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Hair Transformation: Choosing Between Balayage and Highlights

Choosing the right hair colouring technique can be transformative, enhancing your natural beauty and elevating your overall look. Two popular techniques that can significantly change your appearance are balayage and highlights. Both options have unique benefits and suit different styles and preferences. Understanding the difference between balayage and highlights is essential in making an informed decision. This guide will help you navigate the pros and cons of each technique and how a skilled hairdresser in New Zealand can help you achieve your desired look.

Understanding Balayage vs. Highlights

What is Balayage?

Balayage is a French word meaning “to sweep” or “to paint.” This technique involves hand-painting colour onto the hair in a sweeping motion, creating a natural, sun-kissed look. The goal of balayage is to produce soft, graduated highlights that blend seamlessly with your base colour. This method allows for a more customised and natural appearance, as the colour is applied based on your hair’s natural movement and growth patterns.

What are Highlights?

Highlights involve sectioning off strands of hair and applying a lighter colour from the roots to the tips. This technique uses foils to separate and process the coloured sections, resulting in more uniform and defined streaks. Highlights can be applied in various thicknesses and colours, providing versatility in the final look. They typically create a more noticeable contrast between the coloured strands and your natural hair colour.

Key Differences Between Balayage and Highlights

Understanding the difference between balayage and highlights can help you decide which technique best suits your style and maintenance preferences.

1. Application Technique

  • Balayage: Colour is hand-painted onto the hair, resulting in a more natural and blended look. The application is less structured, giving a softer transition between shades.
  • Highlights: Colour is applied in sections using foils, creating a more defined and structured appearance. This method offers more control over the placement and intensity of the highlights.

2. Maintenance

  • Balayage: This technique typically requires less maintenance than highlights. Because the colour is blended and does not start at the roots, regrowth is less noticeable, allowing for longer intervals between touch-ups.
  • Highlights: Regular maintenance is needed to keep highlights looking fresh, as root growth can create a stark contrast. Touch-ups are usually required every 6-8 weeks.

3. Effect and Style

  • Balayage: Ideal for those seeking a natural, sun-kissed look. Balayage adds dimension and depth without drastic changes, making it perfect for a subtle transformation.
  • Highlights: Suitable for those who want a more dramatic change. Highlights can add significant contrast and brightness, creating a bold and eye-catching look.

4. Hair Health

  • Balayage: Generally considered to be gentler on the hair since it does not involve extensive bleaching or lightening from the roots. The colour application focuses more on the mid-lengths and ends.
  • Highlights: It can be more damaging due to the frequent use of bleach and the need to lighten from the roots. Proper care and conditioning are essential to maintain hair health.

Choosing the Right Technique for You

When deciding between balayage vs highlights, consider your hair type, lifestyle, and desired look. Consulting with a professional hairdresser in New Zealand can provide valuable insight and help you make the best choice for your hair.

Hair Type and Length

  • Balayage: Works well on all hair types and lengths but is particularly effective on longer hair where the gradient effect can be more pronounced. It adds depth and dimension to both straight and curly hair.
  • Highlights: Suitable for most hair types and lengths. Highlights can add volume and texture, making them a good option for those with fine or thin hair.

Desired Look

  • Balayage: Ideal for those seeking a low-maintenance, natural look. This technique is perfect for creating a soft, beachy vibe.
  • Highlights: Best for those wanting a more structured and high-contrast look. Highlights are great for adding brightness and a more defined change.


  • Balayage: Low-maintenance and suitable for individuals with busy lifestyles. The natural regrowth makes it easier to go longer between salon visits.
  • Highlights: Require more frequent touch-ups and maintenance, making them better suited for those who can commit to regular salon appointments.


Choosing between balayage and highlights ultimately depends on your personal style, hair type, and maintenance preferences. Both techniques offer unique benefits and can transform your look in different ways. Consulting with an experienced hairdresser in New Zealand can help you determine the best option for your desired outcome.

Transform your hair and enhance your look by visiting Akobe Hair Design Salons. Book your appointment with our expert stylists today and discover the perfect hair colour technique for you!