drew barrymore with brunette and blonde wavy ombre hair

What is ombre hair? Learn more about the colour trend loved by Drew Barrymore & Lily Aldridge

What is ombre hair? The A-list are already fans of this two-tone trend and we reckon you will be, too.  

Ever since celebs like Drew Barrymore, Kim K-W and Lily Aldridge started getting ombre put into their hair, everybody wanted to follow suit. And even now, ombre remains one of the most coveted hair colour trends around. However, we aren’t all A-list stars down with the latest hair lingo, so don’t feel too embarrassed if you’re asking yourself “what is ombre hair?” 

Whether you’re reading this because you’ve already decided you’d like to try out ombre hair or you’ve got no idea what ombre is and are just curious, keep on reading and all will be revealed…

What is ombre & why are we all so obsessed with it?


shot of ana de armas with sun kissed light brown ombre hairstyle on the red carpet
Looking for sun-kissed light brown ombre hair? This hue might just be for you! Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

What is ombre hair: The basic definition

Any French speakers will know that the term ‘ombre’ itself is actually a bit of a clue here. Ombre translates as ‘shadow’ or ‘shade’, so it’s actually quite an aptly named technique. Ombre hair transitions from dark to light, with deep roots flowing into lighter, sun-kissed lengths for a 2-tone effect.

How is the technique achieved?

Ombre techniques differ slightly from salon to salon and there are a few different ways to achieve the look.

A common way of lightening the ends of the hair is to first section off the hair and tease it just above the point at which you’d like the colour transition to begin. The stylist will then apply the colour from the roots to the teased area and wrap the ends in foil to prevent the colour touching any other areas.

Alternatively, some stylists prefer to apply the dye freehand, as this allows them to have greater control over the results  which is particularly important if you’re after a more natural finish.

What colour is ombre?

If you search for ombre looks online or via Pinterest, you’ll probably notice that, by and large, the most popular colour combination is brunette and blonde. This is because it’s such a convenient, low-maintenance colour combo to rock for everyday, as the grown out root effect means touch-ups are minimal (hooray!).

But if you’re wondering “what colour is ombre?”, really it can be pretty much any colour you choose, as long as it retains the graduated flow of one hue into another.

Like to get a little wild with your look? Pink, blue and purple dip-dye looks are also really great ways to add colour to your mane. And with so many temporary wash-in, wash-out colours available, you don’t have to commit long term!

Editor’s tip: Love the look of lighter ends? Keep the blonde lengths of your hair ashy and cool with a purple shampoo, like the TIGI Bed Head Dumb Blonde Purple Toning Shampoo. This will help to neutralise any brassy yellow tones, and keep your ombre looking fresh and stylish.


4 alternative ways to rock ombre hair


Now that you’re all clued up on the basics of ombre hair, it’s a good time to tell you that there’s not just one way to wear ombre. Here are the most common techniques you should know about….

pretty little liars actress shay mitchell with brunette sombre hair
Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell is rarely seen without her trademark sombre strands. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

1. Sombre

Sombre (that’s soft ombre, FYI) is essentially just a subtler version of ombre. A discrete, non-dramatic change  but still noticeable enough that it’ll add dimension to long locks – ask your stylist to only lighten your ends by a couple of shades to keep it close to your natural hue.

model gisele bundchen with golden balayage hair
Gisele was rocking balayage long before it was cool. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

2. Balayage

Balayage and ombre are often used interchangeably, but while they can be similar, there is a difference between the two.

Unlike ombre, in which all of the ends of the hair are dyed, balayage colour is painted on freehand for a more natural-looking transition. So instead of all of the lightness being kept at the ends of the hair, it’s worked further up around the jawline to open up the face and give an allover lighter look.

actress claire holt with reverse ombre hair
Reverse ombre is ideal for natural blondies. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

3. Reverse ombre

If you’ve got naturally light locks, you will likely need to ask your stylist to deepen up your root colour prior to getting ombre, in order to create more a contrast between your roots and the ends of your hair.

One way around this, though, is to turn the ombre hair trend on its head and opt for a reverse ombre, instead. Exactly the opposite of standard ombre, this look instead fades from a lighter root colour into a deeper lengths and looks just as amazing!

model chrissy teigen with long mermaid waves and flomboyage hair colour
Chrissy Teigen can do no wrong with her golden flomboyage. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

4. Flamboyage

Can’t decide between ombre or balayage? Well, with flamboyage, you don’t have to. Flamboyage combines traditional ombre with balayage highlights, to give the hair a look with a distinct colour that still looks natural. Sign us up!


We hope this helped answer all of your “what is ombre?” queries? Now you know all there is to know about ombre, why not indulge yourself with some styling inspiration over on our Hairstyles & Haircuts page? Go on, you know you want to!

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