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Balayage vs. Highlights: Which is Better?

Balayage vs. Highlights

Balayage or highlights? This is one of the greatest hair color debates nowadays. So, which one is better? How can you tell their similarities and differences?

Here’s a Balayage vs. Highlights showdown for you!

What is Balayage?

Balayage treatmentYou must be seeing the word “balayage” across the internet today, but do you know what it means and where it came from?

Balayage is a French word, which means “to sweep”. This was first introduced in the ’70s; however, it just became popular in the ’90s.

As its meaning denotes, it is a hair coloring technique that uses a sweeping motion. First, your hair will be sectioned. Then, the color will be applied from the mid shafts up to the tips.

It will look like thick highlights that are only a few shades lighter than the normal color of your hair. If you know what an ombre is, it almost looks the same. It’s like a soft, sunkissed look that’s perfect for any occasion.

There are different types of balayage, and each type has a different time frame. For example, a stylist could take up to 50 minutes to finish a full-head balayage.

On the other hand, if you have a more complicated type of coloring, the stylist could finish the balayage in 3 hours. This usually happens when a foil highlight will be transformed into a balayage.

It also depends on the colorist/stylist that will do the job. So, find an expert to make the process faster and perfect.

Here are the pros and cons of getting this hairstyle


  • It always looks natural so you don’t need to re-do the roots from time to time.
  • If you want to lighten your tresses and maintain your natural look, getting this hair color is also recommended.
  • You don’t need sun exposure to make your hair look sun-kissed because balayage can do it for you.
  • It’s easier to maintain than full-colored strands.


  • Few sessions are required to achieve the light color that you want.
  • It can damage your mane, just like any other coloring techniques that use bleach.
  • The color may become very orange when the toner fades.

What are Highlights?


Highlights are perfect for those who have solid, naturally-colored locks. It is lighter than your natural hair color and just applied to certain small sections to create some texture and depth.

A traditional highlight has been around since 4 B.C. It was developed by Ancient Greeks using a mixture of pollen native, gold flakes, and olive oil. This method has been used for centuries, but as time flies and as people innovate, the process becomes less time-consuming.

Nowadays, highlights are done by using foils. The bleach/dye will be applied to small sections. Then, the stylist will wrap an aluminum foil in it so the heat can be trapped. This technique can lighten the sections faster and even.

Here are the pros and cons of getting this look:


  • It is very subtle and a great option if you don’t want to dye your whole hair. It’s also perfect for the summer.
  • This can enhance the natural color of your tresses, adding a lot of depth and texture in it.
  • It offers versatility. You can choose any shade you want, depending on your locks’ natural color. This is better than dying your whole head with just one shade.


  • Since it uses bleach, it can dry out hair, just like balayage.
  • It will naturally fade, especially when exposed regularly under the sun.
  • Touch-ups are necessary once the darker roots appear.
  • Discoloration may happen as well when exposed to pool chemicals.

Balayage vs Highlights: What are their differences?

Balayage vs Highlights: What are their differences?

Left: Balayage/ Right: Highlights

Here are the areas where balayage and highlights differ from each other:


Balayage is painted on a large section and uses a sweeping motion.

Highlights, on the other hand, are only applied to small sections and use a pattern. Foil is also used in highlights to lighten the dye faster.

The first one is applied by painting the dye from the midshaft up to the ends, while the other one is saturating each section starting from the roots to its end.


They both have a sun-kissed look, but balayage blends better on the natural hair color. It has a softer look, too. It adds dimension and depth.

The other technique, on the other hand, looks like streaks on your locks. It is lighter and more noticeable, complimenting your tresses’ natural color.


You don’t need to do a lot of maintenance when you have a balayage because even if your hair grows out, the color will stay the same.

On the other hand, highlights need a lot of maintenance. Your stylist will likely tell you that you should go back after a couple of weeks to get a retouch. It’s still your decision, though. However, the dark roots will be very noticeable when it grows.


If we’re talking about the price, highlights are much cheaper because it’s one of the most common hair coloring services in a salon. You will likely spend about $100 for both the highlight and the retouch.

Balayage, on the other hand, is quite expensive. Since your stylist needs a great amount of dye to achieve it perfectly, you might be paying at least $180 for it.

Time frame

The first one can last for up to 6 hours, depending on the starting point. The texture, thickness, and length will also be considered when we talk about time frames.

Highlights are less time-consuming. Since stylists use foil to make the process faster, you don’t have to spend a couple of hours in the salon.

However, this is only applicable to those who have solid, natural hair color. If yours is already dyed with other products, the stylist might recommend you to have a treatment.

What are their similarities?

Balayage vs. highlights might have different techniques and produce different results, but they are both a lightening process that can give a sun-kissed look to your tresses. Actually, these two salon services are pretty much the same, they are just applied differently.

What you should remember is that no matter what type of lightening technique is used, you should take care of your locks and do proper maintenance so it won’t become dry and damaged.

Maintenance Tips for BalayageMaintenance Tips for Balayage

Whatever coloring service you choose, you should expect that your mane may dry out a little.


For this technique, you need to look for a good, high-quality shampoo and conditioner that is specifically formulated for colored locks.

You should also look for a heat-protectant product, too, if you’re going to use heating tools and styling products.

Get salon appointments

Balayage is low-maintenance. But, it doesn’t mean that you have to take it for granted and not visit a salon for some treatments. You should nourish, tone, and restore those pretty locks. For example, you can make an appointment every month to get a toner. This can keep your tresses shiny, refreshed, and get rid of brassiness.

Maintenance Tips for Highlights

Highlights need a lot of maintenance compared to balayage.

Daily maintenance Maintenance Tips for Highlights

Since it uses bleach, just like balayage, you have to provide enough moisture in it on a daily basis.

  • Look for a shampoo and conditioner that contains moisturizing properties to prevent dryness and brittleness.
  • Look for an ingredient like quinoa because it can soothe your scalp and keep it dandruff-free.
  • A leave-on applied on wet hair is also recommended to provide extra shine and moisture. It will also keep tangles away without making the locks look greasy or oily when it dries.

Weekly treatment

A weekly treatment along with your daily highlight maintenance should also be done.

  • To protect your locks from damage caused by sun exposure, hot tools, styling, and brushing, you should apply a mask once a week. This can help restore the protein needed to keep the strands healthy. Just apply the mask to damp hair and leave it for at least 20 minutes. Then, rinse it with lukewarm water. To get the best results, use a shower cap to cover it entirely. The stream and heat will open up the cuticles and absorb the nutrients better.
  • You can also use a pigmented toning mask once or even twice a week to keep away brassiness. This will make your locks look shiny until your next application. There are different types of toning masks to choose from, so ask your stylist on which type is suitable for you.

Additional tips

Here are the extra tips that you can use on some occasions.

  • Using a leave-in conditioner is recommended when you’re going out, especially when you’re swimming. When the cuticles open up, it can absorb chlorine and smog coming from the pool, which can cause damage. A leave-in can prevent the cuticles from absorbing these harmful pool chemicals, keeping it healthy. A swimming cap may ruin your look, but it’s also a great day to protect those precious locks.
  • The highlights can oxidize when exposed to the sun. The overall color of your tresses can become affected, too, so wear a hat when going out. You can also use a heat-protectant product or don’t go out when the sunlight is too strong. The dye can become very orange or yellow when exposed to UV rays, so always protect it whenever you go out.

Can I do it at home?

Hair coloring and styling kit
If you’re looking for ways to save a couple of bucks, you might be planning to do these techniques at home. However, it’s not recommended, especially for balayage. It needs proper planning and professional skills to get it right.

Besides, if you have zero experience in bleaching tresses, can you apply the sections on your own? I guess not. So, it’s better to look for an expert that can get the job done perfectly.

On the other hand, if you just want to make partial balayage or highlights, you can buy a professional test kit from a trusted brand online.

Just make sure to use a dye that is only 1 or 2 shade lighter than the natural color. Then, take a look at different tutorials online. If you have damaged hair, get some advice from an expert first.

How to look for an expert hair colorist?

You need a professional if you want to achieve a perfect, sun-kissed look on your strands. An expert knows the needs of every hair type. Other than that, they understand the technique more, allowing you to get what suits you best. But, how can you find one?

Here are some useful tips:

  • Take a look at their portfolio. You should also check if they are posting work samples on their social media accounts. Nowadays, posting projects is the norm for every professional so make in-depth research.
  • Look for a certificate that proves that they are an expert hair colorist.
  • Ask some questions. Are they using professional products? Do they have professional tools for their job?
  • Observe their manners as well while you’re asking questions. Are you comfortable talking to them? Do they offer some bonuses or discounts on their service?

Balayage Vs. Highlights: The Verdict

Balayage Vs. Highlights: The VerdictSo, which is better? Balayage? Or highlights?

These two techniques have their fair share of pros and cons. Other than that, they also have various similarities and differences from each other, which makes it extremely difficult for me to choose.

In my opinion, the verdict will come down to how willing you are to maintain it. Are you willing to go to the salon every month for re-touch? Do you have a lot of time to do treatments at home on a regular basis? If your answer is yes, then you should go for highlights.

If your answer is no, on the other hand, and you prefer to spend one big, expensive service for your tresses, then I recommend you to go for a balayage.

See which process fits you and your lifestyle best. Always do what makes you comfortable and happy. Good luck!

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One comment

  1. Thanks for helping me choose the right hair color. I’ve been thinking of finally changing the natural color of my hair to a much vibrant one. I like how versatile balayage is because I can choose any shade I want, so I guess I’ll go with this type then. To achieve my desired look, I shall then make sure to check their work samples on their social media accounts and look for proof that says they are an expert hair colorist.

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