Ombre, Sombre or Balayage?

Ombre, Sombre or Balayage?

A lot of people ask me, Ombre, Sombre or Balayage? What the hell is the difference? They are both fairly new techniques to hairdressing over the last couple of years. And most people think it is the same thing with different names. Well they are half right.

Balayage seemed to have come about first when hairdressers tried to mimic the ‘sun kissed’ look of natural hair. It is the effect that is mostly seen on children where the hair is naturally darker at the roots and lightens out towards the end as it is bleached by the sun. The term Balayage means to paint and is a freestyle technique of painting highlights into the hair, rather than the more structured and ordered way of putting in highlights. It is a more natural look and a ‘sun kissed’ version of your own hair. It was first done by the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker and Cameron Diaz. It looks great on blondes or brunettes and is a subtler look. There is now a new word ‘Sombre’ which is ‘subtle-ombre’ that has popped up this last year.

Ombre means ‘two toned’ and is usually a more dramatic look that can be done with colours such as black to red or just a more contrasting blonde. It is where the ends are lighter than the roots as in the Balayage effect but instead of natural highlights it is a more of a block of lighter colour on the ends. This look was made famous by Drew Barrymore.

Both these looks have their advantages and disadvantages.


  • The greatest advantage is that it’s cheaper! Instead of 4-6 weekly trips to the hairdresser to get your roots done as with highlights, with a Balayage where you roots are left natural, they can be left for quite a lot longer, as you already have that grown out effect and have no regrowth. This is a little different to Ombre as with Ombre the roots are generally coloured aswell to create a more dramatic two- toned effect.
  • The other advantage is that ANYONE can have it. If your skin tone isn’t ideal for certain kinds of blondes but you still want them then this is a great look as it can be done in a way where the blonde isn’t next to your skin, therefore you don’t have the problem of looking washed out or clashing with your skin colour.
  • The other thing of course is that we all know bleach damages hair to a certain extent. This look makes it easier to trim the dry ends off and definitely easier to grow out completely.
  • It is also possible to do on people who have box dyed their hair dark for many years and want a change, unlike highlights where the result is often uneven or can look quite yellow or orange.

It can even be done in reverse where the roots are lighter and the ends darker, this is also known as dip-dye.


  • There aren’t too many but one is that with the Ombre with the brighter colours on the ends, the bright colours do wash out quicker than blonde or more natural colours so you need to be prepared to get it re-coloured on the ends a little more often. Wella have created an at home colour in lots of different tones that can help with this, that is conditioning and easy to use. This could also be an advantage as it allows you to change the ends more easily to a different colour.
  • The second disadvantage is that it does dry out your ends a little more than a regular colour. This can be combated with regular trims and a good treatment.
  • If you were blonde and have gone to Ombre, it is a bit more difficult to go back to blonde if the root colour is a lot darker.

Essentials for Ombre, Sombre & Balayage Hair:

Nou Nou Shampoo & Conditioner: This is for chemically treated hair, contains antioxidants to keep it healthy and Tomato Extract to lock in colour.

Evo Ritual Salvation, Evo Mane Prescription Treatment and Davines Oi Oil: This is to keep the ends full of moisture and repaired to prevent breakage. This is the best shampoo I’ve ever used to get damaged hair back into perfect condition.

To ensure your colour stays bright for as long as possible you have to ensure that your hair is as healthy as you can get it. The more damaged your hair, the faster the colour fades. So use professional products so you can change up your colour as often as you like!

We do A LOT of Balayage and Ombre so we have pretty much perfected many looks. But here are some bad ones for your amusement (not done by us I’d like to add!)

Not a fan of the ombre that actually just looks like regrowth.
Not a fan of the ombre that actually just looks like regrowth.

Ciara-Dark-Roots INFphoto_2063670