The Ultimate Guide to Balayage vs Highlights: Which Colouring Method is Right for You?

Have you ever found yourself deep into summer and still wanting your dark hair lighter, but it is refusing to bring the natural sunkissed goods? And you're also unsure which colouring method to choose to speed up the process. I'll be there with you!

After struggling to find the right look for my hair, I decided to take matters into my own hands and research the differences between balayage and highlights.

After talking to my stylist, I found the perfect combination of both techniques to give me the results I was looking for, and I'm here to share. Read on to learn more about the differences between balayage and highlights and how to choose which one is right for you.

Blonde haired bride wearing hair extensions in a ponytail for her wedding.

Balayage by Brady Hair Salon 

Firstly, what does Balayage actually mean?

Knowing the word's meaning will help you remember the difference between one colour technique and another. Balayage is a French word translated as 'sweeping', 'scanning' or 'highlighting' because of the long, sweeping strokes used to apply the lightener or colour to hair. Wonder no longer; now you know!

Balayage vs foils - what is the difference?

Now, let's look at the difference between balayage highlights and traditional foil highlights. Foil highlights are similar to balayage highlights in that both are a hair lightening technique, but each is different in important ways.

While balayage is typically applied freehand to achieve a more natural look, foiling typically involves sectioning the hair off before applying the product. (These sections can be thicker or thinner, depending on the exact look you're trying to achieve.)

Balayage hair highlights

During balayage colouring, the lightening agent is painted directly onto the hair's surface and left to develop before rinsing.

The highlights are generally more natural looking than foil, as the lightning effect is blended into the existing colour. This makes balayage great if you're seeking a more natural, sun-kissed look, as your colourist will use a freehand technique, painting the dye onto your hair, starting from the bottom and working their way up.

Balayage results in a more subtle look, so you don’t need to worry about regular touch-ups as much, with the colour lasting three to four months. Its is also a great way to add dimension and shine to your hair without committing to something too drastic.

Is balayage still popular in 2023?

YES, balayage is still a very popular hair colour method in 2023! The technique has become an evergreen trend, with more and more people opting for the freehand-painted look. As the trend evolves, new techniques and looks continue to be developed, allowing people to customise their balayage to fit their style.

Brushing Medusa blonde micro ring hair extensions

Balayage by Brady Hair Salon 

Balayage and shorter hair

Yes, you can use the balayage colour technique on short hair. However, it is important to remember that the result may not be as dramatic as it would be on longer hair, as the stylist will have less area to work with. Additionally, shorter hair may require frequent touch-ups as the colour fades more quickly due to the shorter length. If you have short hair and are considering balayage, it is best to consult your stylist to determine the best approach.

Balayage and curly hair

The balayage colouring technique can be applied to curly hair with a few modifications. Before applying the colour, the stylist must section and stretch out the curls to ensure even coverage. This process can take some time, as the stylist will need to be sure that all areas of the hair are covered, and the colour is applied precisely. After the colour is applied, it is important to use a deep conditioner to help maintain the health and vibrancy of the colour.

Balayage and damaged hair

If your hair is already damaged, you may want to opt for a different colouring technique or a more gentle formula. Balayage can damage the hair, as the colour is applied directly to the hair without the protection of foils. It is important to be mindful of the condition of your hair before opting for balayage and to speak with your stylist about the best approach for your individual needs.

Pros & cons of balayage hair highlighting method

More natural, sun-kissed look
Less structured look
Longer lasting colour, touch-ups every 3-4 months

More subtle look
Requires more skill from the colourist
Brushing Medusa blonde micro ring hair extensions

Foil highlights by Cooboard 

Foil highlights application

This technique is great if you’re looking for a precise and defined look, as foils are used to wrap sections of hair painted with dye. You’ll need to keep up with regular touch-ups every six to eight weeks to maintain the look, but you can be confident that your colour will stay vibrant and bright.

With foiling, the lightning agent is placed inside a foil packet or wrap, which helps keep it from seeping into other sections of hair.

Are foil highlights better for short hair?

It really depends on the desired outcome. If you are looking for a precise and defined look, foils may be the better option. Foils create a more structured look and can be used to create a variety of looks and colour combinations. For shorter hair, foils are best for maintaining the definition of the highlights

Brushing Medusa blonde micro ring hair extensions

Foil highlights by Millies Hair and Beauty

Will foil highlights damage the hair follicles?

Foil highlighting does not directly affect the hair follicle, but it can have an effect on the overall health of your hair. When the foils are placed around the strands of hair, they can trap heat and cause the hair to dry out. This can lead to breakage and split ends, so it is important to use a quality moisturising shampoo and conditioner to avoid over-styling the hair. Additionally, the colour can fade over time, so it is important to get regular touch-ups to maintain the desired colour.

Pros & cons of foil highlights application method

Precise and defined look
Vibrant and bright colour
Touch-ups every 6-8 weeks

High maintenance
More structured look

Which colouring method will be more popular in 2023?

Both balayage and foils are still super popular. Balayage is a great option for those looking for a natural, sun-kissed look, while highlights created with foils offer more of a precise and defined look. It really comes down to personal preference and the desired outcome, so consult with your stylist to determine which is best for you.

It’s always best to discuss any hair colouring plans with your stylist and make sure you’re both on the same page. Together you can work to achieve the most desirable outcome, and you can be confident that your hair will look its best.

By Sass G  🌸