Partial vs. Full Balayage: What’s the Difference?

You’re not alone in wondering whether to go for a full or partial balayage; in fact, Google searches for this very question have spiked by 30% in the last year! Let’s dive into the details to help you make the best choice for your locks.

Choosing between partial and full balayage depends on your desired look and lifestyle. Partial balayage targets specific areas like the face or top layer, offering a subtle, natural look. It’s also easier on the wallet and requires less upkeep. Full balayage, however, provides a more dramatic, all-over sun-kissed effect but comes at a higher cost and maintenance level.

Ladies, read on to discover how to achieve the balayage look that not only turns heads but also fits seamlessly into your lifestyle and budget.

What Does Balayage Mean?

Originating from the French word meaning “to sweep,” balayage is a freehand hair highlighting technique.

Unlike traditional highlights that use foils, balayage involves painting the dye onto the hair, creating a more natural, sun-kissed look.

The technique allows for a less structured, more artistic application, offering a softer grow-out phase and less noticeable regrowth lines.

Partial Balayage: An Overview

Partial balayage focuses on specific sections of your hair, usually the top layer or the pieces that frame your face. This technique is ideal for those who want a subtle change or are trying balayage for the first time. It adds dimension and lightens your hair without a dramatic change.


  • Less time-consuming
  • More affordable
  • Easier to maintain


  • Less transformative
  • May not be as noticeable

Full Balayage: An In-Depth Look

In contrast, full balayage involves adding highlights throughout your entire mane. This is the go-to option for those who desire a significant change and an all-over sun-kissed look. It’s a popular treatment for individuals who want a more dramatic, head-turning effect.


  • More transformative
  • Highlights are more distributed
  • Offers a complete look


  • More expensive
  • Requires more maintenance

Partial vs Full Balayage: The Key Differences

When it comes to choosing between partial and full balayage, several factors come into play. The technique differs significantly, as does the finished look.

Partial balayage is quicker and focuses on specific areas like the top layer or face-framing sections. Full balayage takes more time and effort, as it involves highlighting the entire head of hair.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Partial Balayage vs a Full Balayage?

The time required to complete a balayage treatment can vary based on several factors, such as the complexity of the desired look, the skill level of the hairstylist, and the length and thickness of your hair. However, there are general time frames for both partial and full balayage.

Partial Balayage

Partial balayage typically takes less time compared to a full balayage, often ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

Since this technique focuses on specific sections of the hair—usually the top layer or face-framing pieces—the application is quicker. The stylist doesn’t need to go through the entire head of hair, which speeds up the process.

Full Balayage

Full balayage, on the other hand, is a more time-consuming procedure, usually taking between 3 to 5 hours.

The stylist needs to carefully apply the dye throughout the entire head of hair, ensuring that the highlights are evenly distributed. This meticulous application, combined with the greater amount of hair being treated, naturally extends the duration of the appointment.

What is the Cost Difference Between Partial and Full Balayage?

The cost of balayage can vary widely depending on various factors such as the salon’s location, the expertise of the hairstylist, and any additional treatments you may opt for. However, there is a general cost difference between partial and full balayage that can serve as a guideline.

Partial balayage is generally more budget-friendly than its full counterpart. Since it involves coloring only specific sections of the hair, it requires less product and time. Prices can range from $70 to $150, depending on the salon and geographic location.

Full balayage is a more comprehensive treatment and therefore tends to be more expensive. The stylist needs to apply the dye throughout the entire head of hair, which requires more product and a longer appointment. You can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $300 or even more for a full balayage.

How Often Do You Need to Update or Maintain Partial vs Full Balayage?

The frequency of maintenance for balayage depends on various factors, including the technique used, your hair growth rate, and your personal style preferences.

However, there are general guidelines for how often you should update or maintain both partial and full balayage.

Partial balayage is generally easier to maintain and requires less frequent touch-ups. Because the color is applied to specific sections, usually around the face or on the top layer of hair, the grow-out phase is less noticeable. Many people find that they only need to refresh their partial balayage every three to four months.

Full balayage, being a more comprehensive treatment, may require more frequent maintenance. As your hair grows, the highlights can move away from the face and lose their desired effect. Generally, a full balayage might need to be refreshed every two to three months, depending on how fast your hair grows and how well the color holds.

Is One Technique Better for Certain Hair Colors or Textures? Full vs Partial Balayage

The suitability of partial or full balayage often hinges on various factors, including your hair’s color and texture. Both techniques can be adapted to suit different hair types, but there are some general guidelines to consider.

Hair Color

  • Blonde Hair: Both partial and full balayage work well on blonde hair. However, partial balayage is often chosen for a more natural, sun-kissed look, while full balayage can provide a more dramatic transformation.
  • Brunette and Dark Hair: Full balayage is frequently recommended for darker hair shades to create a more noticeable contrast and dimension. Partial balayage can sometimes be too subtle on dark hair, making the effect less visible.
  • Red and Auburn Hair: Partial balayage can add beautiful dimension to red or auburn hair without overwhelming the natural color. Full balayage can also work but may result in a more dramatic change.

Hair Texture

  • Straight Hair: Partial balayage can offer a subtle, dimensional look without requiring a complete color overhaul. It can add depth and movement to otherwise flat-looking straight hair.
  • Wavy and Curly Hair: Full balayage often works beautifully on wavy and curly hair, as the curls themselves create a natural blend and transition between colors. The technique can highlight the texture and add complexity to the hair.
  • Coarse or Thick Hair: For those with coarse or thick hair, full balayage can help distribute color more evenly, making the hair appear more balanced and integrated.
  • Fine or Thin Hair: Partial balayage can be a good choice for fine or thin hair, as it can create the illusion of depth and volume without overwhelming the hair with color.

Ultimately, the choice between partial and full balayage should be a collaborative decision between you and your hairstylist, taking into account your hair’s unique characteristics and your personal style preferences.

Can You Switch from Partial to Full Balayage or Vice Versa?

Switching between partial and full balayage is not only possible but also relatively straightforward. However, there are considerations and steps to take to ensure a seamless transition and maintain the health and integrity of your hair.

Transitioning from a partial to a full balayage is generally easier and more straightforward. Since partial balayage focuses on specific sections of the hair, expanding to a full balayage simply involves adding more highlights throughout the rest of the hair. Your stylist will likely use a similar color formulation to ensure a cohesive look

Switching from a full to a partial balayage may require a bit more planning, especially if you’re looking to darken some of the previously lightened sections to create a more subtle look.

So, Which is Better Between a Full Balayage and a Partial Balayage?

Choosing between a full and partial balayage ultimately boils down to your personal preferences, hair type, lifestyle, and budget. If you’re seeking a subtle, natural enhancement, partial balayage is your go-to option; it’s less time-consuming, more budget-friendly, and easier to maintain.

On the flip side, if you desire a dramatic, head-turning transformation, full balayage is the better choice. It offers a more cohesive, transformative look, especially beneficial for those with wavy or curly hair. However, it generally requires more frequent maintenance and comes with a higher price tag.

The “better” option between the two is highly subjective and best determined through a consultation with a skilled hairstylist, who can tailor their advice to your specific needs and aesthetic goals.

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