Gradient hair colouring is one of the season’s latest trends with styles that add dimension and depth without you having to visit the hair salon every few weeks for a touch-up! So that you feel confident in asking for the look you want here’s a summary of the difference between balayage, ombre, sombre, and the whole shebang!


Balayage is also known as hair painting, and the colour painted onto the strands creates a gradual, natural-looking effect from the ends to the root. The Balayage hair colour technique is actually very difficult to master, but when it’s done correctly the beautiful blends of multi-dimensional colour will last for six to eight weeks.

Every stylist will have their own way of creating the look from cellophane, mesh strips, or foil used to separate the sections of hair. The freehand technique of hand painting against a backing board with lightening agent results in highlights that are random, full, and casual. This is a great option if you want chunky highlights with more contrast.


Ombre is the term used to define hair that is darker at the roots and blends into a lighter shade that gets even lighter as it reaches the tips. There are many techniques used to achieve this look including the teasing method where hair is sectioned and foiled, hand painting without specific partings giving natural or more dramatic options, and reverse ombre which involves painting the colour into the teased section working it up instead of down.

Ombre can feature quite a dramatic dark to light fade and is perfect if you prefer to dip into a colour rather than dye your entire head.


The sombre look creates lighter sections higher up and lower lengths having ribbons of dark colour for a more gradual transition. This makes it a softer version of the ombre technique which looks very natural. As the colour change is much more gradual this means less touch-ups, lower maintenance, and a less expensive alternative.

What is Flamboyage?

Flamboyage is a new alternative to traditional highlights which incorporates both balayage and ombre elements. This gives hair more depth and a natural, polished result, ideal if you want super-subtle highlights and a low maintenance colour option.

Your colourist will stick the adhesive side of the clear strip to a layer of hair before lifting it up. A random selection of hair stays in place and is then painted balayage style, creating a natural, mixed-in look.

Your hair salon

Now you’ve read all about these low-maintenance colouring styles take the time to read the reviews about your local hair salon – make sure they work with natural products that get real results! You’ll get all the hair colour technique advice you need from master stylists who really care about you enjoying your visit as well as your great cut and colour. You may even be able to get a free consultation before your treatment to make sure you choose the right option for you!