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Hairstylist applying highlights to client’s hair

Balayage vs. Highlights: What’s the Difference?

Changing up your hair color can be a great way to try out a new look and even give yourself a confidence boost. But you don’t always need a full dye job – there are several ways a stylist can alter and refresh your color. Two options are hair highlights and balayage.

HICI Go is a learning platform offering hair courses for professionals and DIY enthusiasts, along with instruction on skin care, massage, and other beauty and wellness techniques. We connect you with online and live in-person courses, plus live webinars. Here, we explain the difference between these two   services, what to expect at the salon, and how to choose between balayage and highlights.

How Do Highlights Work?

Highlights are simply strands of hair that are lighter in color than the rest of a person’s hair. Some people have natural highlights or may find that some strands of their hair get a bit lighter from the summer sun. Highlighting services allow others to achieve this desired effect at a salon.

To create highlights, a hairdresser will use a weaving technique to select strands of hair, leaving undyed strands in between. They will then place a piece of foil underneath the strands and apply a lightening agent, starting at the roots of the hair down to the ends. The foil is folded so that the hair stays in place until it is time to rinse out the lightener. The stylist will highlight strands all over the client’s scalp to create a uniform result. The client can choose thicker highlights for a bolder look, or fine all-over highlights for a more subtle result.

While using foils is probably the most common highlighting process, there are other options, such as cap highlights. With this technique, a colorist places a disposable plastic cap that’s covered in small holes on the client’s head. They then use a tool with a hook to pull strands of hair through the holes and color them, leaving the rest of the untreated hair protected under the cap.

How Does Balayage Work?

Unlike foil highlights, which are more precise and methodical, balayage is a freehand technique. The term “balayage” comes from the French word for sweeping. When a colorist performs balayage, they use a type of paintbrush to apply a lighter color to the client’s hair. Typically, balayage focuses on applying color from the middle of the strand downwards, leaving the roots their natural color. Balayage creates a soft, natural result, giving the hair a sun-kissed look. Because the hairdresser is working freehand, they can tailor the color application to the client’s wishes, creating a customized result.

How to Choose Between Balayage and Highlights

Both hair color techniques can create beautiful results – so how can you pick the best option for your hair? If you’re looking for a lower-maintenance option, balayage may be a better fit. Balayage usually applies color to the mid-lengths and ends of the hair, so you won’t have the issue of dark roots growing in. When you’re working with a limited budget, balayage can be a good option. Because it tends to be more forgiving as the color grows out, you can avoid the need for touch-up appointments.

Highlights, in contrast, do go all the way up to the roots – so as the hair begins to grow out, you may want to get touch-ups. However, if you choose very soft, natural highlights, sometimes known as babylights, the regrowth may not be very noticeable.

If you have hair that’s thin or fine, highlights can be a good option, as they can give the appearance of fuller, thicker hair. Balayage can work on all hair types and gives your hair extra dimension and depth. Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult with your stylist, who can provide expert recommendations based on your hair color and type.

Find Hairdressing Courses and Cosmetology With HICI Go

If you’re a cosmetology professional, you understand the importance of continuing education. Staying up to date on new skills and techniques helps you better serve your clients – and stand out in a competitive industry. Through HICI Go, cosmetologists and hairdressers can sign up for courses on topics such as highlights, balayage, and other techniques. HICI Go is an online center hosting a diverse catalog of health and beauty courses for people in Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, or anywhere else in Florida and the United States.

HICI Go courses are taught by knowledgeable industry professionals and are open to licensed cosmetologists and beginners alike. There are three ways to take courses: students can choose from in-person courses, live webinars, or video courses on demand, allowing them to advance their education in the format that suits them best. In-person courses are available for students at our partner institutions, Cortiva Institute and Hollywood Institute, with instruction offered in Florida and several other states.

HICI Go courses cover a variety of hair and barbering topics, and current course offerings change frequently – so students should check the catalog regularly for new options. For more information about hairdressing courses through HICI Go, contact us today.