Partial vs Full Balayage – What’s the difference?

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Hair trends come and go quickly in the beauty world. From ombres to sombrés, there is always something new to learn when it comes to keeping your style on the cutting edge.

Many professionals believe balayage is here to stay and we can’t blame them!

Balayage has gained huge popularity over the past few years as a way of adding depth, dimension, and unique color effects to hair – whether you choose partial or full balayage for your look.

But what exactly sets these styles apart? Read on for our breakdown of this hot trend so you can decide which look if the one for you!

partial vs full balayage what's the difference infographic:
Partial vs Full Balayage 



Partial Balayage: 

Look: Fewer highlights placed strategically to frame the face, create dimension or blend grown-out color. 

Maintenance: Low-maintenance look with root touch-ups every 2-4 months depending on lifestyle and desired look. 

Cost: Generally ranges from $150 to $200. 

Best for: People with fine hair. Subtle transformation



Full Balayage: 



Look: More highlights throughout the hair for an all-over bright and natural look.  

Maintenance: Higher maintenance style that requires regular toning, coloring and trimming in order to maintain the desired look. Root touch-ups are necessary every 4-8 weeks depending on lifestyle and desired look. 

Cost: Generally ranges from $150 to $300 or more depending on the products used, salon location, and stylist's experience.

Best for: People with thick hair. Bolder transformation.

What is Balayage?

Balayage is a hair coloring technique that has been taking the beauty industry by storm for the last couple of years. And it’s not letting up!

We’ll be seeing gorgeous balayage tresses on our TikTok and Insta feeds for years to come.

The technique itself involves painting highlights onto hair in a way that mimics the natural way hair lightens in the sun.

The result is a stunning, natural-looking effect that creates depth and dimension within the hair. 

You’ll typically see it in blonde and brunette hues, but it can also be done in any colour of the rainbow. Copper balayage and caramel blonde balayage are hottest on our radar right now.

Balayage is a French word that means ‘to sweep’. This technique involves painting the hair strands with a brush to create a natural-looking appearance.

Your colorist won’t use foils to apply the color. With balayage, colorists can hand-paint the color in a way that mimics the way the sun would naturally lighten the hair. It’s an art!

The balayage technique is perfect for those who are looking for a low-maintenance yet high-impact look. Whether you’re a natural brunette or a bleach blonde, balayage can be customized to suit your unique hair type and style. 

Check out the latest looks for ideas and inspiration.

balayage hair collection coloured hair care pinterest board

What is Partial Balayage?

Unlike traditional full balayage, which involves coloring all of the hair from root to tip, partial balayage focuses only on specific sections of your hair.

By lightening fewer strands, stylists can create a subtler, more natural look that’s perfect for those who want a low-maintenance hair color.

A partial balayage is great for anyone who wants to add some dimension and highlights to their hair without completely changing their look.

If you’re growing out highlights or are already blonde and want to add some depth and interest to your hair color, this is an excellent style for you.

Whether you’re looking to add some brightness to your face-framing pieces or just want to add a touch of color to your ends, partial balayage will brighten your looks and leave you feeling stylish and fresh. 

How is partial balayage applied?

Partial balayage involves painting highlights on only a specific section of your hair.

Usually, this is the front part of the hair, framing the face and adding depth to the hair color.

A partial balayage is more subtle – perfect if you want to keep things low key.

How long does partial balayage last?

Go for a partial balayage and you can enjoy the result for up to three months.

Of course, this varies depending on how fast your hair normally grows, the quality of the products used to highlight your hair, and how well you look after your hair.

To make sure your partial balayage lasts as long as possible, make sure you use sulfate-free shampoos, conditioners, and hair masks that are specifically designed to maintain colored hair.

UV protection sprays can also help protect against sun damage that can alter and fade your color.

How much does partial balayage cost?

In terms of pricing, partial balayage is generally less expensive than full balayage.

This is because partial balayage requires less time and product to achieve the desired result.

On average, partial balayage can cost anywhere between $150 to $200, depending on the salon and stylist’s experience.

What is Full Balayage?

A full balayage involves applying balayage highlights throughout your whole head.

This technique is perfect for those who want a dramatic change and a lighter, brighter overall look.

If you want to go from brunette to blonde in a way that’s less structured and more subtle than highlights, this is for you.

Full balayage can produce stunning, natural-looking results with various shades and tones used throughout your entire head of hair.

Unlike partial balayage, it’s perfect for adding depth and volume to your hair, making it appear fuller.

It does need more time, product, and skill from your stylist, so it’s typically more expensive than partial balayage.

How is full head balayage applied?

With full balayage, the dye is applied throughout the entire head, giving a truly seamless and natural appearance. 

Typically, the stylist will section your hair and start painting the dye from the ends of the hair upwards, gradually decreasing the amount of dye they use as they work their way towards the roots. 

Sometimes they may use foils at the ends of your hair or on certain sections to get a brighter, lighter shade or hue.

The result is a customized look that highlights your features and makes your hair look healthier and fuller. 

How long does full balayage last?

Full balayage doesn’t last quite as long as partial balayage, typically anywhere between two to four months.

Again, this varies depending on individual hair growth and aftercare routine.

Full balayage requires more upkeep and can be a bit high maintenance. The more highlights you have, the more you’ll need the color to be topped up, toned and refreshed.

The good news is balayage is a great style for growing out and dark roots can add to the drama!

How much does a full balayage cost?

A full balayage in a salon can range anywhere between $150 to $300 or more depending on the products used, salon location, and stylist’s experience.

Be sure to do your research and find a reputable stylist with a good track record who can work within your budget.

Watch and learn: Highlights, balayage, ombre or sombre – Which one is right for you?

Of course, balayage is just one of this year’s on-trend highlighting techniques.

We love this video for a quick breakdown of all types of highlights you can get so you can decide which one is perfect for you.

Which Balayage is Right for You?

Partial and full balayage are both beautiful options. So it can be hard to decide which balayage technique is really right for you. Here are a few pointers to consider that will help you to make the right decision:

Hair Type and Texture

Your hair type and texture plays a big part in helping you decide which balayage to go for.

If you have fine hair, then partial balayage may be the right choice for you. It adds dimension and depth to your hair without making it too heavy or weighted down.

Full balayage, on the other hand, is a great option for those with thicker hair as it can help create a more seamless blend.

It also provides an overall brightening effect, making it an excellent choice for darker hair types.

The Desired Look 

What’s the look you’re going for?

Do you want to add some subtle highlights or change your entire hair color?

If you’re looking for a subtle transformation, or you’re unsure about how blond you want to go, partial balayage may be the perfect choice for you. It adds brightness to your hair without being too dramatic.

If, however, you’re craving a more dramatic and bold change, full balayage may be the right choice for you. It can completely transform your look and create a beautiful sun-kissed beachy vibe.

Lifestyle 

How much time do you have for maintenance? Are you on top of a good hair care routine?

If you’re someone who’s always on the go and can’t make it into the salon as often, partial balayage may be the most practical option for you.

It requires minimal maintenance and the highlights can last up to four months before needing a touch-up.

If you’re someone who loves spending time in the salon or experimenting with new looks, full balayage may be the perfect choice for you.

Full balayage requires more frequent upkeep and salon visits to maintain its brightening effect.

Budget 

Budget is the final thing to thing to think about when deciding on partial or full balayage.

If you’re on a tighter budget, partial balayage may be the more affordable choice for you. It uses less product and requires less time in the salon, meaning the overall cost is usually lower.

If money’s not a problem, why not try a full balayage. It can completely transform your look and give you that next-level hair that you’ve been longing for.

Partial vs Full Balayage FAQs

What’s the difference between half head balayage and full head?

A half head balayage is another name for a partial balayage.

The difference between the two is pretty straightforward: a full head balayage covers all of your hair, while a half head balayage covers about half of it!

If you’re not ready to commit to a full head of highlights, partial balayage is a great option that still allows you to add some dimension and depth to your locks without completely changing your mane.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to your personal style and what you feel most comfortable with.

Does a full balayage take longer than a partial?

Yes, you will be in the salon chair for longer with a full head balayage than you will with a partial one.

But both styles are worth every minute for the stunning results.

A full balayage requires more time to apply the hair dye to the entire head instead of just the selected sections.

The process includes lightening the hair and then toning it to achieve a natural, blended look.

You’re looking at least 2-3 hours from start to finish depending on the base color and condition of your hair to start with, and how much of a transformation you want to have.

Does a partial balayage cover roots?

Partial balayage doesn’t cover roots completely.

The technique leaves a natural-looking root shadow that blends seamlessly with your base color.

This means you can enjoy a stylish and effortless hair look without having to worry about touch-ups every few weeks.

It’s what makes partial balayage versatile enough to work with any hair texture and length.

What hair color suits me?

Parting words

So, which one should you choose?

Ultimately, the choice between partial and full balayage depends on your preferences, hair type, and budget.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to achieve a sun-kissed effect that’s easy to maintain, partial balayage is the way to go.

But if you’re feeling daring and want to completely transform your look, full balayage can deliver amazing results that will last you for months.

No matter what you choose, make sure you do your research and go to a talented stylist who can help you achieve your desired result while maintaining the health of your hair.

Happy highlighting!

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!