Foiling vs. Balayage vs. Ombre


Ever wonder what the difference is between these three coloring/lightening methods?

balayage image source // foiling image source // ombre image is my own

Foiling: the most traditional form of separating pieces of hair for coloring. The stylist picks up pieces of hair with a rattail comb, holds a foil beneath them, and paints the color on the foil. The foil is wrapped up and the hair color processes. This is a great way to put multiple colors in the hair while keeping everything clean and even. Stylists have the most control using this method of coloring–but it can look unnatural if large or spaced out sections are colored. (my hair is colored using foils)

Balayage: a french method of coloring pieces of hair. This method usually results in a more natural looking, softer result. The hair color is painted directly on sections of hair, and brushed down the hair shaft in soft strokes. Usually a thicker product is required to make sure the color doesn’t bleed. Sometimes cotton strips are used at the base of the sections to keep the color separate from other hair.

Ombre: a method of painting hair color on the bottom portions of hair strands. It usually uses the balayage technique to apply the product so it’s as natural as possible, although some stylist may opt to paint on foils as well.

I hope this helps you make an informed decision when you get your hair colored! 

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Comments (25)

  1. Posted April 9, 2013

    I get balayage on my hair and just love it. If I can’t get my hair colored for months it grows our nicely and doesn’t give me noticeable roots.

  2. Posted April 9, 2013

    I’ve been foiling for years, but am thinking of going ombre which will help on up-keep.

  3. Posted April 9, 2013

    I have been wanting to re-do some ombre and may even attempt an at home version. Call me crazy! đŸ™‚ Good tips Kate!

  4. Posted April 9, 2013

    Awesome, I have only ever had my hair done with foils, I never even knew there were other options! I feel so much more informed and confident going to my stylist after reading (and listening) to all your tips!
    ~ Kimberley

  5. Posted April 9, 2013

    I recently coloured my own hair and I used the balayage method. I love the result, it looks natural and effortless!
    Suzanne from written by suzanne

  6. Posted April 9, 2013

    If my hair was foiled 2 months ago and I’m wanting to get ombre, would it work if I had ombre done on top of my foiling, or should I get my hair dyed back to one color first?

  7. Posted April 9, 2013

    Had my hair done yesterday — I’ve only had foils done… might have to look into the balayage next time. Thanks for the tip!

  8. Heather says
    Posted April 9, 2013

    I would love to try the balayage method, I have always done the foil. Wish you were closer!! đŸ™‚

  9. Posted April 9, 2013

    Will you do a video tutorial on how you do balyage? I am a hairstylist and am dying to try it but don’t know how to do it. Also, when you do Ombre do you always leave the blonde without foil on it? Doesn’t your bleach dry out? My email is [email protected]. Thanks!

    • Posted April 9, 2013

      look up Nancy Braun if you want to learn how to balayage’ – she’s amazing!

  10. Posted April 9, 2013

    I would love to try ombre.. slightly scared though.. eek!


  11. Posted April 9, 2013

    Thanks for this post! I have been wanting to try the ombre feel but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe it will be a good change to try out for summer? xx. McKenna Lou

  12. Ray-Ray says
    Posted April 9, 2013

    I would love to see pics of how each of these look when done. I’ve been thinking about ombre, but am curious about balayage- maybe that’s what I want?

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  14. Posted April 9, 2013

    This was very interesting to read. I haven’t dyed my hair since grade 8, where I received terrible highlights and was scared to ever go back. Very informative!!

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  15. Andi says
    Posted April 9, 2013

    I’ve being doing ombre for years. The best method I’ve found is to tease sections of hair and paint/foil what was not pushed up. This creates a soft look that grows out beautifully. Lasts about four to six months between coloring.

  16. Christi says
    Posted April 9, 2013

    I had balayage a few months ago after years of foils. I really like the soft natural look.

  17. Posted April 9, 2013

    Yes I am with everyone else, I would love a tutorial on balayage I am wanting to do a more natural look!!

  18. ....... says
    Posted April 10, 2013

    thank you for sharing this extremely useful post. I would never have known the diff. between the techniques! xx. gigi. food and beauty blogger @

  19. jmed21 says
    Posted April 10, 2013

    I’ve done ombre for years now and I love it. Although, it’s difficult to get it right. I like the tease-foil method which gives it the best blending. A good stylist is a must too!

  20. Posted April 10, 2013

    I am about to do a pretty big change with my hair this weekend, great things to consider!

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  24. Krissy says
    Posted July 2, 2014

    My stylist uses a cap for my highlights. It’s some type of plastic, and she pulls pieces of hair out through it, and the rest stays below the cap and doesn’t get color.