Ombre, Sombre, Balayage and Colour Melt.

Just like fashion, hair colouring styles go through big changes as fashionistas are always looking for new, updated effects. Traditional highlighting methods made the highlights more defined and uniform from roots to ends, but today’s styles demand a more free-spirited and less structured effect. The new highlighting methods allow you to go longer between appointments and gives you more versatility with your colour. Now, those with really dark hair are able to lighten and brighten their hair to whatever degree they wish without the upkeep of hiding dark roots. You can embrace your roots!

But how do you know what to ask for? It is important to understand what it is that you are asking for in order to ensure that you and your stylist are on the same page. There are so many techniques and such subtle differences between some of them. The lines can be sometimes blurred as stylists around the world add their own little twist to a current trend and call it something else. With all the social media sites now, these different methods and styles are shared and adopted so quickly, making the evolution of these colour trends sometimes hard to keep up with.


This is actually the name for a technique of applying colour, which literally means “to sweep” in French. Colour is painted onto strands of hair in a freehand style with some strokes going up higher on the strand and some starting lower down. It creates a more natural, blended transition without “grow out” lines.  Since balayage highlights are less evenly placed, you end up with less symmetric, more random highlights which gives you that “beachy” look. It is the method used for achieving ombre, sombre, colour melts and everything in between.

Traditionally, balayage is hand painted without the use of foil or cellophane but sometimes these are used to help separate the sections of hair so that the colours don’t run into each other. Foils can also help to heat up the colour and make highlights lighten better and prevent the lightener from drying out. Stylists can get creative with placement, depending on what result you are looking for. There are many different methods that stylists have customized for themselves, but the key is to go to a stylist who has mastered the art of colour placement and meticulously blended brush strokes with this technique. It’s easy to see why the method has become so popular. It’s versatile and allows creative freedom for the stylist to customize some interesting tones and effects. For clients, the perk is that they can go longer between appointments. Balayage is a more difficult technique that not every stylist can do because it is done freehand, and it requires training plus skill, combined with an artistic touch. The key is to make sure that you’re in the hands of someone who has mastered the art of balayage and is able to apply the technique appropriately to whatever result you are looking for.


**Top left: traditional vs. balayage highlighting compared. As you can see, while traditional methods are more even from roots to ends, balayage enables the stylist to blend the colour to the root with uneven strokes. Above right, our lovely and very talented Junior Stylist Kimberly demonstrates her balayage method. 


Ombre means “shadow” in French and  describes the resulting look. Hair is darker and the root and blends into a  lighter and/or brighter shade toward the ends of the hair. To achieve this result, a stylist will use the balayage method of applying colour and make sure that the strokes disappear into the hair strand with a more feathered effect. The skill of the stylist will determine how well-blended the colour is. There are many different methods of applying the colour but the resulting blended effect is the key no matter what method a stylist uses.

You can achieve a variety of different colour tones of your choosing: caramel highlights, pastel tones, bright blonde, fiery reds…anything goes. The main definition of ombre is that the colour starts with dark at the roots to lighter or brighter on the ends, usually with a more sharp contrast.

Achieving a great, seamless result is very contingent upon the skill, experience and artistry of the stylist. Much like a great painter, the ability to manipulate a colour brush to achieve beautiful ombre without any harsh lines is the key. Not all stylists use the same technique, and there is no right or wrong way. Techniques always evolve as the top stylists continue to try to improve on the popular methods and create their own.


Trends started off with a more defined ombre that was sometimes a harsh contrast. Gradually though, this look changed into something more soft and subtle which blends even more gracefully into the root area. Sombre (subtle ombre) started to take hold for those that loved the idea of ombre but wanted a more blended and subtle look. To achieve sombre, the stylist uses balayage to lighten the ends and blend random strands of hair up closer to the root to make the colour transition even more gradual. To keep the subtlety, the natural colour or an added darker tone can be interwoven with the lighter colour. 










Any colour combination goes: from chocolate browns with caramel highlights, to dark and light rose gold, to variations on reds, coppers, funky colours…the only limit is your imagination. Your stylist will work with you to come up with the perfect colour combination for you. Maintenance is low since the natural root is generally coloured very little or not at all.

Colour Melt

colour-meltAn alternative twist on ombre and sombre styles….a colour melt takes different tones and shades and morphs them gradually from roots to ends. Most colour melts involve a darker tone at the root, like ombre or sombre, going into lighter at the ends. Different tones are used, such as dark brown at the root, blending into a deep red, then light copper and then blonde toward the ends. There is no limit to the combination of tones that can be used.

What gives this technique its name is that one colour “melts” into the next with a seamlessly soft transition. Again, as with the other colour styles, any colour combination goes. You can have fun choosing different colour combinations that work together, with the help of an experienced stylist. This is probably the most difficult look to accomplish and requires an expert hand. The result can be quite stunning. The reverse can be done as well, with roots being lighter and transitioning into lighter tones toward the ends.

To achieve this look, the colours are overlapped into one another so that there is no definite line from one colour to the next. This requires the stylist to meticulously feather the colours together and make sure that there are not harsh start and stop lines.

 Coming Trends

Trends come and go, but they usually play on the trends before. Because of its versatility and longevity, Balayage will not go away anytime soon. It has been around long before the ombre and sombre trends took off like wildfire, and it will continue to be around for the next few years screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-1-28-44-amat least. Because of the versatility of hair painting, the possibilities are endless. We will continue to see an evolution of this method as it continues to provide endless possibilities and satisfies the diverse desires of each individual client.

More women colour their hair today than at any other time in the past. Because of the large demand for everything new and fresh, stylists are motivated to continuously come up with different ways of colouring hair. As well, never before have so many different hues been in fashion at the same time:  browns, caramels, grey tones, golden hues, blue, pink, pastels, coppers and reds, beige, blue……pretty much any colour you can think of. It is a hair artist’s dream. So have fun, play and create!

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