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That very deliberate-looking, two-tone hair trend called ombré is now over, but ombré’s more elegant offshoot is still going strong. Coined sombre (or sombré), the soft ombré look is obviously a more subtle look with an appropriate name — although of course, the hairstyle isn’t all doom and gloom, it’s just not quite so out there.

“Take heed,” says Greg May, of Greg May Hair Architects in Toronto, “any trend that is very strong like ombré will eventually, sooner or later, become passé, but, these trends always give birth to newer and equally exciting techniques.” He compares sombre to colour melting and calls it “a more diffused, subtle, yet very sexy, new generation of colouring.”

Similar to balayage — a French hair colouring technique developed in the 1970s — hair colour is applied by hand to achieve natural-looking highlights, often to the ends of the hair. And, says May, the best way to achieve both looks is by painting individual sections of hair with a brush or comb — done, of course, by a professional. This isn’t really a look to try at home.

May has been creating a more subtle ombré look for years, citing Victoria’s Secret’s angels as inspiration — vs. angels, of course. “My image bible for these types of techniques is Victoria’s Secret,” says May. “I believe these models, or rather their hair stylists, have perfected the more current sombre colouring techniques.” He adds that the colour should look lived in, not contrived or manufactured.

But it’s not quite as simple as walking into a salon and saying “sombre”. Arm yourself with information (and photos, says May) so you get the colour you really want. Here’s what you need to know before you go to the salon and get the perfect sombre hair colour:

Know the difference between ombré and sombre

“Ombré has a stronger line and impact, usually with a distinct demarcation of where the darker colour starts, and then switches to a lighter colour rather dramatically. Sombre (soft ombré) is more of a subtle, transitional colour. Sometimes regarded as more of a ‘melting’ of colours,” says May.

Consider your lifestyle and colour your hair accordingly

“I think if this technique is executed properly, it will look amazing on everyone,” says May. “Of course, depending on who you are and what you do for a living, you may want to tone it down if you are in a more conservative field. Or turn it up if you are in an artistic world that complements self expression.”

Go to the salon prepared with pictures of your ideal colour

“It always helps to bring visual images. Whether it’s torn out of a fashion magazine or off your iPad [or mobile device], a picture is worth a thousand words,” says May.

Consider your hair texture and know what to expect

Don’t let your sombre highlights get lost. If you have curly hair, says May, and you often wear your hair curly, “the stylist may go heavier with the painted sections because as the hair naturally dries and curls, the colour will become more diffused and subtle.” On straight hair, he says that the sombre colour should be very carefully applied. May starts with very light and thin brush strokes near the roots and the colour gets heavier and thicker towards the ends. This achieves a more natural look on hair with less body.