12 Hair Coloring Techniques: What’s the Difference?

Are you ready to start the new year with a new look? Instead of limiting your hair color choices to one color, consider using one of the many color-blending techniques that can give your style a dynamic boost. For example, you can fade from dark brown to auburn, create a sunkissed look with babylights, or add low-maintenance color with an ombré.

The terms of hair coloring techniques can seem complicated. Some describe the process, and others describe the resulting look. You’ve probably seen some of these coloring techniques in the evolution of celebrity hairstyles, so let’s break down some of the most popular hair coloring techniques to help you better understand the terms for each style of hair coloring.

Whether you’re scheduling a visit to the Ogle School salon or you’re ready to start training in cosmetology, the hair coloring explanations below will help you understand how to describe the hair coloring technique you’re envisioning.

What Is Ombré?

As we explain in our guide to ombré hair, this color fade uses your natural hair color at the roots and blends into your chosen color at the ends of your hair. Because your natural hair color is at the base of your hair, you won’t have the high-maintenance touch-ups that are necessary with other hair-coloring treatments.

Your ombré can also take a more dramatic approach by fading between two different shades of hair dye.

What Are Ombré Highlights?

Instead of a full ombré, ombré highlights are a subtler option where the faded color technique is applied to only small sections of your hair.

What Is Balayage?

Balayage is a technique that can be used to get an ombré gradient. With this technique, the lightening agent is painted in freehand directly onto the tips of the hair and then feathered upward to the midpoint of your hair. There’s no foil involved.

How Is a Reverse Balayage Different?

The balayage technique can also be applied as a reverse balayage. Instead of starting with a darker color at the base of your hair, a reverse balayage starts with a lighter color and then fades to dark.

What Is Sombré?

A sombré is a subtler version of ombré hair coloring that fades between two colors that are closer in tone. For example, a caramel sombré can fade between two shades of brown, and a blonde sombré can fade from an ash blonde into platinum.

What Is Dip-dyed Hair?

With the dip-dyed hairstyle, color typically goes between two extremes, with little to no midtone or gradient between the two shades.

What Are Highlights?

Highlights are sections of hair are dyed a lighter color. This color variation throughout the hair adds dimension and can accentuate the style of a haircut or the shape of a curl.

How Are Babylights and Ribbon Highlights Different?

Both babylights and ribbon highlights are a subtler version of highlights. The sections of hair are smaller, which creates a look that’s just as dynamic but less bold than regular highlights.

The placement of the highlights is what makes these two techniques different from each other. With babylights, the thin highlights are placed at your roots and around the edges of your face. Ribbing highlights have thin highlights woven into the lengths of your hair, adding small hints of color throughout.

What Are Lowlights?

Instead of adding selected strands of blondes and lighter shades as with highlights, lowlights deepen the hair color by adding selected strands of darker shades.

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What Is Color Melt?

A color melt hairstyle is a transition between two colors, and it has a flawless gradient. There are no chunks, color variations, or dimensional coloring. Instead, one color melts right into the next.

What Is Ecaille?

Also known as tortoiseshell, this coloring technique creates a soft blend between golds and chocolates throughout the hair. Think of tortoiseshell sunglasses to understand the colors used. There’s also a slight gradient of darker colors used at the roots of your hair, warming to lighter, honey tones at the ends.

Learn how Ogle School and the Ogle School Salon can help you stay on top of hair-coloring trends.

About the Author

Jeff Chiarelli
Jeff Chiarelli is the Head of Marketing for Ogle School. His responsibilities include leading Ogle School's marketing and branding strategy to amplify Ogle School's passion for helping create future beauty professionals in the communities Ogle School serves.