Viva Hair

Technique Clinic: Balayage, Ombré, and Dip Dye, Oh My!



As counties slowly begin to re-open, it’s easy to get excited over your first salon visit, and trust us – we’re absolutely ecstatic to see you! The time has finally come to get those tresses trimmed, roots retouched, and maybe even debut a new look to celebrate getting through quarantine! Of course, when we think of summer looks, we can’t escape the usual suspects: trendy bobs, gorgeous beach waves, and golden highlights.

Sun-kissed hair color and highlights are the staples of many an iconic summer look, but what exactly do you ask for when you’re in that chair? You’re ready to serve your own twist to Kylie Jenner’s golden brunette look, but is that a balayage or more of a light ombré? Aren’t balayage and ombrés just basically highlights? And where do we draw the line between an ombré and a dip dye?! You need answers!

Don’t worry, we’re here to serve them. In this week’s edition of Technique Clinic where we break down common hair and beauty terms and techniques, we tackle the differences between these favorite hair color styles to bring you up to speed on what’s what when it comes to sporting a balayage, ombré or dip dye. Saunter in those salon doors, knowing exactly how you want your best summer self to look!


The ombré has been one of the longer-lasting hair color trends since peaking and piquing everyone’s interest back in 2010. The gradient hair trend was so prolific, it was in everyone’s heads… literally. We saw a motley crew of celebs – from Alexa Chung to Beyoncé and even Jared Leto – rocking ombré locks, but did you know this hair color trend was popularized much earlier? Early noughts, baby. R&B princess Aaliyah dyed her hair ombré way before the wave, back in 2001, and two decades later, the look’s still going strong. The proof’s in the pudding, as they say, and Ashley Benson’s recent grungy take is one of our favorite desserts.

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But with all the recent hair color trends popping up, what exactly sets ombré apart from balayage, dip dye, and the like? It’s all in the name, apparently.

In French, “ombre” means “shadow,” hinting at the hair color trend’s three-toned effect that moves from shadowy, darker roots to typically lighter ends. As a hair color technique, ombré affects all the ends with a generally shorter transition from deeper colored roots to lighter ends, resulting in hair color that’s “shaded” in tone. It typically involves more of a horizontal color placement, where the lightener is placed horizontally, thoroughly saturating the end section of your hair. Then it’s carefully blended upwards to diffuse the application line, giving ombré its signature graduated shadow effect.


Think you’re ready for this decades-defying look? Make sure to take a few pictures of hair inspo to your favorite nearby local beauty salon (if you’re in Summerlin, you know where to go) to show to your go-to professional hairstylist. This will give them a better idea of how to tailor your ideal ombré look for your skin tone and face shape to achieve the best results for your hair.


And of course, once you’ve already got your look locked down, don’t forget hair care. Keep moisture and essential oils locked in by trying a low-poo routine. Cut back on washing your hair and use cleansing conditioners in between. We’re big fans of Enjoy Haircare’s unique 2-in-1 Conditioning Cleanser, which lightly cleanses, conditions, and detangles, and best of all, it’s sulfate-free!

2. Balayage

Apparently, the balayage buzz started in Vogue forums around 2005 with popularity soaring and capturing the public’s collective hair imagination a little post-ombré, around 2015. Like ombré, balayage has been around for a while, with the likes of Victoria’s Secret model Gisele Bundchen sporting the subtle and natural-looking hair color trend around the same time that Aaliyah brought the ombré back in fashion in the early 2000s.

It’s easy to see the appeal – the technique produces natural, sun-kissed highlights that are relatively lower maintenance than traditional foil highlights. Gorgeous, “I-woke-up-like-this” hair color that doesn’t need frequent top-ups? Every woman dreaming to effortlessly channel their inner Victoria’s Secret Angel wanted in.

But what exactly is balayage, how does it achieve more natural highlights than its foil counterpart, and how is it different from a lighter ombré? Once again, the French have the answers!


The word balayage in French translates to “sweeping,” alluding to the freehand coloring technique of sweeping highlights along the hair’s surface, resulting in varied highlights that melt from dark to light and back, giving balayage its signature dimensional sun-kissed effect. Unlike ombré, which involves more of a horizontal application technique, balayage typically involves taking smaller sections of hair and hand painting color vertically (according to  Jack Howard: four key gestures). This means that not necessarily all hair ends will be affected. The color transition between dark and light is generally longer than that of an ombré, resulting in a more natural “lived-in” look that’s equally as low maintenance!


But just because it’s a less touch-up prone look (queue a generous serving of side-eye to foil highlights…) doesn’t give you a free pass on at-home maintenance. Remember: extra special care must always be kept for color-treated hair! Nobody wants a brassy balayage, so keep brassiness at bay by using a reliable purple shampoo like Kérastase’s Bain Ultra-Violet Purple Shampoo, infused with hyaluronic acid to moisturize and strengthen your hair as it instantly neutralizes yellow and brassy undertones.


Often used interchangeably (albeit incorrectly) with ombré, it’s no surprise that search queries for dip dye peaked in 2012, right around the time that the ombré look was trending. Interestingly enough, search trends for dip dye looks surge, without fail, every summer since 2012 – literally every July! Once the preserve of punk rockers and scene kids, once the dip dye trend hit mainstream, there was no looking back. Now, dip dye hair’s a favorite festival hair trend, and with pop superstar Taylor Swift headlining its recent resurgence, the look’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Regardless of how often people mistake the dip dye for an ombré and vice-versa, we have to insist on the simple truth: they’re totally different! This time, we don’t have to look to the French for clues because it’s all in the (English) name… Dip dye is a two-tone coloring technique that results in a bolder contrast effect, making the hair look like it’s actually been dipped in paint.


While the ombre and dip dye share the dark-roots-light-ends phenomenon, the ombré is a three-toned look consisting of dark roots, light ends, and lengths that hover somewhere in between resulting in a graduated color effect. Dip dyes, on the other hand, are easily distinguishable because of their inherently punk rock no-blend strictly two-toned attitude. With dip dyes, there’s no color compromise, and the bolder the color, the better. Compared to balayage and ombré, dip dye throws subtlety out the window favoring creative colors that are usually 4 to 5 shades lighter than the main body of hair.

Ready to dip your toes into dip dyed waters? With July in sight, you’re right on time! Make sure to consult a hair professional before venturing out into the brave, bold world of dip dyed locks since it will likely involve hair lightening and bleaching to achieve the compromise-free contrast that signature dip dye looks are known for! Protect and hydrate your ends and mid-lengths post color treatment by reaching for hair masks designed for tinted tresses.

Our go-to’s Kérastase’s Masque Chromatique Hair Mask, a legendary multi-tasker that protects and deeply nourishes color-treated locks to prolong the vibrancy of your dip dyed hues! Our favorite thing about it? It contains UV filters that protect your locks against external aggressors as well as linseed oil, which polishes and smooths hair fibers from root to tip.

Whatever you decide to go with, remember to keep your locks in tip-top shape with a hydrating hair care regimen to combat premature color fading and keep your summer look intact!

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