Foiling vs. Balayage vs. Ombre

French Fishtail to a Messy Bun Hair Tutorial

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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Shelly Jones says · 04.09.13

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.

Kate at Green Fashionista says · 04.09.13

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

Anna @ IHOD says · 04.09.13

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

Reply says · 04.09.13

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

Suzanne S. says · 04.09.13

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

Dayleen Yoerger says · 04.09.13

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?

Becky @ Babes in Hairland says · 04.09.13

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

Heather says · 04.09.13

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

Pieces of Us says · 04.09.13

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 Thanks!

chris riley says · 04.09.13

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

Kayla Gilbert says · 04.09.13

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


McKenna Ryan says · 04.09.13

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

Ray-Ray says · 04.09.13

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?

karima khan says · 04.09.13

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Valeska M says · 04.09.13

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!!

Making It Sparkle

Andi says · 04.09.13

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.

Christi says · 04.09.13

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

Jennifer says · 04.09.13

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

....... says · 04.10.13

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

jmed21 says · 04.10.13

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!

Amber King says · 04.10.13

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

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Krissy says · 07.02.14

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.