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balayage vs highlights

Balayage vs Highlights: What’s the Difference?

Hair coloring has been at the forefront of changes and improvement to your look for ages, and two hair coloring techniques have been prominent throughout: balayage and highlights. They both offer the opportunity to color your hair quickly and effectively, but what are the differences?

This blog will give you some insight into what the two techniques do, the key differences and how to determine the right one for you.

What is Balayage?

Balayage, stemming from the French word “to sweep,” is a hair coloring technique that has gained immense popularity for its artistic and natural-looking results. Unlike traditional highlighting methods, balayage involves a freehand painting approach, allowing for a seamless blend of colors and a sun-kissed effect.

The defining factor of balayage lies in its application method. Skilled colorists strategically hand-paint the hair, focusing on the surface layers to create a gradual transition between the natural base and the chosen highlights. This technique lends itself to a customized and organic appearance, unlike the uniformity achieved through traditional foil highlighting. It provides a more personalized touch, allowing the colorist to accentuate the client’s features and enhance their natural beauty. This technique is particularly effective for creating dimension and depth in the hair, resulting in a multidimensional and textured finish.

One of the critical advantages of balayage is its low maintenance. The gradual transition of colors means that regrowth is less noticeable, allowing for longer intervals between touch-ups. This makes it an appealing option for busy people seeking a stylish yet manageable hair color.

What are Highlights?

Highlights have been a mainstay in hair coloring and involve the strategic lightening of specific sections of hair to add dimension and luminosity. This method deviates from the freehand balayage technique, relying on various application methods to achieve distinct effects.

Foil highlights are a traditional method that entails wrapping select sections of hair in foil with a lightening agent. The foil prevents the color from bleeding onto adjacent sections, resulting in a more defined and uniform appearance. Foil highlights are known for their precision and the ability to achieve a range of effects, from subtle to bold.

An alternative approach involves using a highlighting cap, which is only a good choice if you have short hair, with perforations through which hair strands are pulled. The color is then applied to the exposed strands, creating a controlled and evenly distributed effect. While cap highlights are efficient, they may lack the nuanced blending characteristic of balayage.

The most significant advantages of highlights are that especially those achieved through foil application, they offer precise control over the placement and intensity of color. The different methods of applying highlights allow for various effects, from natural-looking sun-kissed strands to more dramatic contrasts.

On the other hand, traditional highlights can sometimes result in a more uniform appearance, lacking the natural, blended look characteristic of balayage. Also, depending on the method used, highlights may require more frequent touch-ups due to noticeable regrowth.

Key Differences Between Balayage and Highlights

Now, let’s look at the main differences between balayage and highlights.

Contrast in Application Techniques

The application of highlights is characterized by precision and control. Whether using foils or caps, the goal is to create well-defined, targeted lightening effects on specific sections of hair. This method allows for meticulous placement and intensity control.

In stark contrast, balayage relies on the artistry of freehand painting. colorists use sweeping motions to apply color to the surface layers of the hair, resulting in a more organic and painterly effect. This technique emphasizes a natural flow of color without strict adherence to patterns.

Resulting Look

The hallmark of balayage is its ability to produce a soft and blended result. The hand-painted strokes integrate with the natural base color, creating a harmonious and multidimensional appearance. The transition between shades is subtle, mimicking the gradual effects of sunlight.

Contrarily, traditional highlights tend to yield a more defined and uniform look. The color application in specific sections creates distinct streaks or patterns, resulting in a bolder contrast between the highlighted strands and the base color.

Maintenance Requirements

One of the notable advantages of balayage is its low maintenance. The gradual transition between colors helps conceal regrowth, allowing individuals to extend the time between salon visits. This makes balayage an attractive option for those seeking a stylish yet manageable hair color.

On the other hand, traditional highlights may demand more frequent touch-ups. The precise placement of color in defined sections can lead to noticeable regrowth, necessitating regular salon visits to maintain a polished and uniform appearance.

Which One is Right for You?

There are a few factors to consider to determine which type is right for you.

Consider the natural texture, thickness, and condition of your hair. Balayage’s freehand approach can complement various hair types, while highlights may be more suitable for particular textures.

Balayage might be the right choice if a soft, natural, and seamlessly blended look is your goal. Highlights could be the answer for those seeking a more defined and uniform appearance.

Also, ask yourself how willing you are to commit to maintenance and consider your budget

Seeking the guidance of a professional hairstylist can be a game-changer when deciding between balayage and highlights. A skilled colorist can assess your hair type, skin tone, and lifestyle to provide personalized recommendations. Their expertise ensures that the chosen technique complements your features, aligns with your preferences, and suits your maintenance routine.


Ultimately, the decision between balayage and highlights combines your individual preferences, lifestyle considerations, and desired outcomes.

Remember, your hair is an expression of your style, and the decision between balayage and highlights is a personal one. Embrace the transformative power of both techniques, recognizing that each has its own merits. Balayage offers a natural and organic allure, while highlights provide precision and versatility. The beauty of these techniques lies in their ability to enhance your features and complement your overall aesthetic.

VIP Hair Salon is a professional full-service hair salon in Boca Raton, FL. Contact us today at (561) 808-2788 or fill out our convenient online form to schedule a consultation with one of our expert stylists. They can advise which colors and styles are right for you and help you realize them.

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