Brown Hair

The Case of the Subtle Brown Hair Ombré

Curated By
Eunice Lucero

Why the sombré is more than just the middle child of hair color.

Transitional hair color is a curious thing. Unlike fashion, we’d always thought there really wasn’t a specific hue that helped you switch between the seasons; there were no leather-jacket-and-jeans combos to keep you warm enough yet cool enough, no light coats worn with pencil skirts, no loafers with socks. Or were there? Ever since we were introduced to ombré back in 2012, it looked like we’d finally bridged the gap. Especially seen on brown hair ombré color became that elusive Missing Link between Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer. It was quite the literal metaphor, showing the world how we tried to gracefully straddle two seasonal trends, and looked very fazhun doing so.

The Sombré, Or the Subtle Brown Hair Ombré

subtle brown hair ombré waves
The sombré and a light, winter-to-spring flush in your cheeks: a winning combination. Photo credit:

Fast forward to 2015, where, after having played out the brown hair ombré look for a good three-odd years, the industry dialed things back in favor of a more natural look. Suddenly, sombré was a thing: This “subtle ombré,” as the name implied, was a quieter, smudgier version of its predecessor—no garish color contrasts, only a softer, quieter, more self-possessed and elegant-looking hue that, oh hey, shifted in color depending on which way the sunlight touched your locks.

1. A wünderkind color

As far as transitional hues go, the sombré knocked it out of the park. First off, it mimicked that cozy, slightly imprecise (and thus, super sexy) color job we all got after emerging from winter hibernation: weeks overdue for a touchup, but with highlights or a balayage that was still pretty on-point. Second, it highlighted areas that were totally flattering on our faces, something the first generation brown hair ombré looks didn’t technically consider. Suddenly we looked more streamlined, contoured and… multi-dimensional, but—MOST IMPORTANTLY!—like we didn’t try to at all.

2. Why this nuance matters

The sombré’s appeal doesn’t end in its subtlety; it’s also a pretty economical color choice, and one that can help keep your hair from the damages of overbleaching. Being a more natural look, it does away with dyeing hair more than two to three shades lighter than your base, and only in certain strategic areas (TBD by your expert stylist, of course). This lower-contrast look means that you’re also allowed more time between touchups, a small favor we can all appreciate.

the subtle brown hair ombré ash brone waves
Ash bronde, the shade that keeps on giving. Photo credit:

3. Trendy yet tasteful

The sombré has been seen on many a celebrity these days, but it’s a look that’s highly democratic and equally at home with a more understated audience as well as your friendly neighborhood blogger superstar. The widespread appeal of the subtle brown hair ombré—we love the ash bronde version for 2017, by the way—is something that we don’t see fading away, or at least until people get tired of the low-key glam movement. Which is, we hope, not anytime in the near future.

Want more ombré hair inspiration for the end of the season? Check out these trendy yet low-key shades to try.


Eunice Lucero
Peace and hair grease, Eunice
29 January 2017