At times the flow of new hair highlighting techniques seems to be never ending, doesn’t it?
Who can keep up?
Forget the sound alike aspect or made up names which is bad enough, for some of these the differences between them are subtle at best. So any confusion is totally understandable.
That also makes it hard to figure out which might be best for your situation without looking like you’re just following the crowd.
And you were wondering what ever happened to plain ole highlights?
Maybe that means it’s time for a quickie refresher course. One that might be helpful – especially if you wouldn’t know a sombre from a sombrero.
So here’s what covered. Naturally you can read along or quickly go to the specific highlighting approach that most interests you.
What Is Ombre?
Ombre has been popular on both the red carpet and bedroom carpet for years now.
What Is It? No passing fad that’s for sure. Otherwise, think two contrasting colors. Sometimes boldly contrasting with color depth at the roots that melts into (much) lighter ends.
The idea is to dramatically transition your strands from darker roots that lighten up the closer you get to the ends – with the ends being lightest of all. This can sometimes come off looking somewhat abrupt. But hey that’s ombre for you.
How Applied? As with any balayage highlighting technique, colorists paint the product directly on the strands by hand. And since it’s not a full blown dye job, well, that makes it easier on your mane overall.
Point to Note: While most hair divas put this firmly in the low maintenance category it can require some serious seat time initially. Like maybe a couple two three hours or more depending on what all’s being done. Despite that this is still a good option for those with little time, or patience, for color touch ups.
How Best to Maintain It: As after any hue makeover you’re likely going to want to switch to gentle, color-friendly shampoo and conditioner. Other than that not much fussing is required since ombre avoids the classic root to ends approach to hair coloring.
What’s Up With Sombre?
Meet sombre aka soft ombre.
It’s like the coy, more modest step sister of ombre.
What is it? It’s what those eager to ditch that starker ombre look turn to when favoring something more demure less obvious. You might think of it as a bit like an ombre makeover, know what I mean?
Here rather than being limited to two colors, like ombre is usually, the idea is to blend a handful of hues and tones seamlessly. That’s the key. Usually it’s a melding of colors both a few shades lighter and darker from your base shade.
Also unlike with ombre, you’re going for a softer, subtle, more blended effect that exudes understated texture and dimension.
How Best Applied? Sombre highlighting is achieved using the balayage technique. Here too, expect the process to take a while.
Who Is It Best For? Pretty much anyone with hair who hates maintenance. Although, refinery29.com feels this is especially flattering on brunettes because it brings some totally natural feeling warmth to your look that effortlessly flatters your skin tone.
Yet this beyond-subtle technique is also the perfect way for darker blondes to lighten things up without touching their natural color too much. Which adds a bit of depth and dimension too.
What’s the Maintenance Routine Like? As with ombre shampooing as little as possible ensures the longevity of the color. When you do wash your mane it’s best to opt for a sulfate free option to guard against the dreaded shade fade. Hydrating hair masks can help maintain the health of your tresses too.
For those who didn’t get the email, this is officially one of the newer buzzwords on the hair coloring scene.
So let’s proceed directly to what you need to know about it.
What Is It? Simple. It’s basically what you get when brighter blonde and richer brunette tones bump into each other accidently on purpose. The dirty blonde result is a delightful multi-dimensional hue that is neither blonde nor brunette. It’s almost like the flaxen and chocolate colors melt into each other.
How Is It Applied? To nail this one balayage is once again the technique of choice. So the final multi-dimensional affect is typically brought to life free style i.e. foil-free.
The final outcome can be all over the map a little – just in a good way. Bronde is totally customizable with no one hard and fast rule what this should look like when you leave the salon. Just depends on how the person holding the coloring brush works it.
Who Rocks It Best? Those coming in with color ranging from light to medium brown for starters. But this isn’t limited just to those girls. Practically anyone can get in on this too.
It’s an especially attractive option if you’ve taken blonde too far – you know almost to one dimensional white? Going bronder will revitalize your color by adding back a kiss of dimension and depth as only lowlights can.
As far as texture, Loreal insists it looks best on locks with a little natural wave to them. For many that happily means your natural texture. Alright. A welcome break from hot tool styling then too.
How Hard Is It to Maintain? You’ll find this one is also listed under the ultra-low maintenance category. Actually the color should really get better over time. All the more if you use color safe shampoo and conditioner. But then you knew that, right?
Now what you may not have known is glossing every six weeks can nicely boost the tone’s vibrancy for the long haul.
Sun kissed. Natural looking. Super subtle. Terms similar to those are often used to describe baby blonde highlights. They may also be why people are clamoring for them.
What Is It? When talking babylights you’re talking thin, tiny, micro sized sections of highlighted hair taken almost down to the strand level. That’s small. While these “barely there” highlights give your color a boost it’s more like you’re flirting with a color lightening more so than embracing one.
How Applied? Color application will remind you of traditional highlighting only diff is the amount of hair treated at a time. So yeah, the strands are colored and set into foils. Takes just short of forever to do the average head of hair because you’re dying very small sections.
Who’s It Best For? Perfect for anyone with a bad case of toddler hair-color envy – have you ever noticed how amazing their hair almost glows when bathed in sunlight? But seriously, color is no object. As ModernSalon.com notes this approach works beautifully whether you’re a red head, blonde or brunette.
What’s the Upkeep Involved? Once again next to none. Over time the color just gets more lived in looking as your hair grows out is all. So unlike traditional highlights you can go quite a while between appointments. Think like 8 to 10 weeks even.
What About Balayage?
The now mainstream coloring process that holds much of the different choices here together is balayage.
Thank heavens for the French, right? Even if we have to stop and think when trying to pronounce it, since our Hooked on Phonics training is of no help, it just sounds pretty somehow!
You could argue that maybe we should have started with this since it’s the common thread with these. But I think most have at least a passing understanding of balayage so it was saved for last. Yet if not, just wanted to include something for those interested in knowing more.
What Is It? Unlike everything else already explored on this page, it’s definitely a technique rather than outcome. When you get down to the bare essentials think dip dye like color painting. Producing a look that most often features dark roots with much lighter ends like when you’ve grown out a color almost.
How Applied? At its simplest it’s a foil-free application of dye that’s painted on.
Who Best For? Anyone since length is of no concern. This technique has evolved so anymore it works with strands that that skim your chin, graze your collar bone, or fall to the middle of your back.
Potentially Huge Benefit: Coloring hair this way is also great for anyone concerned with damage that happens when the coloring agent is anything stronger than Koolaid dip dye. That’s because even when lightening this approach is not nearly so hard on your strands as other more traditional dyeing methods.
Point to Note: You already know balayage is a specialized coloring service that requires knowing more than just the difference between the results a clipper sized number 1 and number 3 produces. So it’s not going to be cheap.
Besides the artistic aspect, need for more advanced and nuanced skills, and additional time involved there’s also the possibly higher product cost for the salon. So it’s not out of the question to see your credit card hit for 20-25% more than traditional highlighting with foil. But that bump is offset some by the need for less frequent touch ups.
One Girl’s Experience with Balayage for Dark Hair.
If you’re new to balayage, or even if you aren’t, this video shared a helpful overview of the entire process. After watching it you’ll better understand …
- the balayage technique and the benefits it offers
- some things you and your stylist should discuss before the coloring commences
- the coloring process and product that might make all the difference to your hair
- the role your skin tone plays when deciding on the color.