Here’s how to keep your subtle color eye-catching yet effortless, even when you can’t make it to the salon on a regular basis.

Far from the chunky pinstripe streaks that defined much of the aesthetic of the 90s and 00s (though that exact look is actually enjoying a massive comeback and surge in popularity as of late) highlights, and techniques to create them, have come a long, long way.

Methods that see hair stylists painstakingly painting each individual strand of hair for a hyper natural looking effect, or a mix of highlights, lowlights, and root growth that create the appearance of a subtle hair color that someone was born with — not something that requires chemistry and magic to create.

Ombre and balayage are now among the most popular options for women looking to enjoy eye-catching color that looks like a natural blessing, not the result of hours in a salon chair. Here’s more about these hair coloring techniques and how to keep them looking incredible, even between visits to your stylist.

What is ombre hair?

This French word literally translates to “shadow” or “shade.” Seamlessly blended yet still the center of attention, ombre hair means a color that goes from dark to light (or light to dark) in a natural-looking way. The distinctive look is achieved by focusing color application on one specific area of the hair, not the entire head.

Because ombre typically involves leaving the roots and top of the head with its natural color intact, this type of hair color will continue to look gorgeous, even as time goes by and the roots continue growing out. Usually, it appears as though a color is going from dark to light, from the top of the head to the ends.

Balayage hair color

Another French word, balayage means “sweeping,” and describes a different type of hair coloring technique that’s wildly different from traditional highlights and foils. In this method, a hair stylist paints tiny patches of hair, creating a multi-dimensional, layered look that is both striking and effortless-looking.

Because balayage is placed in a more natural, “random” way, it — like ombre — doesn’t require frequent upkeep or touch-ups. Typically, balayage colors will only be slightly lighter than your natural shade — think chestnut or warm honey brown for brunettes, or a sprinkling of sun-kissed streaks for blondes.

What is balayage vs. ombre?

The easiest way to recognise balayage is that it looks like someone has several different hair colors, or various hues, that blend together seamlessly. Ombre is much more visually striking at first glance, with a clear differentiation between shades from one part of the head to the other.

The color gradient within ombre is much more obvious than within balayage. Ombre hair may see dark roots and blonde tips at the end, with a striking journey from dark to light quite visible right away. Overall, both color techniques are subtle and low-key, but ombre is the more noticeable of the two.

How to maintain balayage

These tips are also relevant for you if you want to know how to refresh your balayage at home or keep your ombre hair looking fresh for as long as possible.

1.) Use the right shampoo and conditioner

A purple color depositing shampoo and violet purple conditioning hair mask are keys to ensuring that your color remains gorgeous for as long as possible.

2.) Give your color-treated hair the TLC it deserves

Even as hair dyes have dramatically improved in recent years, the truth is that even the most gentle techniques can still do serious damage to your locks. It’s critical that you invest in post-dye after care, meaning that you should embrace Keratin healing deep conditioning masks and shampoos (to be used in rotation with purple hair treatments).

If you use hot tools on your hair, like curling or straightening irons, or blow dryers, you’re stripping your hair of the natural oils it needs for both growth and shine. Be sure to use a nourishing Keratin serum to both restore and heal breakage and as a highly effective heat protectant.

4.) Shampoo less often

It might sound counter-intuitive because you’re armed with the right products, but try to go as long as possible between washes. This will help your hair recover from its chemical treatment, and begin to start its naturally journey back to oil and PH balance.

5.) Protect your hair from the elements

If you’re a swimmer (whether in a pool, freshwater, or ocean), frequent visitor of saunas or spas, or live in a polluted area, it’s crucial that you take steps to protect your mane in order to keep your color looking vibrant and brilliant.

Make sure to sport a shower or swimming cap (yes, there are fashionable ones out there in 2022!) whenever you take a dip. Throw on a cute hat if you’re going to be exposed to the sun, snow, or heavily contaminated air for a long period of time.

Your gorgeous ombre or stunning balayage hair will thank you!