There are so many ways to add depth to dark hair. In fact, it can be hard to tell them apart at times. Two such techniques are ombre and balayage. Both work in subtle gradations to achieve a richness of color and character in your hair. Let’s take a moment to quickly explain the difference between ombré and balayage.


Ombré, from the French for “shaded,” came into fashion as a hair treatment at the turn of the millennium.  Ombré has retained its popularity, with minor vacillations, ever since. In an ombré application, hair gradually gets lighter from root to tip. Traditionally, this ranges from black or dark brown to blonde. Though as the trend has progressed, ombré has come to include more unorthodox hair colors, such as pink, purple, and even turquoise. This method adds color and dimension on a gradient rather than everywhere all at once.


If we were to say that ombré travels along the y-axis, balayage would be its x-axis equivalent. From the French for “sweeping,” balayage is just that—a sweeping effect featuring light and dark accents. Stylists create this effect by sweeping dye across the hair, giving it a layered and nuanced look that isn’t quite as drastic as the up-and-down ombré effect. Balayage encompasses a wide variety of brushstroke-based applications and techniques. One such variation is twilighting.  This is where stylists accentuate dark brown hair by combining traditional balayage with babylights.  Babylights are a tiny and delicate form of highlighting that mimics children’s hair.

Which Is Right for Me?

Even bearing in mind the difference between ombré and balayage, both approaches can lend depth and dimension to dark hair. If you’re particularly creative, you can even combine ombré and balayage for an eye-catching, all-over approach that features the best of both worlds. Take note, however, that balayage, especially twilighting, is a more involved process. Though you’ll enjoy the effects for months to come, you’ll need multiple salon appointments to complete the process.