Traditional Highlights vs. Balayage: Which Is Right for Your Hair?

Are you looking to add some color to your hair this summer? Then check out our guide to traditional highlights vs. balayage.

Traditional Highlights vs. Balayage
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Is it time to get a cool new hairstyle for the season? What’s the plan this time?

When you’re looking for new hair color options, it can feel like there’s way too much to choose from. What’s the difference between all of these things? Are you looking for a full dye job, or are you more interested in something subtle?

Two of the most popular summer looks are balayage and highlights. They add a bit of lightness to your hair that looks almost natural. But when it comes to highlights vs. balayage, what’s the difference?

Does it really look the same? Is the process different?

We’re here to help.

Keep reading to learn more about your favorite styles so you can decide which one is for you this season.

Highlights: What Are They?

Highlights are a method of lightening hair (as the name would imply). The lightened hair goes from root to tip to add some brightness into the whole look.

Highlights are typically sectioned off and dispersed evenly (though you can choose more specific sections if you have something in mind). Highlights can be as delicate as single strands or as obvious as full “chunks” of hair as long as they’re woven throughout the natural or darker hair color.

How Are Highlights Done?

When you go in for highlights, the hairdresser will separate out your hair into sections as they would for a normal dye job. They’ll then take even smaller sections that are going to be the actual highlights themselves. They’re often chosen strategically to give a more natural look.

Once the sections are chosen, they’re placed over a wrapping (typically foil) and “painted” with a lightener or bleach to start the highlighting process.

The hair is then enclosed in the foil wrapping and left to process while the rest of the hair is protected from the bleach.



Who Are Highlights Suited For?

Highlights used to be all the rage, meaning that they can really work for anyone. When done traditionally, they give a natural sun-kissed look to anyone’s hair. They can be done more aggressively to get a 90’s style chunky highlight which is making a comeback and trending this year.

If someone has pre-treated hair, highlights can lighten it up to change the style completely without doing a total re-dye.

Someone who has the time, money, and dedication to go to the hairdresser frequently may prefer highlights. The sun-kissed look can happen all year round. It does require some maintenance, though.

As your hair grows, your roots will grow out. The color-treated hair, as well as the highlights, will move down your head. While the highlights can look natural, this will somewhat ruin the illusion unless you’re keeping up with restyling.

Check out these great offers if you want to try out highlights but aren’t sure if the upkeep will be worth it in the long run.

Balayage: What Is It?

Balayage is another technique of portioning and lightening hair, but it works a bit differently. Rather than having only small sections dispersed throughout the head, the lightening agent is all used in a more concentrated amount near the tips and only very fine and subtle lightening near the roots.

This isn’t like what you may think of when you think of bleached tips, though. This look is far from choppy, and it almost has an ombre effect as it goes from root to tip. It’s more subtle than highlights, and it gives a very natural “grown out sun-kissed” look that looks both effortless and fabulous at the same time.

How Is Balayage Done?

The technique for a balayage is where it distinguishes itself from traditional foiled highlights.

While some stylists still like using a wrap for part of their balayage technique, it’s known to be wrap-free and more freeform.

The stylist paints the hair in a way that looks natural by the end. The lighter parts likely aren’t true blonde (unless the client is blonde or near blonde), so the processing works differently.

Hair that is closer to the roots may only be lightened by 1 or 2 shades, while hair at the ends will be lightened more where the bleach is more concentrated.

The client ends up with a smooth transition from dark to light that looks as though they’ve spent a summer out in the sun and sea.

Who Is Balayage Suited For?

Balayage is significantly more effortless to upkeep than traditional highlights, so someone who is new to getting their hair professionally done, or who doesn’t plan on returning frequently, is going to have a better time with a balayage.

This is especially true if they have virgin (or untreated) hair.

As the hair grows out, the subtle light tones that are close to the root will blend seamlessly into the natural hair. This makes the gradient from dark to light look almost as good as it did when the hair was first treated.

If the hair has been previously lightened, balayage might not be the best choice. Because that lighter color is likely more prominent at the ends, adding more lightener is more likely to cause damage than if the hair was untreated, or even only darkened.

Highlights vs. Balayage: Which Is Right for You?

When choosing between highlights vs. balayage, you don’t have too much to lose in either direction.

For a more effortless look and upkeep, balayage is likely the right choice for you.

If you want a more “styled” look and you’re happy to maintain any style that you get, highlights can be a great way to look sun-kissed even if you’re indoors all day long.

Either way, you’re going to get a stylish new look! For more posts like this, visit the rest of our site.

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How hair loss treatments have evolved over the years


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