The Truth About Ombre and Balayage

What the heck are we talking about here? What is Balayage? What is Ombre? How do they differ from traditional foiling hair color techniques? Why are they typically more expensive that traditional hair color?

Well, according to Google, Balayage is defined as “a technique for highlighting hair in which the dye is painted on in such a way as to create a graduated, natural-looking effect.” Ombre is defined as “The hair world borrowed the term “ombre” from the French word meaning shaded or shading. Ombre hair color is generally darker at the roots through the mid-shaft and then gradually gets lighter from the mid-shaft to the ends.” These two new (ish) trends have taken Hollywood, runways and now the salon world by storm over the last decade. If you want, take a minute to google “images” on these key words and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Go ahead… I can wait…

Ok now. How do these approaches to hair color differ from the foiling techniques that have been the main stay of women’s hair since the 80’s? Well one thing is “intentional roots”. With foiling and all over color, the goal is to have even color (or streaks of color) from the scalp to the ends. This is the kind of color I learned when I was in school back in the early 90’s. We still do a lot of these at my salon. They look great. If I were still doing women’s hair I’d still be doing them. Ombre and Balyage on the other hand throw that whole deal right out the window shoot rather for soft, natural transitions that take much longer to show roots than traditional foiling. The look can be bold and splashy or almost completely natural as though your hair lightened up in the sun over the summer. Done incorrectly… I’m not gonna lie… these colors look like crap. Blotchy, uneven, too orange or leaving the hair brittle and frayed. Ombre and Balayage are one of those things in life that look amazing when done right but are hard to cover for when done by an amateur. Traditional foiling is much more forgiving.

For this reason, if you’re looking to have this service done and done right… it’s gonna cost and there’s a reason for that. Balayage and Ombre are more akin to true art…painting, sculpting, crafting etc… than a predictable routine style of hair coloring. They require an expert who knows exactly how to mix the color, where to place the color, how long to leave the color on, and most importantly what steps need to be taken to achieve the desired results. A typical foiling service takes about 45 minutes to apply and with processing time and haircut make for a 2-2.5 hour service. You put the foils in, you rinse and shampoo, you cut and blow dry and your out the door. True Balayage and Ombre are a whole different deal, often requiring multiple same day processes and anywhere from 3-6 hours to complete. A stylist doing a typical foil can work on other clients while the foil processes making better use of their time which helps keep costs down. Not so with these techniques. When and how colors and toners go on and off with these colors is difficult to predict so stylists often need to block out half their day or more to do it right. This is why top salons typically charge $75-$100 and hour for these services and it’s not uncommon for a guest to walk out paying $300-$400 before tip. Sticker shock! I know but I called this blog “The Truth” for a reason.

Can you find a bargain option? You bet you can. Call any salon and ask about them and your likely to get a “Yeah, no problem we can do that with a haircut for $150 bucks”. Um… good luck with that. I started doing hair 25 years ago. Even though I’m an expert at traditional hair color I wouldn’t have a clue how to do these right and chances are pretty good that your hair stylist doesn’t know either. At Hair By Joey our specialists are actually specialists. They’ve had very high level training and have since gained the experience it takes to really understand these colors. We have stylists you’d find at high end places in New York and LA. Educated, confident and fantastic at what they do. We fix hair that comes out of budget places. Its typically blotchy, off color and damaged and yes… fixing a bad Balyage is gonna cost more than getting it done right the first time because of the extra steps involved with getting the hair healthy again.

Honestly, if you can’t afford it… stick with foiling and start saving. When you’re ready go to a place that knows how to do it right. Ask a lot of questions, look at before and afters and THEN make the investment. And don’t feel bad about the money. I always say, your hair is the hat you wear every day. Wear the hat you want. Oh and one last silver lining… Upkeep on these colors is often much easier than traditional coloring (every 8-12 weeks instead of 4-6) so If you’re a person who regularly gets your hair colored you may find that spread over the year the price isn’t so tough to take.

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