Balayage vs Foil highlights: 10 differences you need to know.

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In today’s beauty world, there are a million and one ways to style your hair. Whether you’re looking to add some curl or create an enviable blowout, there’s always a new method to try. But with all of these different techniques, it can be hard to keep track of which ones are actually good for your hair. Balayage vs foil highlights: which one is really right for you?

When it comes to hair highlighting, there are two main methods: balayage highlights and foil highlights.

But what’s the difference between the two? Here are 10 things you need to know to make a decision on what’s best for your locks. Let’s go!

Balayage vs Foil highlights- 10 FAST FACTS

1. Balayage is a French word meaning “to sweep” or “to paint.” This method of hair coloring involves painting color onto the hair without using any foils – unlike foil highlights.

2. The balayage technique can be used to create both natural-looking and dramatic results whereas foil highlights are brighter and more uniform looking.

3. Balayage is a great option for those who want low-maintenance hair color. Since there’s no need to use foils, this method is less time-consuming and requires less upkeep than traditional highlights.

4. Balayage is a great way to add dimension to your hair. It can be used to create both subtle and bold, sun-kissed effects, depending on your desired results.

5.The foil highlighting technique can be used to create both natural-looking and dramatic results and are an easy way to hide gray hairs or transition to becoming blonde.

5. Foil highlights are created by placing thin strips of foil around sections of the hair and then applying color to the hair.

6.Balayage highlights are painted on freehand for a more natural effect.

7. Foil highlights require more upkeep than balayage, as they need to be touched up every few weeks as root regrowth shows.

8. Foil highlights are a great option for those who want high-contrast hair color. They can be used to create both subtle and bold effects, depending on your desired results.

9. Balayage and foil highlights can be combined to create even more dramatic and natural-looking results.

10. The best way to decide which hair coloring method is right for you is to consult with a professional colorist. They will be able to assess your hair type and color and recommend the best option for you.

What’s the difference between balayage and foil highlights?

The main difference between balayage and foil highlights is the hair color technique that is used to apply the color. But your base hair color and the shades or hues you want to go come into play here too.

Balayage is a French word meaning “to sweep” or “to paint.” This method of hair coloring involves hand-painted sweeps of color onto your hair without using any foils.

Balayage looks stunning when blending with softer, warmer colors like caramel blonde, honey, and butterscotch. If you have dark hair, balayage can still work for you.

Just know that the overall effect will be more subtle than if you were to use foils. You can also go for a partial balayage or even a reverse balayage before working your way up to a full balayage.

Foil highlights are created by placing thin strips of foil around sections of the hair and then applying color to strands of hair in a structured pattern.

Traditional foil highlights are a lightening technique that’s better suited for higher contrast, cooler highlights in shades like platinum blonde, ash brown hair with blonde highlights, and Beige blonde on a light base color.

If you have blonde hair, foils can help you achieve a lightened look without having to use lightener on your hair first.

Highlights are also super versatile – you can have full highlights, partial highlights like half head highlights, mini-highlights or babylights, and even T-section highlights too.

Balayage vs foil highlights – which one is right for you?

Now that you know the facts, it’s time to decide which hair coloring method is right for you.

If you want low-maintenance color with natural-looking results, balayage may be the best option for you. This sun-kissed look is great for rocking natural hair colors and perfect for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time on their hair.

If you’re looking for high-contrast color with bolder results, foil highlights may be your best bet. This technique can create some seriously dramatic looks as it makes your hair a few levels blonder and lighter.

And if you want the best of both worlds, you can always combine balayage and foil highlights to create even more dramatic results. Foil the very tips of your hair for a blended sombré, ombré look, or color melt for even more depth and dimension.

If you want to highlight your own hair at home, you’ll need an at-home highlighting kit. These come with everything you need but can be tricky to do yourself.

Whichever method you choose, make sure to consult with a professional colorist to ensure that you get the best results possible.

Watch and learn: Balayage vs foil highlights.

Here’s a great video that shows you the difference between a range of hair highlighting techniques – from babylights to streaks to highlights – to help you figure out which one is right for you.

Balayage vs highlights: The Pros and Cons

There are a few key differences between balayage and foil that you should be aware of before making your decision. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each technique:

Is balayage less damaging than foil highlights?

Balayage is generally considered to be less damaging than foil highlights, as it doesn’t require the use of harsh chemicals or high temperatures.

However, this doesn’t mean that balayage can’t damage your hair – it’s still possible to over-process your hair if you’re not careful.

The best thing to do is make sure your hair is in the best health possible before trying either of these techniques.

Fortify your strands with regular trims, protein treatments, and deep conditioning masks to ensure that your hair can withstand the color processing.

Is balayage more expensive than foil highlights?

Balayage tends to be more expensive than foils at most salons, but there are a few factors that can affect the price.

The biggest factor is the length of your hair – the longer your hair, the more expensive the balayage will be.

Another factor is the thickness of your hair – if you have thicker hair, it will take more product and time to achieve the desired look, which will also add to the cost.

And finally, the skill of your stylist can also affect the price – a more experienced stylist will be able to create a more intricate design, which will typically be priced accordingly. 

In general, balayage is a more expensive technique than foil highlights, as it takes longer to achieve desired results.

Do foil highlights damage your hair?

Foil highlights can damage your hair if they’re not applied correctly, as they can over-process your hair and strip it of natural oils.

Foils are used in hair coloring because it helps the hair to better absorb the color. The color is placed on foil and then wrapped around the hair. The heat from the foil helps to open up the cuticle of the hair so that the color can penetrate better.

But this whole process can damage your hair, making it dry and brittle. It can also cause your hair to lose its natural moisture and shine.

So if you do go for foil highlights, be sure to use a good conditioner afterwards to help repair any damage that may have been done.

You should also avoid using foils if you have very dry or damaged hair. instead, opt for lowlights, which are less likely to cause further damage.

Is balayage a full foil?

No, balayage is not a full foil.

A foiled head is when each individual section of hair is painted with bleach or dye before being wrapped in aluminium foil.

This is quite time-consuming, so balayage is a great alternative if you’re looking for a low-maintenance hair color that still looks chic and polished.

Balayage involves painting on highlights freehand, so there’s no need to worry about those pesky little flyaways.

Plus, the random placement of the highlights will give your hair a natural, sun-kissed look. So, if you’re looking for a low-maintenance hair color that still looks chic and polished, balayage is the way to go!

Which style is more high maintenance?

Foil highlights are more high maintenance than balayage, as they require touch-ups every few weeks. Balayage is a low-maintenance technique that only requires occasional touch-ups.

Foil highlights are more high maintenance because the color is more concentrated in one area. This means that the roots will start to show sooner and you’ll need to get touch-ups every few weeks – unless you go for the grown-out root look which can give you a bit more time.

Foil highlights are brighter than balayage highlights – sometimes too bright so you might need to tone or darken highlights down.

Balayage is a low-maintenance technique because the color is more diffused and natural-looking.

This means that the roots will take longer to show and you can go longer between salon visits. Typically needed every 3-4 months, depending on how fast your hair grows and how noticeable your roots are.

It does also look awesome with the grown-out root look and is an easy transition into an ombre style.

If you have very dark hair, you may need to touch up your balayage more frequently to maintain the desired effect.

Both styles are likely to need toning in between color appointments, but balayage will require it less often. A good blue or purple shampoo will keep any unwanted brassiness at bay in the tone of your hair and keep your blonde highlights cool.

Which is better foil highlights or balayage?

There is no definitive answer as to which technique is better – it really depends on your personal preferences and hair type.

If you’re looking for natural-looking results with low maintenance, the freehand painting technique of balayage may be the best option for you. However, if you want faster, more noticeable results and more pronounced contrast, foil highlights may be your best bet.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to the style you’ve set your heart on. Highlights look better on straight hair and shorter hair as it’s a more structured, uniform style.

Full balayage is best worn in beachy waves and curls so long hair and wavy hair with texture, this will look awesome on you.

Should I get balayage or foil highlights?

There is no definitive answer as to whether you should get balayage or foil highlights – it really depends on your personal preferences and hair type.

If you’re looking for natural-looking results with low maintenance, balayage may be the best option for you.

However, if you want faster results that are more consistent, foil highlights may be your best bet.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to what you’re looking for in terms of results and maintenance, and the condition and health of your hair right now.

We hope this has helped you to better understand the difference between balayage and foil highlights! If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask your stylist at your next appointment.

Parting words

With all of the different hair styling options out there, it’s hard to know which ones are actually good for your hair.

When you’re trying to decide between balayage vs foil highlights, consider what kind of look you’re going for and what type of maintenance you’re willing to commit to.

If you want a low-maintenance option that will still give you beautiful results, balayage is the way to go.

But if you don’t mind spending a little extra time on your hair each week and you want high-impact results, foil highlights are the way to go.

Whichever option you choose, make sure you consult with a professional stylist so they can help you achieve the perfect look for your hair type.

This article was written by:

  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
    Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!