Craving a hint of rainbow color in your hair but not ready to dye your ‘do from roots to tips? Oil slick hair is a worthy option for your next hair transformation. Characterized by ultra-fine babylights, this hair trend resembles the shifting shades of an oil spill. While it can be worn by anyone, given it’s often created with rich, jewel tones, it looks especially brilliant on neutral and warm complexions and those with rich natural hair colors. To find out more about this buzz-worthy color, we tapped experts Marcus Francis and Lorena M. Valdes.
Meet the Expert
- Marcus Francis is a celebrity hairstylist and Better Natured brand ambassador.
- Lorena M. Valdes is a colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.
Below, find 20 ways to rock the oil slick hair trend, along with pro tips for pulling off this color spectrum.
Oil Slick Hair
Choosing a shade: The trick is to ask for colors that complement your base hair color and skin tone. “You should ask for your colorist for jewel colors highlighted in your hair,” suggests Francis.
Maintenance level: Moderate. Given oil slick hair is a type of color-treated hair, it will require proper color-care products (read: those made without sulfates). However, since it’s created with a foil or balayage technique, grow-out will be subtle.
Goes great with: Dark hair. “This trend actually works better for darker hair to help amplify the darkness that it actually has,” says Francis. “The shadows the dark hair creates to help the added color make for richness in the hair.”
Similar shades: Rainbow and jewel-tone highlights
Price: While it varies based on the salon you go to, you can expect to spend between $100 and $300 to achieve this colorful hair look.
As Francis points out—and as this photo confirms—oil slick hair looks especially pretty when paired with waves. We love how this take on the colorful hair trend presents more of a peek-a-boo approach to the bright shade.
Straight and Blonde
Just because oil slick hair works best on darker base colors doesn't mean blondes can't still get in on the fun. Australian hair colorist Sheree shows us how it's done, saying she created this look by sectioning off the area she wanted to keep blonde while applying the rainbow colors in a small section around her head.
Mussy Root Shadow
Keep your roots dark and add in subtle pops of color to give your hair a shimmery, shell-like quality. “Focus on burgundy, emerald, deep purple, royal blue," Francis says. "Ask to alternate the colors between foils to help create an abalone-like blend of colors.”
If you prefer a bolder take on oil slick hair, ask your colorist to go beyond peek-a-boo babylights in favor of a colorful fade from mid-lengths to ends. As you'll notice here, the request will look especially stunning on those with ultra-long locks.
This '60s-inspired color palette has us dreaming of peace, love, and groovy hair days. Valdes's advice for pulling off this color? "Wear it with confidence—moisturize and oil your hair frequently to maintain the shine to showcase it at its best."
Oil slick hair doesn't have to be a full rainbow. Here, you can see how opting for a single color palette can create a unique take on the trend. While this example is a great option for autumn, imagine all the possibilities for winter, spring, and summer.
"Smoky Storm Cloud Rainbow"
Gray-haired babes can get in on the rainbow fun, too. Here, Sheree shows how an in-between layer of an oil slick can give a mane a certain je ne sais quoi. The cool gray shade helps the rainbow colors to really pop.
Ask for peekaboo highlights if you want to be able to cover up your colorful highlights as needed. With this coloring technique, the highlights are hidden under the top layer of hair.
A lob haircut is slightly longer than a bob—it usually hits between chin length and collar bone length—and is often slightly longer in the front and shorter in the back. This modern cut with the oil slick hair color makes for a cool and updated style.
This oil slick rendition gives us all the icy, witchy vibes. With hints of emerald, amethyst, jade, and sapphire, it looks as rich as can be. Crown Paint Colors founder Natasha keeps the lighter shades in the front and the cooler shades in the back of her hair. Simply gorgeous.
Oil slick colors don't have to start at the middle of your hair shaft. This style proves extending them from roots to ends can look equally as magical. If your hair isn't naturally straight, you'll need to break out the blowdryer and/or straightener for this 'do. "Always use a heat protectant when styling," Valdes emphasizes.
Got short hair? You can still rock oil slick strands. Here, blue, green, and purple come together for a color scheme that's out of this world. In terms of upkeep, "Maintaining the vibrancy will vary [with oil slick hair] but it would need a touch-up every six weeks, give or take," Valdes tells us.
Gem Stone Ombré
The ombré hair trend just got a whole lot more colorful. Ombré is a hair coloring technique in which the color gradually goes from dark to light. For the oil slick trend, this look goes from a purple to a cool blue-green shade.
Hoping for a brighter, bolder take on the trend? Go beyond basic oil slick babylights and ask your stylist for a neon, jewel-toned balayage from roots to ends. Just keep in mind that if you take this route, maintenance will be higher than traditional oil slick manes.
There's no denying that black hair looks lovely with a hint of gemstone-inspired highlights. To keep colored hair looking its best, be sure to invest in good hair care habits: "A good shampoo routine, two to three times per week maximum; a deep conditioner weekly; sleeping with a bonnet," Valdes says.
This oil slick hair color idea is so well blended that it almost looks holographic. Obsessed? We sure are. And, while we're swooning, let's touch on how well this color trend pairs with gemstone accessories. Whether you choose a barrette, clip, or jewel-adorned headband, it will only add to your dreamy hair look.
Curls really bring out the gorgeous hues of the oil slick hair color trend. “To keep this beautiful effect rich and vibrant, it's so important to keep the color-treated hair moisturized with the right products,” Francis says. “Better Natured has a few products to really help maximize the life of your color. "
"If your hair texture is on the more coarse or thick side, moisturizing shampoo and conditioner really help to keep your locks from becoming fragile and dry," Francis tells us.
Looking to add some pizzazz to your messy bun? Go oil slick. This style is the epitome of it-girl cool with its effortless vibe and color swirl. Before booking your appointment with your colorist, "Be honest with your hair history to see if this is possible on your hair," Valdes advises.
The beauty of oil slicks is that you can choose the colors you want to cater to. While full rainbows are undeniably gorgeous, so are singled-out cool tones, as is the case here.
The iridescent colors of oil slick hair color take on a shimmery effect on hair that's smooth and shiny. To get straight and sleek hair, apply a straightening balm before blow drying straight. You can also use a flat iron to achieve this sleek look. Follow up with a shine-boosting serum.
If you like beach sunsets (honestly, who doesn't?), then why not use them as inspiration for your hair color? With oil slick hair, the possibilities are endless. "It's customizable to your hair type and skin tone, and placement will vary depending on intensity," Valdes says.
Can you DIY oil slick hair?
"Yes, but only if you have had your hair already lightened beforehand by a professional," Valdes tells us. "The only part I would do at home would be the direct dye application."
How long does oil slick hair last?
Oil slick hair will last anywhere between six to eight weeks. Factors such as hair type/texture, color, and routine can affect your dye job's duration and vibrancy.