Fade Beautifully: Achieving the Perfect Ombré Hair Color


Ombré hair is one of the hottest trends out right now. The dark-to-light look is everywhere and it appears it’s not going away anytime soon.  If you’ve been thinking about trying your hand at this latest chic style or just want to refresh your look, summer is the perfect time to go ombre.

We recently spoke with Cheng Tan, a renowned stylist and the founder of KODA Salon in La Jolla, California. She gave us some great pointers on how to ombre your hair. From what technique to use to what color to choose when trying to achieve the perfect ombré hair color, and even how to do it at home, if you’d like to save some dough, this style isn’t going away anytime soon.

What is Ombré?

By now you probably have an idea of what the popular ombré look is, but it’s also important to be aware of what it is not.

“Sometimes people get confused with dip-dye and ombré,” Tan explains. “Dip dye is just when your ends are bright and your roots are dark. Ombré is a soft highlighting where your ends come up a little bit more intensified and a little brighter.”

In other words, Ombré is a gradation of color that results in a natural looking, sun kissed appearance at the ends of your hair rather than a jump from one solid color to the next.

What technique should you use?

To achieve a natural looking finish, Tan and her stylists at KODA Salon employ the “balayage” method. This freehand coloring technique creates highlights by hand-painting, instead of using the traditional foiling technique. This allows you to create a softer result within separate sections to the tips.

Picking the right color

Since ombré aims to achieve a warm honey blend, it is best to stay within the same color family of your hair’s current shade. For example, blondes can go blonder, but women with dark brown or black hair should aim for caramels.

You will also need to determine what color tone to use.

To find out what tone fits her clients the best, Tan often asks them what kind of jewelry they tend to go to. “If you like golds, you should pick a warm tone. If you go for a cool brown, it will just offset your skin tone” warns Tan. Similarly if you like silver jewelry, your hair should be in the cooler zone.

If you decide to try your hand at ombre at home, look for these letters on the labels for help. It will either be a “W” for warm, a “C” for cool or “N” for neutral (which means you’re lucky and everything works for you).

How to do ombré at home

“If you are going to do it on your own, be more on the subtle side than the daring side” she says.  “Start with smaller pieces to highlight, making sure you don’t create that dipped at the bottom look, since your goal is to have a gradation of color.”

If you’re starting out with black hair, go from black to brown to caramel. If you’re a sandy blonde and aiming to finish with the lightest blonde, have a medium shade in between the two to make a smooth transition. Similarly, if you have red hair, gradually fade to your preferred final shade.

Tan suggests you buy a couple of different shades in the same family. Dye your hair the medium shade first, using the directions provided, and then paint the lighter shade on top when your hair is ready for another coloring. Take your time and color in sections.

Tan also suggests framing your face by adding some highlights to the front where the sun would naturally hit your hair.

Hair care after coloring

Now that you have your ombré look, take care of it by following the proper hair care methods. When you lighten your hair, you create porosity, meaning hair with open pores, which can lead to dry hair. Use sulfate free shampoos on the roots, and a deep conditioner on the tips. One good combination Tan suggests is Loreal Professional Expert Delicate shampoo and the Absolute Repair Mask.