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Tired of dull, flat hair? Ready to add a pop of sunshine to your locks? If you’re looking to lighten up, you’ve probably heard the terms ombre and balayage thrown around. These terms might seem like a fancy way of describing highlights. But what really is the difference between balayage and ombre, and which style works best for you? Never fear! Deseo Salon & BlowDry is here to offer beauty guru wisdom in the heart of Denver.

What is the difference between balayage and ombre?

Both color treatments lighten your hair, especially toward the bottom. But ombre leaves a clear fade line for dramatic style. Balayage treatments add lightened sections throughout your hair for a seamless transition. Keep reading to learn more about the differences in the style, the technique, and which is the right choice for your hair.

The Style


The classic ombre burst onto the fashion scene in a major way and hasn’t left since! When picturing an ombre, imagine a dramatic gradient with red carpet flair. A traditional ombre takes your naturally dark roots and slowly fades into a lighter hue. A distinct fade line is apparent, creating the “shadow” effect.

Ombres can look great swept up or down. While the typical ombre fades from dark brown to blonde, the same effect can be achieved with almost any color scheme.


This effortless chic look is trendy and subtle. Picture beachy waves with a hint of sunny glow. Hair is made a few shades lighter than your natural hue, with the bottom layers left darker to add dimension and texture. This creates the illusion of naturally lightened hair — all from the comfort of a salon chair.

While balayage is typically shown on long, curly hair, this style can work well with bobs and even pixie cuts.

The Technique


Color melting is key when bringing ombre looks to life. Both ombre and balayage are achieved by painting sections of the hair with lightener to create the desired effect. With ombre, sections are typically wider with a higher volume of lightener used to adjust the gradient. Ombre techniques can also be used to create fantasy styles, with pastels, blues, and purples being some of the most popular not-quite-natural choices.


Soft hues and rich depths are created by hand-painting highlights into individual sections of hair with balayage. Beginning from the roots out, the heaviest section of lightener is applied at the end to enhance the contrast between the underside of the hair and top.

The Choice


If bold and daring is your aesthetic, ombre is the color choice for you! Ombre style works best for long or medium length hair. Natural curls love ombre, while a sleek, straight cut can also look great with a sharp fade to add drama and intrigue. Want to turn down the light look just a notch? Sombre color — better known as a darker, softer ombre that isn’t quite subtle enough for a balayage — is a fantastic option.

Ombres are lower maintenance than most color treatments and are great for boosting the texture and shine of thin hair. For keeping your color rich and vibrant, we recommend Kérastase’s Bain Chromatique Riche to protect your hair as you clean it.


Love your natural summer hair, but want to enjoy the glow all year long? A balayage treatment may be your new best friend! Balayage offers more versatility than ombre and can work well with any length. Dry, thick hair tends to do well with a less intense lightener, while darker hair is the ideal base color for weaving in natural highlights.

Like ombre, balayage is also fairly easy to maintain with the advantage of fading to a more natural hue between visits. Oribe hair care offers a variety of luxury hair care options for styling and maintaining your luscious locks.

Ready to discover your next style adventure? Book an appointment with our salon professionals today! Our stylists can help you pick the right color treatments for perfect look.

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