What Is Ombré Hair? Your Guide to the Trend

Laverne Cox with ombre hair

Gabriel Olsen / Getty Images

For those seeking the best of buzzworthy, flattering hair trends, ombré is well worth a look. Lately, we’ve been inspired by stunning iterations from the likes of Laverne Cox, Kiernan Shipka, and Beyoncé (to name a few). Whether you’re new to the world of dyed hair or a veteran color maven, opting for ombré just might be the key to your new look. But the question remains: What is ombré hair? Here’s everything you need to know about the popular trend.

What Is Ombré Hair?

Taken from the French word for “shade” or “shadow,” the term ombré (pronounced OM-bray) refers to a technique in which hair is gradually lightened from top to bottom. With the darkest color at the roots and the lightest color at the tips, ombré is intended to mimic the way that hair naturally lightens in the sun. However, ombré doesn’t always have to be done with natural shades—some of the most noteworthy iterations use colors like pink, blue, or violet to create an ethereal look. In any case, high-quality ombré will ideally produce a look without any harsh lines for a smooth, seamless gradient.

There’s a lot to love about the ombré hair trend, and one of the best aspects of it is its versatility on different hair types. For a softer look, loose curls and beachy waves pair well with ombré, while hair styled straight has a sleek, edgier look. If you’re interested in enhancing your natural beauty (and enjoying a hairstyle that’s more low-maintenance), opt for colors within two to three shades of your natural hair color. If you’re looking for something more high-impact, fading your natural color with more dramatic shades is also an excellent choice.

Ombré vs. Balayage

One of the major misconceptions about ombré hair has to do with the difference between ombré and balayage. Essentially, ombré refers to a consistent overall gradient in hair color, while balayage involves literally painting the hair in individual sections. While both have a similar dark-to-light vibe, ombré is a bit more dramatic and is more likely to require touching up to keep the look fresh over time.

Tips for Ombré Hair

Once you’ve decided on getting ombré hair, here are a few tips for making the most of it:

  • While DIY ombré is a thing, the recommended option is going with a stylist you trust. Scout out the salon’s website and social media in advance, and be sure to show up with sample pictures to ensure that you and your stylist are on the same page.
  • For those who prefer to stay away from the salon, keep in mind that as with any dye job, straying from your natural shade at the roots will require significantly more upkeep. Whether you go natural or bold, consider leaving the top section of hair as is and opting for a color you can live with as it fades.
  • Take care of your hair with color-safe shampoo and conditioner. Some options, like Bumble and Bumble Color Minded Shampoo ($31), are great for a range of shades, while others, like Amika's Bust Your Brass Cool Blonde Shampoo ($19), work to keep lighter shades bright.

Now that you know what ombré hair is, it’s time to go shopping for your next shade with this guide to the most popular hair colors of 2018.

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