Dirty Blonde Hairstyles vs. Blonde Ombré: Which Low-Key Blonde Is For You?

This may just be your next easy blonde.

Saying that dirty blonde hairstyles is the lazy-girl’s blonde is kind of doing it a disservice. Although popular as a mid-point color between those with a dark base who want to go blonde, it’s a look that, in and of itself, is also beloved in its own right. It’s definitely one of the edgier, more rocker-chic blondes in the family and yes, is certainly lower maintenance than other shades. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out the root (see what we did there?) of its easygoing appeal: Worn with a bit of a grown-in look, dirty blonde hairstyles afford the wearer more time between touchups, and in the same vein has a grittier, more street aesthetic that is also slightly more accessible than, say, an immaculate platinum or white blonde.

Dirty Blonde Hairstyles vs. Blonde Ombré

dirty blonde hair waves
Dirty blonde features a tighter dark root and streaks made up of ash or gold and bronde tones. Photo credit: Allyson Alapont

Sometimes referred to as “dishwater blonde” because of its slightly streaky look, dirty blonde (not the prettiest name either, we agree) is a shade that’s a mix of ash blonde, golden blonde and dark blonde or brown. Overall, it’s a shade that’s similar to a “bronde” (brown-blonde) but is streakier. Think of it as a notch higher than light brown—it’s definitely a shade you go for when you’re toeing the line and want to see how you look like with lighter hair.

It’s also a great transition color, as it’s a pretty midway between brunette and true blonde. A lot of people that want to go lighter and start with a dark base sometimes pass through a phase of having dirty blonde hair.

dirty blonde hair ombre straight
A blonde ombré can be anywhere from subtle (as pictured) or chunky, with ends that are high contrast. Photo credit: Allyson Alapont

Blonde Ombré

The difference between dirty blonde hair and a blonde ombré look is the highlights. Whereas in dirty blonde hair these can start anywhere from tightly close to the root to a few inches below, with a blonde ombré they’re usually done way lower on the head, almost midway to nearer the ends, even.

In other cases, highlights can be done via balayage in a dirty blonde color, with the results still being somewhat natural. Depending on how contrasted a blonde ombré look is however, highlights are usually done via a foil method (for a lighter “lift” of color) and can even take on a dip-dyed effect.

dirty blonde hair dip dyed ends
A chunky, punky blonde ombré. Photo credit: Suzanne Cohen Photography

Which low-key blonde is best for me?

Ashier dishwater blondes—or dirty blonde hair with more beige and less gold in them—look best on cool to neutral undertones, while a dirty blonde that’s a mix of golden and sandy tones flatter warmer skintones better. It’s also more natural-looking than a high-contrast blonde ombré. Hallmarks of dirty blonde hair: It’s rooty, slightly streaky and has a lot of dimension.

If, on the other hand, you love the look of brown hair that gradually (or deliberately!) lightens into a true light blonde, then a blonde ombré may be better for you. You can also tailor your ombré to be more subtle (a “sombré”)—with the blonde highlights ribboned higher on your lengths—or punkier, with the ends being solid chunks of color, in manner of a dip-dye.

Still undecided? Check out our hair quiz to help you figure out what shade of blonde is up your alley.

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Want more hair color ideas? Check out our festive color trend suggestions for the upcoming holiday season.