The difference between balayage and highlights

If you’re wanting to lighten your hair, it’s likely you’ve heard of highlights and balayage. To most people, the treatments look the similar or the same, but these are two different techniques that have distinct pros and cons. 


Traditional highlights involve foils. Essentially, sections of your hair will be painted and then secured with aluminum foil. This helps your colorist lighten your hair from root to ends and control the saturation. Hair that is highlighted with the use of foils tends to be blonder than balayage. 


Balayage, on the other hand, is a freehand technique. Your colorist will paint the pieces of your hair by hand, focusing on the mid-shaft to the ends. This is overall a less structured technique, but your hair is still getting lightened. 


Traditional foil highlights create a stunning contrast to the other sections of hair. This also means that it’s more obvious when the hair grows out since the highlights go all the way to the root. You will likely need to return to your salon to get a touch-up every six to eight weeks. 


Balayage is a more blended effect because only the top of the hair is being lightened, not entire sections. Neither is the hair lightened all the way to the root, so it’s less obvious when you grow your hair out. You could go up to three to four months without a touch-up. The longer you wait, the more ombré the look becomes, so you could even keep growing it out if that’s a look you’re interested in. 


While any coloring can damage your hair, traditional foil highlights require much more maintenance than balayage (every six to eight weeks vs. three to four months). But balayage can actually have the potential to damage your hair more because a highlight touch-up will only color new hair, while balayage requires your hairstylist to color back over previously colored sections. 


Both processes can take one to three hours to complete, though a simple balayage can take just 45 minutes. 


Which one should you get?

Whether you want balayage or highlights will depend on what kind of look you’re hoping for as well as how much you can commit to as far as maintenance. 


Go for traditional highlights if:

  • you want an “unnatural” look (as in, you have very dark hair, and you’re wanting to go very blond). 
  • you want a more uniform or traditional look.
  • you want an overall lighter look (balayage won’t necessarily go as blond as foils).
  • you can commit to regular maintenance every six to eight weeks.


Go for balayage if:

  • you’ve never colored your hair before (balayage is a way to ease into highlights). 
  • you want a more natural or subtle look.
  • you want a style that requires less regular maintenance.


Anytime you color your hair, it can damage it, though ideally, the damage will be minimal every time. Even so, make sure that you are taking the best care of your hair possible between your appointments. 


Switch to color-safe shampoos and conditioners, and consider using a purple shampoo to help with avoiding brassiness. 


Don’t miss your salon appointments. Even though balayage is more low maintenance than traditional foil highlights, not attending regular appointments means that your hair may lose its tone and potentially look brassy.


Avoid frequent shampooing. Try limiting the number of times a week you shampoo your hair. Overshampooing can dry out your hair and make it brittle. 


Try to avoid too much direct sun exposure or using heat styling tools, such as blowdryers, straighteners, curling irons, etc.. Regular sun exposure and heat can damage your hair, making it dry and brittle, and fade your color. 


If you do experience hair damage, consider booking a Gloss Treatment to help deeply moisturize your hair. This treatment will nourish it back to its original soft sheen. You could also purchase the CURE Hair Regrowth Kit. This kit will also help nourish and restore, returning your hair to as glossy and soft as it once was.


Whether you decide to get balayage or highlights, do always see a professional colorists like the ones we have at the CURE salon. A professional colorist will be able to guide you to help give you exactly what you’re looking for with minimal damage to your hair. 


If you book a hair service, such as highlights or balayage, during the month of March at The CURE’s Salon, you’ll also get a complimentary blowout. Book your hair appointment today! 


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