How Do I Get The Ombre Hair Look With My Dark Hair?

Dana Ionato

Dear Dana, 

I want to make my hair ombre, but I have really dark hair. What should I do? Any  advice? 



Ombre is perfect for dark hair! To make a more modern look, stay away from the ends being too light. A more golden blonde and lighter chestnut  brown is easier to achieve, and it’s a softer version of last year’s ombre craze. Make sure the highlights aren’t done in the roots, but have a few face framing pieces to connect the ombre and brighten your skin tone. You could also try copper tones. Rich, more warm tones work well with a cool skin color.

There are a few ways to approach ombre hair. It makes a difference if you have dark brown hair, and if you’ve ever colored your hair. If your hair has been previously colored, the ombre trend may be trickier.

For Already Colored Hair: Ask your colorist realistically how light they think they can make the bottom of your hair. They will have to use bleach, so make sure your hair is strong enough. Try strengthening your hair by doing masks once a week, for 20 minutes to get hair back into good shape. The stronger and healthier your hair, the easier and more nicely the color will lift. If the ends are damaged, the color will only lift to orange, and then break. Also, colorists do a gloss after the highlights, but that gloss won’t help if your hair is too broken. I suggest the Shu Uemura Hydrating Mask once a week and Sally Hershberger Keratin Spray daily. The product is light in your hair but has cashmere to keep hair silky and keratin to keep ombre smooth and shiny.

After you discuss your hair history of coloring, consider hair texture. If you never blow your hair smooth, ombre may not work for you. If you throw ombre colored hair into a bun ever day, it won’t enhance your look. Ombre will basically just give you the same dark hair, with a yellow bun. If you wear your hair down, then you’re a good candidate. That way, ombre will enhance your look, give your hair a little sexiness , and brighten your skin tone.

Your haircut is a key component to ombre. For best results, you should have some layers. The ombre highlighting should be on the tips of the ends of the layers. If you have all one length hair, you can have ombre, but make sure the line is softened because you don’t want a straight block of blonde. A more modern ombre should gradually get lighter, so that just the tips are blondest.

Tone is another important consideration when going ombre. The process is done with the same product all over the hair: Bleach. How you apply can make it more or less light, so you want to make sure you can help elimate brassy hair after you leave the salon. When you lighten any brown hair, it pulls out a lot of red pigment. No brunettes like to have red in their hair, so make sure to get a “ash” gloss to get the coolest results. To keep the neutral look, use Shimmer Lights Purple Shampoo. The purple will cancel out the orange color, and this is best for warm skin tones. More fair skinned can pull off a warmer ombre. The combination of deep chestnuts and dark golden blondes can be beautiful and sexy.

Make sure that before you start the ombre process, you explain exactly what you want to your colorist. Whether you want a solid ombre, a more subtle ombre, or you hate red, if you communicate with your colorist, you’ll leave the salon much happier.

Hair colorist Dana Ionato graduated college with a degree in public relations and relocated to New York City to further her studies at the Aveda Institute with hopes of eventually opening her own spa. Planning to immerse herself in the business side of the beauty industry, it was actually the creative component that sparked Dana’s interest and she quickly developed a passion for the art and science of coloring. Dana apprenticed at Rita Hazan where she assisted top colorists and worked with celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez and Britney SpearsUnder the tutelage of one of the French master colorists, Dana perfected the art of Balayage, a modern “hair painting” technique that allows her to produce natural, dimensional color without foils. With her cheery disposition and her remarkable attention to detail, Dana is the colorist to watch at Sally Hershberger Downtown.

Image via SIPA