UV protectants to prevent color fading and brassy hair.

In the much-heated debate between the pros and cons of balayage vs. highlights, it all comes down to personal preference. If you want a striking hair color shift, traditional foil highlights are the way to go. However, balayage is the ideal option if you want to keep your look modest and natural. Both styles of highlighting provide a distinct appearance. It is best to discuss your options with an experienced professional and assess your hair’s type, quality, and texture before finalizing your hair color look.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which lasts longer, balayage or highlights?

Balayage lasts longer than traditional highlights. While highlights require touch-ups within 6-8 weeks, balayage may last for 3-4 months on average.

Are highlights more expensive than balayage?

No, highlights are usually economical compared to balayage. This is because the balayage technique takes more time and intense focus than the highlighting process.

Key Takeaways

  • A few sections of hair are colored in highlighting, while the hair color gives a soft-swept look in balayage.
  • Traditional highlighting is a structural approach, whereas balayage is a free-hand technique.
  • The hair is highlighted from mid shafts to ends in balayage, whereas in highlighting, root to tips are saturated.

Was this article helpful?
thumbsupthumbsdown
The following two tabs change content below.
author
Ramona is an editor at StyleCraze. Prior to that, she authored over 200 articles on skin and hair care. She... more

Precious Rutlin

(CAHP-BC)
Precious Rutlin is a licensed cosmetologist, board-certified trichologist, complementary alternative health practitioner, and holistic health educator that bridges the gap... more

LATEST ARTICLES