Ombre, Balayage, Foil, oh my! Our guide to the different techniques …

We get a lot of people who call the salon and sheepishly say, “I would like a … foil … or ombre/balayage. I’m not sure really what the difference is!?” We agree, it can get confusing, so we’ve put together this (hopefully) helpful guide to walk you through the differences between these various lightening techniques. We are also going to add in traditional color here, as well as another term, sombre, to hopefully provide a thorough guide for everything. All images below are of our work at Salon Khouri.


Color1Color: When a client comes in for color, we apply one shade of color to the entire hair. The color is one dimensional as no highlights or low lights are added to the hair. The photo on the left is an example of all over color.





Ombre2 Ombre1The word ombre is a French word that translates into shadow or shade. Ombre is the style and balayage is the technique used to create the style. Many clients like a stark contrast from root to end, where the gradient is more obvious. This look is referred to as ombre.

sombreThe French word sombre translates into English as ‘dark,’ but oddly, when referring to the hair technique, it really is a more subtle form of an ombre. So, again, you have darker roots and lighter ends, but less of a start contrast on the line. Again, it’s a very subtle difference.









balayage-collageBalayage: The word balayage is a French word that means ‘sweeping’, which derived from balayer ‘to sweep.’ When performing this technique, stylists will paint freehand, in a sweeping motion, the highlights onto the hair using a board. The balayage look is more subtle than an ombre and sombre. The balayage looks very natural and many refer to it as ‘sun-kissed hair.’



highlights2 highlights1Highlights: Ahh, yes, the familiar technique that we all know well! Highlights have been a staple in American hair culture for decades, and will likely remain on the top list for decades to come. Highlighting uses foils that are taken right to the root, to produce lighter strands of hair from roots to ends.




We hope this guide has helped. We are happy to answer more questions you have – simply call us at 703.273.7878 to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our highly trained stylists!