Punk's not dead, and neither is the ombre hair trend—particularly for the brunette end of the spectrum. Instead of the super-contrasted effect that became so public when the look first came onto the scene the modern-day ombre errs more toward a natural sun-kissed effect.
This is great news for brown hair in particular, as the lightening techniques previously used often left our ends damaged, orange, and feeling like cotton candy. Laura Estroff, lead colorist at Kennaland Hair Studios in Brooklyn, tells us many of her clients have been opting for a subtler take on ombre that doesn't feature quite as harsh of a transition in color. "We've revamped ombre for sure, it just has a new look," she says. "It's just like how we've seen skinny jeans evolve from '80s mom jeans to the current skinny jeans that haven't gone away for years; there was a time I wouldn't touch the style because they were my mom's jeans. . "I think ombre is the same thing. We've just taken an old trend and put a different spin on it."
When it comes to her placement technique, Estroff creates what she has dubbed the "halo effect" for the most natural-looking fade. "I like to bring the highlights up around the face, either to the hairline, eyebrows, eyes, or cheeks to direct attention to the most important parts of your face," she explains. "Then, I'll gradually bring it down further as I reach the back. I feel like it has a more natural effect, and the easiest way to describe it would be as a halo."
Because the highlights don't start directly at your root and work with your rich base, mainenance is pretty low-key, and should only require the occasional gloss with your stylist or a color-depositing conditioner to keep the tone in check. Thanks to the world that is Instagram, many of the "new" highlighting trends (which are more often than not named after food) borrow techniques from looks that have been standard for a while. We outlined four of the hottest trends below, along with how to achieve the effect, and what makes each one different.
Short for “subtle ombre” but also dubbed “babylights” the super-soft effect seen on Miranda Kerr is a play on the lighter tones your hair would naturally take on after playing outside as a kid. “It’s a sunkissed look, and there’s a natural transition of color from root to end with no harsh line of demarcation,” says Estroff. “The idea is a really fine highlight so that you don’t see those little streaks that can sometimes be apparent with other kinds of ombre.” This effect works on any shade of brunette, just be sure your colorist chooses tones complementary to your eye color and complexion in the direction that your hair naturally lifts.
“Bronde definitely falls into the category of being more blonde at the ends,” says Estroff. The same natural fade remains standard with this look. If you’re looking to channel your Jenny from the Block ambitions, keep in mind that darker tones will need to be lifted quite a bit to keep any brassiness from forming, so Bronde may work best on light to medium-hued brunettes.
If you have a medium to dark base color, consider going for a tortoiseshell effect like Jessica Alba’s. Also called “ecaille,” this look mixes golden tones and warm browns, often using a balayage technique where the color is hand-painted onto your hair. Estroff notes that while balayage is a popular method for creating a tortoisehell hue, other techniques can also be used to achieve it.
Have a super-dark natural base like Mila Kunis’s that has rarely shifted in shade? Going about two shades lighter will result in the most gorgeous coffee hue that spans from your mid-lengths to ends. “If you have very dark hair, whether or not you’ve had it colored, you’re realistically probably not going to get that light,” Estroff says. “The look becomes very stylized when you add more contrast, as opposed to keeping it more subtle and closer to your natural shade.” Often times, dark hair can take on a red tone when lifted, so speak to your hairstylist if this isn’t what you’re going for, as there are many ways to keep your highlights from taking on an unintentional auburn shade.