Ombre. Sombre. Confusing. Balayage. Just breathe. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest hair colouring trend in normal person language: how to, why to and what life is like after balayage.

So you can’t say it out loud and you’re not quite sure what it is, but it looks soooo damn cool on Pinterest. Which is why I (a non-doll, non-model, real life person) got a balayage and it’s really quite awesome.


Goodbye split ends. Hello balayage…

What is balayage?

It’s basically a free-hand colouring technique. The hair stylist paints your hair with dye, starting anywhere below your roots. A brush is used to do the paint work – treating you like the work of art you are.


Hair stylist, Kerry, prepping my hair.

How is it different to an ombre or a sombre (and btw, what’s a sombre)?

An OMBRE means darker roots blending into lighter ends somewhere in the middle of your hair length.

A SOMBRE is just a softer, more natural-looking version of the dark-to-light ombre.

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LEFT: Sombre RIGHT: Balayage

In the contrary to these dark-to-light styles the BALAYAGE just means organic-looking, asymmetrical, “sun” strokes all over your hair (so no specific dark-to-light look).

It’s free-hand, which means the stylist has the freedom tailor it. Are you looking for slightly lighter ends, like in a sombre? Or higher strokes around your face? USE YOUR WORDS. And then whip out those Pinterest pictures to show your stylist physical examples of what you’re after.


Here’s how the painting goes down.

The advantages of a Balayage?

I’ll be honest, I just wanted my childhood sun-stroked, honey-brown hair back and a balayage was the safest way to do so.

Why? No regrowth. #yeayyy. Plus, it’s a very subtle and natural-looking colouring style, which hair wimps like me truly appreciate.

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LEFT: Before RIGHT: Balayage

Another great thing about it is, when you feel like your darker hair again, you just flip over your side parting to the dark side. #mwhahahaha.

You can do that, because only the top layer of your hair is lightened (sort of like the sun would naturally lighten up the top layer of locks after a year spent in sunny Mauritius).

Pitfalls of the balayage:

STYLIST SKILLS: Painting by hand means the outcome depends solely on the hairdressers skills.

The first time I tried this style, the hair dresser thought I was speaking a foreign language. Bah-lee-AHZGE I said. No reaction. Then I got the classic zebra striped highlights and sobbed.

The second time around another hairdresser (our hair & makeup guru, Kerry) knew exactly what I meant. A few hours later, I got a full head of fabulous sun kissed hair.


Balayage to dye for.

HAVING ALREADY COLOURED HAIR: Getting the right tone of “sun” strokes, if your hair is already coloured, is much trickier than lightening natural hair. But you probably know that, don’t you, you hair chameleon.

DIY: No. You’re going to dry your own tears using your own oddly bleached hair if you try this at home.

How should your stylist be doing it?


Here’s how Kerry did it.

First, Kerry teased the top bits of my hair away – to keep them dye-free. That way they would help the highlighted strokes blend into the darker hair unnoticeably.

Then she used a brush to paint the dye strokes all over my head at slightly different lengths and widths.

Keep in mind every stylist will have their own approach to this free-hand technique, but if the stylist brings you that little swimming cap with the mini holes in it (used for zebra striped highlights), run. Because you’re not getting a balayage, dear.

And that’s it! All you need to know.

Until the next trend,

Your editor