The Truth About Ombre and Balayage: Interview with Master Hair Colorist, Emily Rishavy

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All images courtesy of Styles Weekly


If you keep up with hair trends in the celebrity hair world, you’ve probably heard of the ombre and balayage treatments - and you might have even had this coloring treatment done yourself. 
 
When done at home or by someone who doesn’t have experience, ombre and balayage can look like your hair has grown out for months, and it can even turn orange. But with a professional stylist, you can achieve the look that so many celebrities are sporting today. 

 
To look into this hair coloring trend, we talked with Post Hair Company’s master hair colorist, Emily Rishavy:
 
 
First of all, can you explain the difference between balayage and ombre?
Emily Rishavy: Both ombre and balayage are very popular applications over recent years, but there’s a general transition toward balayage as many people have come to desire a more natural look. 
 
Balayage is a customized, hand-painted, sun-kissed look – a coloring technique utilized to create naturally highlighted appearance. The technique creates great depth and dimension. You have dimension throughout the hair, as opposed to dimension just on the tips of the hair, which is common with an Ombre application. 
 
Ombre is a “dipped-ends” look that was extremely popular a couple of years ago and is something that typically has a darker root, a medium color to the mid-lengths of the hair, with the ends being brightest. 
 
What’s particularly attractive with both styles, but especially balayage, is the out-growth. You don’t have a dramatic line of demarcation when your hair grows out. With an ombre, it’s almost as if you’re ‘dipping the tips‘ of your hair, so you get a less subtle color transition. Typically, an ombre look is great for wavy or curly hair, and it’s typically for a darker natural hair color. 
 
How long has the ombre/balayage trend been going on for?  
Both have been around for years, but ombre was biggest first and has recently evolved into more of what we call a “sombre” or subtle-ombre. Most people who were into Ombre a few years back have now transitioned into a “sombre” or balayage look in the past year or two. That isn’t to say that ombre doesn’t still look great, and if that’s what someone is into and feels great with – rock it. And balayage itself isn’t particularly new, but it’s extremely popular at the moment and that’s where most people’s preference is trending. 
 
Which method is healthier for your hair or are they about the same?
They’re actually very similar when it comes to the health of the hair and neither has substantial unhealthy impacts when it’s applied correctly. When you focus on hair health as we do at Post & Co., a big concern is ammonia. Generally ammonia-free permanent hair color is the healthiest for hair, and either ombre or balayage can be done with ammonia-free color, which is great. Additionally, both ombre and balayage require you to color your hair less often, which is kinder to the hair in general as opposed to traditional foils.  

 
If someone wants the ombre or balayage look, how does the process start?
For someone with dark hair who wants an ombre look, you figure out which pieces on the end of the hair need to be lightened, isolate them and proceed to lighten them. For someone with dark hair who wants balayage, you decide first how they wear their hair and style it, and how light they want to be. Then you select and hand paint those particular pieces with sweeping motion to lighten those pieces that will be most visible or frame the face or style optimally. 
 
For someone with lighter hair who wants and ombre look, you will typically go through and pull darker color and create darker pieces from the root down to the mid length, leaving some ends that are already light naturally, achieving the rootier look. For that same person looking for a balayage look, you again determine how she styles her hair, and then just touch up the roots with light colors and hand paint low lights through the hair to provide dimension.  
 
How long should someone wait before getting the second treatment for ombre/balayage to enhance/lighten the look?
Typically, you can go up to two to four months between treatments, because your hair will blend with your natural look, but it depends on where you’re starting and where you want to end up. The need to color less often is a big part of what makes this treatment or application so popular. If you are graying, however, you’ll still need stick to your current timelines. 
 
What ways can someone who gets the color treatment make their hair healthier after getting it colored?
Since the ends are generally lighter in both of these applications, using a leave-in conditioner and allowing your hair to air dry is ideal. That’s true in Colorado in general, as there’s generally a lack of moisture in the air. Also, using a heat protectant is also ideal before blow drying or heat styling. Finally, use a color-conserving shampoo and conditioner, and avoid very hot water, which compromises the tone of the color and fades it.
 
How do you feel about the colored ombre look? 
Well, sometimes it takes a few times to achieve that look, depending on how light you want the ends and how dark you are to begin with. The goal is to have you love your hair at every stage of the process, but it’s a gradual transition and it takes time to do correctly. 


 
How hard is it to achieve a colored ombre look? 
It’s not that it’s particularly challenging, but it’s a process that takes time to perfect and apply over multiple visits. That’s why you want to work with professionals that are experienced in the process. We’re extremely fortunate at Post Hair Company to have a number of master-level stylists, professionals that will know how to make that transition and make it look fantastic at every stage. 
 
Finally, is ombre and balayage really damaging for your hair or are there ways to achieve it without frying your hair? 
Absolutely. It doesn’t – and shouldn’t – be damaging at all. The whole process can be done without ammonia, so it’s no more damaging than any other color or process. Balayage is less damaging than a traditional foil. The only scenario that is challenging is if your a dark brunette and you want a very light ombre’d ends, you just have to take your time in getting there in stages. Even then, it’s not any more damaging, you just have to do it right and have a stylist that is knowledgable and trustworthy and is willing to tell you the truth: That you can’t have the end result immediately, at least not without risking damaging the health of your hair. 
 
Anything else you’d like to add? 
I’d just say that I’m really proud to work at a place like Post Hair Company where people are knowledgable and passionate about what they do. We’re all about empowering people and making them feel confident about their style. Regardless of whether that’s ombre or balayage or whatever came before or what will surely come after, we help clients optimize whatever style they love and they think looks best on them. Trends are important, but so is personal style. Our team is trained to help you find your personal style and apply it in line with what’s hot.
 
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