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While the ombré hair trend isn't new to the beauty scene, we definitely believe it's a trend worth trying. From professional models to the girl next door, everyone's getting in on the action of this awesome hair coloring trend. The style has been adopted by many celebrities, such as Alexa Chung, Lauren Conrad, Nicole Kidman, and Beyoncé. It's safe to say the ombré hair coloring technique has taken the hair color world by storm.
That said, any new highlighting technique can be intimidating, especially if you don't know all the details it entails. But what if we told you ombré hair actually has benefits? Yup, this hair color method is the best friend of brunettes who want to go lighter, for short-haired girls who want to play with highlights, and more. To get the lowdown on all things ombré, we turned to celebrity and editorial colorist Jafra Bryant and hairstylist and salon owner Laura Rugetti.
Keep scrolling to learn exactly what ombré hair is, what the benefits of ombré hair color are, and how to care for the style.
Meet the Expert
Laura Rugetti is the owner of BeautyCan salon in LA. With over a decade of experience she is also a hairstylist, hair extension, and color specialist.
What Is Ombré Hair?
The hair world borrowed the term "ombré" from the French word meaning shaded or shading. "Technically, ombré hair color and word definition is a degradation of colors from dark to light or light to dark," says Byrant. Ombré hair color is generally darker at the roots through the mid-shaft and then gradually gets lighter from the mid-shaft to the ends. It's ideal for clients looking for a low-maintenance style. "Ombré was created when the 2008 recession was here because money was tight everywhere and the one thing people could cut back on was getting their hair colored all the time," Bryant explains.
Ombré vs. Balayage: What’s the Difference?
With both ombré and balayage transitioning from dark to light, you may be wondering how the two highlighting techniques differ. Bryant explains that ombré was a color concept birthed by balayage. "What ombré truly is, is a grown-out version of different forms of balayage," she says.
The way the two highlighting techniques are achieved is one of the main differences between ombré and balayage. "For ombré, you use with foils to get the look of natural dark to light. Balayage is hand-painted to look like the sun naturally highlighted your hair without foils," Rugetti says.
One of the best ways to understand the difference is to visualize it, according to Bryant. "If you take a photo of yourself with a fresh, full highlight in the style you prefer—whether it be a heavy or lightly sun-kissed look—picture the highlights all the way to the top root area," she explains. "A full-coverage look." She then says to picture that same look six to eight months later with no color maintenance. "Boom! Ombré."
For maintenance, ask your colorist for what's called a "root shadow" and or "color melt." This gives the look of an intentional grown out effect we have dubbed as ombré, according to Bryant.
What Are the Benefits of Ombré Hair Color?
- Time: For those who constantly have a never-ending to-do list, it's no secret that time is a luxury. "A way to reclaim some of that time is to let yourself have a bit of a root and dimension to push out full balayage maintenance, aka an ombré effect," Bryant says.
- Maintenance: Ombré is a great technique for low-maintenance clients. "Because it is naturally dark to light, when roots grow out, it won’t have a harsh line," Rugetti explains. This also makes it a great option for people that are just trying out lighter hair for the first time.
- Diversity: This hair dye technique is a great option for both natural and unique looks; keep it subtle by going only a few shades lighter than your base hair color, or contrast with a colorful shade such as blue or pink. It's a great way to work a bold shade into your hair in a more subtle way than simply dying the whole head.
How Long Does Ombré Hair Color Last?
With all this talk about how low-maintenance ombré hair is, you're probably wondering how long the color lasts. "Ombré can last a long time depending on the type of highlights you start with and personal preference of how much root you prefer," Bryant explains. "Roughly, the average person can push an extra four to six months with the exception of one shorter and less expensive maintenance visit in between to maintain a smooth ombré look.
"If you visit the salon regularly about every two to three months, with an ombré look you can almost double the time in between services when planned and executed well between client and colorist," she adds. That said, Rugetti says her clients with ombré typically come every three months.
How to Care For Ombré Hair
On that note, Bryant says that around every two to three months, try getting a root shadow or color melt instead of getting more highlights. "If you're trying to blend grays, a softer semi-permanent color can help blend grays in between without harsh coverage to maintain an ombré color degradation." She adds that a face frame highlight can be used around the face and hair parting for more brightness and dimension while still maintaining an ombré color.
You should also switch up your hair care products to keep your color looking fresh. "Use a sulfate-free shampoo so the color doesn't get stripped out from sulfates," says Rugetti. Try Oribe's Shampoo for Beautiful Color ($46).
Along with sulfate-free shampoo, use color-safe products to extend your highlighted hair. If you have blonde highlights, use a purple shampoo if your hair starts to get brassy.
Can You Get Ombré Hair at Home?
If you're a fan of DIY hair color, you may be tempted to try this trend at home. But is it possible? According to Bryant, it really depends. "Factoring in all types and textures of hair, some will be able to replicate a soft ombré effect with natural fading from sun exposure and natural elements that can be harsh on our hair without us knowing."
These elements include natural sunshine and the overuse of heat tools. "A natural way to get ombré hair is using lemon on the ends of your hair while sitting in the sun. You can get some natural lighter ends," Rugetti adds.
As far as DIY balayage and ombré kits go, she's seen both ends of the spectrum—orangey, spotty disasters and at-home jobs that weren't too bad. "I've noticed naturally lighter shades of hair tend to have more luck with at-home ombré highlights for the simple fact that they are not lightening their hair color too far from their natural hair color," she says. "Those with deeper shades of hair color, like myself, still have to fight through a warmer, more orange color stage."
So, while it's technically possible and Bryant herself has DIYed her own ombré hair back in the day, she recommends saving up, being patient, and doing research on a great colorist that fits your style. "Even if [your colorist is] in the next town over, invest in good color and it will work for you with low-maintenance."
If you still want to try a box kit from the store, like L’Oréal Paris' Colorista Ombré Bleach ($10), she says that those with naturally lighter shades of hair can tread lightly and give it a shot. "Just have a backup colorist you trust to help if anything were to result in an unwanted shade or placement," she says. Keep in mind that at-home kits are extremely risky and can fry your hair if not used properly.