When it comes to hair color, knowing how to ask for what you what is paramount. However, the bevy of trends, techniques, and terms out there make that a bit trickier than it first seems. So, we made you a road map. Read on to get one step closer to your next dream color.
Balayage is getting a lot of play these days, and for good reason. The word comes from a French term meaning “sweeping” and refers to the technique in which the color is applied. Highlights applied via the more traditional foil method are generally equally saturated from root to tip and are useful for achieving a color significantly lighter than your natural shade.
Balayage (or hand painted) highlights, on the other hand, are painted directly onto the hair and are not saturated all the way through until the end of the strand. This means regrowth is much less noticeable—allowing you to go longer between color appointments. (We know your schedule is jam-packed.) Because balayage is not as systematic in application and applied primarily to the top layer of the hair, the overall effect is reminiscent of the sun-kissed color you were able to achieve as a child—you know, back when you actually spent your whole summer outside.
This long-running trend draws its name from a French word meaning “two-toned” and denotes hair that is generally darker at the top and lighter at the bottom. The color difference can range from subtle (in which case we might call it sombré—subtle ombré) to striking, depending on the effect you’re going for. Like balayage, ombré minimizes the concern of regrowth—unless you take reverse ombré for a spin, which is light at the top, dark at the bottom.
Balayage and ombré are often confused or used interchangeably, but take note: while balayage is a technique for applying color, ombré is a term to describe its appearance. This means that you can actually have an ombré effect achieved with the balayage technique—we’ve heard it called bombré. (Cute, no?)
Let’s move on to a trend you may not have read about in your favorite magazine—yet. Babylights are similar to traditional highlights; however, as the name suggests, they’re much smaller and more delicate. The resulting effect is a natural sprinkling of color that mimics the effect of a tropical getaway.
Babylights are a great option for people hesitant to experience with color or seeking a subtle effect—think more “Did you go on vacation?” than “What have you done with your hair?” (Though the latter, with the proper inflection, is also worth striving for.”
The fall cousin to this summer’s reigning bronde, “ecaille” is a color (not technique) descriptor borrowed from a—you guessed it—French word meaning “tortoiseshell.” Accordingly, the color is characterizing by a swirl of rich, warm tones—think caramel, chocolate, and honey. Anyone else hungry?
Unless you were blessed with naturally flaxen or raven hair, this shade will probably include a fusion of colors both lighter and darker than your natural shade. If desired, this makes this look one that is easy to grow out with less maintenance—just make sure to mention to your stylist that you’re not necessarily an every 6 weeks like clockwork sort of person, so they can plan accordingly.
There’s nothing new about these terms, but we do find many clients aren’t completely familiar with what they mean. With single process color, a new color or toner is applied all over to create a new base color. This is a great, cost-effective technique for concealing greys or making subtle changes. It’s also relatively easy on your hair and can seriously amp up vibrancy if things are feeling dull.
Double process color comes into play when the base color is being lightened by more than two shades. In this case, we bleach the hair before applying the color. Do not try at home. While we do not recommend at-home color under any circumstances, this is one we see guests attempt time and again—with disastrous results.
No matter what color technique you’d like your stylist to try out or shade you’d like to shoot for, we always advise bringing photo examples when making a change. One person’s honey is another person’s caramel—and there’s no room for misunderstandings when it comes to the color of your dreams.