A Closer Look at the Balayage Lingo – Differentiating the Balayage from the Flamboyage, Ombré, and Sombre

balayageEver since it hit American shores, especially in Hollywood, the balayage hair highlighting technique has been the go-to hairstyle for many of the world’s Who’s Who. However, it was not always this way. In fact in the 80’s everyone was into the foil technique of hair highlighting. But then, things changed and everyone wanted to have hair that looks as natural as possible. Hollywood personalities knew it’s time to sport a newer, more natural look. Hence, the birth of balayage.

On a side note, balayage has been around in Paris since the 1970s, a full 2 decades earlier before it hit American shores and gained its traction to become one of the world’s most sought after hair highlighting technique. You can ask a balayage expert in the best balayage Melbourne hair salon and she will tell you how this freehand hair highlighting technique crossed the Atlantic and cross continental US to become a Hollywood blockbuster for its many stars. And since everyone follows the stars, it didn’t take long before the rest of the world was introduced to the natural elegance and beauty of the balayage hair highlighting technique. In Australia, for example, there are now plenty of hair salons that provide excellent, Hollywood-standard balayage hair styling.

But do not confuse balayage for other hair highlighting techniques that may, at first glance or to the uninitiated, look like a balayage. There are three other hair highlighting techniques that are almost similar to balayage. And as such, it is very important to differentiate these techniques.


Sometimes spelled as balliage or baliage, balayage is pronounced as bal-yaj and refers to a technique of hair highlighting that uses the hands to apply dye onto the hair in one purposeful sweeping motion, with the bulk of the dye at the tips of the hair. This creates highlights in chunkier sections of the hair creating the effect that it is naturally lightened by the sun. This is why people just love referring to the balayage as having sun-kissed hair. Sections of hair are less saturated and regrowth lines are also less noticeable. The overall effect therefore is one of naturally-looking hair whether it is just a day old from the salon or already two months old from your last balayage hair highlighting treatment. Many think that balayage is excellent for blonde and light-coloured hair, especially those with long locks. In fact, balayage works very well with all colours of hair including brown, red, and even black. Short or long, curly or straight, anyone can have a fabulously-looking hair in the hands of a balayage expert. Oh, by the way, did you know that balayage was actually called Balayage à Coton? Cotton was used to separate the coloured or dyed hair from those that need to be left untouched; hence, the name.


A little bit lighter than balayage, flamboyage is a hair highlighting technique that uses the same principles of the balayage except that the hair tips are often lighter to create an even more subtle highlights. This is practically the perfect hair highlighting style for people who would like to add more depth to their hair without announcing to the world that they had highlights. The unevenness and subtlety of the dye gives hair a naturally-looking well-polished look. If you love balayage but require super subtle highlights, then flamboyage is what you will need.


If you have seen the hair of your grandmother or an elderly woman with dark hair at the roots and very light hair towards the tips, now imagine this kind of hair on a much younger woman in her 20s or even teens and you now have what is aptly called the ombré. The ombré technique requires a darker root and a lighter tip; more like a two-tone hair that is moving on a gradient. It works on almost any type of hair but preferably one that has some length to it, otherwise the gradient would simply be lost in the transition, if any. If the individual has lighter hair, she may opt for a darker dye at the roots. If she has a dark hair, she will need to dye her tips a lighter colour.


Similar to an ombré, the sombre is a much lighter version, however. The colour transition takes on a more gradual approach compared to an ombré allowing for lesser maintenance without necessarily losing its unique styling. And since the hair colouring technique requires lesser dye, it is naturally less expensive to the ombré. Additionally, it won’t scream for attention unlike the ombré that is clearly visible even from a mile away.

These are the terms you simply have to understand: balayage, flamboyage, ombré, and sombre. Here’s a tip: if you go to your hair salon for a balayage, just tell them you want your hair sun-kissed. They will already know that you need a balayage.

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Christina Hoover

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