What’s the Difference Between Ombre, Balayage and Sombre Hair Coloring?

Trends in hair styling and coloring come and go. Hair coloring has transitioned over the past few years from solid all-over coloring and foil highlights to more natural-looking and softer hair tones.

Today, one of the most popular looks trends towards a grown out, sun-kissed and a bit shabby coloring style known as ombre. The Ombre hair coloring technique has been around for several years, creating the basis for hair stylists and colorists to try out new transitions and techniques.

It’s clear our love for this soft gradient style of hair coloring isn’t going anywhere.

This slow-fade style of hair coloring is a great way to add dimension and depth to your look. As a bonus, if you’re slack when it comes to salon visits, this style of hair dyeing will also ensure you don’t have to visit your salon every few weeks for touch-ups. 

But this is only one of a vast amount of coloring techniques out there which can make it difficult to choose the right option to suit your style and hair. With shades ranging from ombre to sombre to balayage, a lot of thought needs to be put into picking the right coloring for your hair type, color, length, and intended look.

Image 1 – 

Multicolored hair highlights range from the subtle sombre dyes to the free-flowing balayage colorings. Whereas bold and contrasting colorings are attractive, earthy and warm hair tones give a more natural look.

Let’s look into the differences between Ombre, Balayage and Sombre hair colorings to help you pick a perfect highlight for you:

Ombre, Sombre and Balayage: What’s the Difference? 


Ombre is a French word that means “shaded.” This popular style is typical of hair that transitions from one hue to another. For example, hair that’s dark at the roots transitions to lighter tones towards the tips.

The ombre highlighting technique was first invented about a decade ago, but still enjoys great popularity because it works on diverse hair types, colors, and lengths. 

Although there’re endless options when it comes to ombre hair color ideas, the most common include contrasting tones and bold colors for trendy looks to warm, earthy shades for more natural-looking touches. 

Ombre technique involves hair bleaching, a process that can easily cause breakage and damage on the ends. Therefore, it’s best done professionally. Although the technique is also time-consuming, lasting about 2-3 hours, eventually it’s low-maintenance.

This hair coloring technique has evolved over the years, but hair roots have remained darker and tips lighter for a contrasting look. Usually, the darker section of this dramatic hair color effect, in two tones, is your natural hair.

You can also achieve this look with ombre hair extensions. Color is applied onto the extensions before fixing on clients’ hair. This is ideal if you don’t want your hair colored. The extensions are highlighted similar to human hair. 

However, they also come pre-highlighted to save time.

Image 2 – 

Ombre is customizable, versatile and suitable for all hair lengths. The need for less touch ups (low maintenance) makes this coloring technique suitable for women working on tight budgets.

You can have your ombre hair style in brown, natural blonde, red, blue, pink, purple, or even green shades. The general hair color changes as hair grows, making ombre coloring a choice for many women.

When it’s Best Suited 

Ombre technique is best suited for fun, stylish, adventurous and creative women looking to make bold hair statements. However, your hair must be healthy to ensure it doesn’t fade quickly and become dull.

Use healthy, deep-healing hair masks and conditioning treatments to enhance the health of your hair before getting ombre hair color, for optimal outcomes. 

If you’re looking for a more subtle look with less contrast on your hair, opt for sombre coloring.


Sombre coloring is a softer variation of ombre that’s typical of subtle color changes from hair roots to ends. It gives your hair enough color for differentiation, but has less contrast in color transitions from the roots to tips. 

Unlike ombre, color shading is less gradual and more seamless. One way of achieving this look is weaving your natural hair root color across the entire hair. This allows a natural blend of your hair colorings.

Image 3 – 

Both ombre and sombre are time-consuming to apply, but low-maintenance in touch-ups. 

However, sombre colorings allow for addition of various tones and shades of your natural hair color for extra texture and dimension. This makes your hair more natural-looking.

Just like sombre, color melting is another variation of ombre that makes use of natural-looking color tones or rainbow colors for a more fun look.

When it’s Best Suited

Sombre coloring is suitable if you’re looking for an ombre hair color, but with more subtle or softer touch-ups.


Balayage, just like ombre, is a French word. It means “to paint” or “to sweep.” This hair coloring technique involves sweeping colorings on your hair for a beautiful, sun-kissed look.

Unlike other highlighting techniques that use foil for color application, balayage involves the use of hands to apply color treatment. This fosters less color saturation and ensures that your hair looks as close as possible to your natural hair color.

Hair coloring is applied on the surface, leaving the undersides darker for a dimensional effect and natural look. Models, celebrities and high-profile girls and women are into this hair coloring technique.

Image 4 – 

A variation of balayage coloring is the layage, a new hair trend that’s applied freehand with the client lying down to achieve a more accurate look. Another form of this hair highlighting technique is foilayage, a process that makes use of foil to generate more heat and heighten hair lightening.

The techniques allow for a variation in color application for beautiful compositions. Various tones of color give a shimmering, dimensional look. 

Stylists also combine it with traditional highlights such as baby-lights to give glows that enhance skin complexion and diversify balayage hair colors.

Unlike ombre and sombre, balayage technique is the most popular highlight with a natural look. Just like the two coloring styles, this hair highlight is low-maintenance and gives an attractive, crave-worthy look.

When it’s Best Suited

The Balayage highlighting technique works on all kinds of hair, ranging from blonder to brown to red hair. However, it’s not dark brunettes’ go-to color highlighting. It’s ideal for all hair lengths and cost-effective because less touch-ups are needed.

Opt for this hair coloring style if you’re into sexy hair highlights for a beautiful, natural look. Balayage brings many hairstyles into life. It’s also cost-effective in the long run.


Choose from ombre, sombre and balayage highlighting techniques. With proper understanding of the differences among the color highlights, you’re guaranteed to choose the most suitable coloring style. 

Opt for a technique that aligns to your budget, lifestyle, and desired look. Use the best hair coloring technique to attain your desirable hair look and boost your confidence.