Balayage and Highlights: What Are the Differences?

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In this blog, we’ll go through the distinctions between balayage and highlights, as well as the benefits of each procedure. 

What Is Balayage?

You’ve certainly encountered the term “balayage” on the internet a lot in the last few months, but what does this mean? Balayage is a hair colour process that involves the colourist applying the colour to a client’s hair in a sweeping motion. Balayage literally means “to sweep” when translated from French. Balayage is a method that has been used since the early 1970s.

The balayage method gained popularity by offering customers beautiful lightened ends which mix well with their natural hair. Although this style seems simple, it requires a well-trained stylist with a keen eye to pull it off. When using the balayage process, a stylist must be able to study your hair’s natural structure and movement and then “randomly” apply the colour to make it seem as natural as possible.

What Are Highlights?

Highlights, believe it or not, have been around forever. The earliest highlighting method is said to have been devised by the inhabitants of Ancient Greece about 4 B.C. The original “bleach” was a concoction of gold flakes, olive oil and local pollen. After applying this combination to someone’s hair, they would sunbathe for hours. This practice, however, is inefficient and time-consuming. Despite this, people have been using the gold flake technique for ages. Modern highlights that we know and love today were created in the early 20th century.

Foiling highlights were initially used in the 1980s to get a far more natural effect than highlighting caps. Using foils allows hairstylists to create more distinctive styles for each customer. A foiling allows the stylist to gently add highlights (a highlighting cap is more limiting).

Highlights are often recognized as an excellent method to add depth and movement to your hair. Highlights are a terrific way to spice things up if your hair is naturally a solid hue. If you’re naturally blonde and want to try something new, you can have what’s known as “low lights”. These are what they sound like; they’re the same procedure as highlighting, except instead of bleach, you’d use a darker hue. Low lights are an excellent approach to gradually moving to darker hair, or introducing a little amount of change at a time.

What Are the Differences?

The biggest advantage of obtaining a balayage is that it takes little to no maintenance. Balayage, unlike highlights, will not leave a line of demarcation in your hair as it grows out. As a result, you can go as long as you like between sessions. You may want to plan a toner service for around 6 weeks following your balayage, but it’s simple and inexpensive.

If you’re not aware of what a toner is, it’s essentially a colour gloss that prevents your hair colour from being too brassy or ashy without using cream colour. As a result, toners are less expensive to produce, and you can keep your blonde hair looking wonderful indefinitely.

Highlights require a lot of maintenance. If you don’t get them done regularly, it’ll be noticeable when you need a touch-up. After your first highlight appointment, your stylist will likely suggest that you come back every 6 weeks or so to get them redone.

What Are the Similarities?

Balayage and highlights are both lightening procedures, and although they utilize somewhat different methods to achieve significantly different results, both can give you that sun-kissed appearance. In truth, the only real difference between these two services is the methodology they use; everything else is identical. That being said, you should take additional care of your hair before and after both procedures.

What Are the Similarities of balayage and Highlights


Both balayage and highlights require the application of a large amount of bleach. You may not be aware, but bleach wreaks havoc on your hair like nobody’s business. If you use bleach on your hair too often, it will become dry, brittle and prone to breaking. Consider using a deep conditioner instead of harsh washes to prevent having straw-like hair.

We suggest switching to a colour-safe, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to ensure your colour persists long after a highlight or balayage. If you want to keep your highlights or balayage blonde, using a purple shampoo at home helps you tone your hair and keep the brassiness at bay. We also suggest using a leave-in conditioner and spacing out your colour treatments to allow your hair to heal.


It might be tough to choose between balayage and highlights, particularly when they are similar. Making your decision boils down to how often you’re willing to attend the salon for treatment. If your money and schedule enable you to visit the salon every 6-8 weeks, go ahead and get those highlights. If you’d rather go through one larger operation and then not have to deal with it again, a balayage is for you. Consider your lifestyle and choose which option is best for you.

For the best balayage and highlight services in the Ottawa region, visit JASK Salon & Day Spa online or call us at (613) 599-5275 today.