The difference between Ombre, Balyage, Dip-dye & Sombre

So it’s 2015 and whilst the two tone looks of Ombre are taking a back seat, people still come in droves for the evolved variations and Balayage, Dip-dyes and Sombres are still going strong in the commercial sector, especially now the sun is shining a little more and the beachy vibe kicks in strong. The big problem with these looks though, are the subtle differences between them and how, at times, it can be difficult to differentiate which is the desired outcome and which technique you need to be applying to get the desired end result. As usual, it’s all in the consultation but clearing up these differences on services can never go amiss, both for stylists and sometimes more-so for potential clients, especially in the internet age where clients will often research online before coming into the salon. This is great and I think everyone would agree that it’s a positive thing, but we do need to be careful of terminology, not least when the terms are often mashed together and used as if they are interchangeable by so many people online. So then, in finality, what are the differences between Ombre, Balayage, Dip-dye and Sombre?


Ombre hair colour is the graduation, generally speaking from darker roots, to lighter ends. It’s the breakout trend from the last couple of years and where most of the following few styles gained their roots. The lighter shade will start from around one third to half way down the hair, so that you’re looking at about two thirds of the hair being coloured in total. The big word here is graduation, Ombre is a subtle fade from the darker roots to the lighter ends and this is achieved by back combing the hair before applying the colour so that you can control the subtlety of the fade.


Balayage differs considerably from Ombre in the application and although there are similarities in the outcome, the overall look is quite different. In general, you’re still looking for a faded look from darker roots to lighter ends, but balayage is a more ‘sun kissed’ vibe rather than a lazy beach effect of the Ombre technique. It can be difficult to describe, but with Balayage, the colour is painted on freehand, so that the ends of the hair are lighter and as the colour runs up the hair towards the roots, it breaks into a subtle, almost chunky highlighted style that can be blended into the darker roots. This has the overall end result of a much more subtle lightening effect and a less solid line between dark and light.


Dip-dye is the easiest to describe and generally has colour solely on the last one third of the hair. The colour is applied with quite a strict line, with much less of a graduation than the other effects so that the hair literally looks like it has been ‘dipped’ into dye. Clever name huh? Dip-dye is usually more often used with brighter, more vibrant colours and stronger contrasts than the more natural tones of Balayage and Ombre.

And… Sombre?

Sombre is the evolution of Ombre and is a much softer and more natural graduation between the darker roots and lighter ends. It is essentially a mix of Balayage and Ombre into one style and is applied in the same way, whereby you back comb the tips like Ombre, and as you work up through the head you work in the freehand techniques of Balayage to gain that subtler transition between light and dark. The end effect will be more natural than Ombre, and have a soft transition with soft highlights throughout. It’s a very expressive and creative colouring technique for the stylist and a very personalised look for the client, so it’s easy to see why this is taking over from Ombre more or less wholesale, with it’s mix of seductive beach vibes and sun kissed lightening effect.

I hope that gives you all a better understanding of the four techniques and some of the subtler differences amongst them. Hopefully being armed with this,  your next salon visit, if you’re thinking of one of these services, will run as smoothly as possible!

2017-10-25T01:32:13+00:00 June 20th, 2015|Articles, Features|0 Comments

Leave A Comment