Ombré once seemed like the answer to our root regrowth problem, so we embraced it. Little did we know there is an even better solution that our colorists had been keeping from us: sombré. Think of it as ombré’s coy little sister (but more on that below). The hair color trend is the perfect easy, breezy look for summer—or any season for that matter. To show you just what we mean, we caught up with celebrity colorists Denis de Souza and Matt Rez to let us in on everything that there is to know about this must-try style.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling to learn exactly what sombré hair is and how to care for the style.
What is Sombré?
"Sombré is a 'soft ombré," Rez tells us. It's a highlighting technique that achieves a gradual transition of color from hair's roots to tips, adding dimension while appearing natural.
Sombré vs. Ombré vs. Balayage
Every season our glossary of hair techniques, terms, and trends continues to grow. And while staying abreast of updates is part of our job, we still recognize that it can get downright confusing at times—so don't worry, we're here to help. If you've ever dabbled in hair color, chances are you've heard of "sombré," "ombré," and "balayage" before. They're all hair color application techniques—but with key differences.
Ombré is when hair color starts out dark at the roots and gets lighter from mids to ends. With ombré, you can clearly see the color gradient. De Souza says to forget this drastic contrast of dark roots and light ends, and opt for a soft, subtle look instead. "Sombré is supposed to be a more diffused version of an ombré and balayage is a technique on how you apply lightener using a 'freehand' method," explains Rez. To nail sombré, “Highlights should start a couple of inches from the roots—maintaining the depth while connecting the roots and slowly brightening towards the ends,” instructs de Souza.
To show off your highlights, opt for a cut with layers at the bottom. “This way, the brighter ends won’t fall on top of each other, causing them to look too heavy on the bottom,” notes de Souza.
The Benefits of Sombré Hair
The appeal of the sombré hair trend not only comes from seeing our favorite celebs sporting the style but its myriad benefits, as well. "Sombré hair can help with the health of your hair by allowing the client to only have to put lightener on their hair a few times a year," says Rez. "I personally recommend sombré for low-maintenance clients who would like to get their hair done only once or twice a year." And not only is sombré convenient and customizable but it's also universally flattering. It pairs well with all skin tones—dark, olive, fair—and hair colors. “Unlike the ombré that worked best for brunettes in the past, sombré actually works for everyone,” affirms de Souza. It’s an especially great way for dark blondes to go lighter, without changing their natural color.
How Long Does Sombré Hair Color Last?
If you're not really into frequent salon visits (and honestly, who is?) you'll be happy to know that sombré doesn't necessitate the constant upkeep that other hair colors require. According to Rez, "It can last up to a year due to its really soft gradient that masks any line of demarcation." Basically, it brings the style without all the effort.
How to Care For Sombré Hair
Although sombré hair color is long-lasting and low-maintenance, it still requires some aftercare to keep it looking its best. "Since the client won’t be getting highlights as often with this low maintenance look, making sure to go in every eight weeks for a toner will ensure the hair looks bright and vibrant," advises Rez. De Souza adds, “If you are going to the salon for a haircut or a blowout, ask your colorist to give you a 10-minute clear gloss prior to your service. Glosses close the cuticle of the hair to add a healthy shine. He also suggests cutting back on shampooing to keep your color from fading. “When you do shampoo, choosing a sulfate-free shampoo, and a great hydrating mask once a week is a must,” emphasizes de Souza. He recommends Joico’s K-PAK RevitaLuxe Bio-Advanced Restorative Treatment ($27).
Can You DIY Sombré Hair?
Not gonna lie: We love DIY hair solutions and playing hairdresser at home, however, we tend to draw the line when it comes to color. "I highly advise against any client using any lightener at home," says Rez. The thing is, what you might save from skipping a salon visit (read: $$$) may be made up in hair color mishaps—and the ensuing headaches. Some things are best left to the pros.
We're convinced that the sombré hair trend is here to stay. Not only does it give off serious cool-girl vibes but it also allows us to experiment with hair color—sans heavy commitment. And now that sombré has entered our lives we can only help but wonder how we ever did without it.