Ecaille Explained: The Real Deal on the Tortoiseshell Hair Color Trend

Victoria Moorhouse


Between the ombre, the sombre and peaking purple and pink pastels, the last few years have been witness to a surge of highlighting trends with little indication of slowing down. To no surprise, the latest hair color buzz word, besides going grey, has to do with lightening up your locks. Being dubbed as écaille (and interchangeably being described as a tortoiseshell color), this hair coloring trend is basically an update to the ombre trend that has yet to lose momentum.

Jacob Schmidt, a colorist at Serge Normant at John Freida in New York City describes this particular color as a softer and warm ombre that incorporates carmel and golden brown tones. “Most clients that say they want the ombre end up going for tortoiseshell. It incorporates the warmth,” says Schmidt. Unlike the contrast between light and dark that many drastic ombred approaches bring, this particular style is much lighter, incorporating different tones throughout, and very wearable. “The ends are lighter but there is also lightness throughout. It’s more cohesive. It’s a softer look,” explains Schmidt who also explains that this look gives a reflection and contrast to your hair color.

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“There is always kind of a push to make your hair like it’s encompassing the ombre, but taking it to another level and making it a little more sophisticated.”

To get the look, Schmidt explains that at Serge Normant, they use the balayage, or hair painting, technique with bleach to create different tones in the hair. “The hair painting is the most effective way to create and soften the lines of the look,” he notes of the “multidimensional” color. The bleach is used to lighten the hair and will produce varied results based on the specific strands it’s applied on, as all the hair on your head isn’t generally one color.

If hair is especially dark and hard to lift quickly with lightener (or before it dries out), Schmidt explains that they might backcomb the hair and apply lightener in something around the hair that will allow it to lift slower in areas you want without drying out the hair.

So who can achieve this look? Schmit says it’s easy to create on any hair (major score!), but virgin hair, or medium to light hair that lifts easily, takes to it the best. Before you go in and ask for this look, Schmit recommends you tell your colorist everything you’ve done to your hair (i.e. keratin treatments, coloring, the types of shampoos you use) so you can get the very best look.

As for celebrity pics to bring along with you to the salon? The stars that come to mind for Schmidt are Jessica Alba and Rachel Bilson—two ladies with locks we’ve been envying for years.

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