ombre hair

The author, before and after.

(Ed. Note: We were pretty leery of this whole ombre hair thing, until our co-worker waltzed in the office one day looking fantastic with her own DIY job. We demanded that she write down her method for our beloved readers/us mostly)

I’m someone who rarely gets her hair cut and almost never dyes it. The last and only time I did anything was in 10th grade when I dyed the underside of my hair fire-engine red to accompany my totally rad side bangs and sweet Saves the Day hoodie. Besides those years, I have always had very dark brown, wavy, boring hair (Ed. Note: Preposterous. Her hair is beautiful). Fast forward 5 years, and although my style and taste in music has improved a bit, I still have the same exact haircut and color as I did when I was 18.

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The other day, I realized this and knew I had to do something. Like right away, not the next day, but at that moment. No salons are open at 9:30pm and I didn’t want to spend $400 on my hair anyway…

After browsing hairstyles, I decided to go with the ombre, two-toned look, and knew that the only reasonable option was to do it myself, so I did. And so can you.

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Let’s begin:

Step 1: Find the type of ombre hair you like the most

Being a naturally dark brunette, I thought I might look completely ridiculous with blonde in my hair. After seeing tons of dark haired ladies with ombre hair online, I realized this could actually turn out okay. Some girls have only a tiny portion of blonde at their ends, and others have opted to lighten almost all over. I knew I wanted something in the middle so I felt Lily Aldridge and Rachel Bilson were the closest to the image in my head. Next, I pulled up a bunch of photos to have as references during the dying process.

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Step 2: Find the right hair dye

Since my hair is untreated, I could buy a lightening treatment. However, if you have recently dyed your hair a permanent dark brown or black, using store bought dyes might not work. You may have to go to a salon to have your hair stripped.

I found that Clairol: Born Blonde ($11.29) was the best choice. It read, Maximum blonding for even the darkest hair. Even though the box claimed it would turn my almost-black hair a platinum blonde, I knew that was probably not going to happen. Also: this does contain strong chemicals, so make sure you’re not allergic and that your hair can handle it.

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Now, I know with ombre hair, the roots stay dark, but I still wanted them to be a little lighter than their natural color, so I decided I’d lighten my entire head and then re-dye my roots. I chose Clairol: Medium Brown (BUY IT HERE) to use for the second part of the process. If you’re happy with the color of your naturally dark roots, you obviously don’t have to lighten your whole head. I REPEAT – IF YOU ARE HAPPY WITH YOUR HAIR COLOR THEN YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO THIS STEP. JUST LIGHTEN YOUR ENDS.

Step 3: The Dying Process (Part 1)

I started with the Clairol: Born Blonde. Its directions were to “put 80% of the hair lightening serum throughout your hair, leaving only your roots untouched.” You keep the serum in for 30 minutes or until you see your hair turning that copper/brassy tone. Once this happens, apply the remaining lightening serum to your roots.

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Important: You leave the roots for last because the warmth from your scalp makes the lightening process move quicker, so you want to prevent your roots from being lighter than the rest of your hair. The box also cautioned not to leave the lightener in for longer than 90 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I applied the lightening crème to my roots, and any remaining liquid in the bottle, I spread throughout the ends of my hair. I waited another 40 minutes, then washed it out. Total time was 70 minutes (if your hair is not as dark as mine, you don’t need to leave the lightening crème in as long).

Once my hair was shampooed, conditioned and blow-dried, I… looked like an idiot. Luckily, that was only because I’m obviously not meant to be a blonde. So, don’t freak out! If you choose to lighten your entire head, this step will definitely have you second-guessing yourself, but keep going.

Step 4: The Dying Process (Part 2)

I took my Clairol Medium Brown dye and applied it to my roots. This doesn’t mean just the top of your head: you need to dye ALL of your roots on your ENTIRE head. You must part your hair in a few sections to make sure you have applied the dye throughout. This way, if you wear your hair up/half up-half down/whichever way, ALL of your roots will be brown.

While applying the medium brown dye, you can choose how much of your hair you’d like to be dark and how much you’d like lighter. I chose to have the medium brown start to fade into the lighter hair at around my ear lobes. After you have saturated your roots to wherever you’d like the brown to end, make sure it blends by running your fingers through the rest of your hair. Important: don’t spill any dark dye on the ends of your hair because that may result in a dark spot after you’re done. I left the brown dye in for 35 minutes.

Once the time was up, I washed and dried my hair, and prayed to whatever god that I didn’t look like a total jackass. Surprisingly, once my hair was dry and styled… I didn’t think it looked half bad.

But be careful, there are two things to watch out for when attempting a DIY hairstyle: 1) fucking everything up and looking like shit, and 2) thinking you did a great job, but really you fucked everything up and you look like shit. Some people can tell when they’ve completely ruined themselves, and some can’t. Just in case I was one of those people, I checked with a trusty friend before I went out in public. Fortunately, she said I did a pretty good job.

All in all, operation DIY ombre hair was a success.

Good luck!

Here are the products again:

Clairol: Born Blonde (BUY IT HERE)
Clairol: Medium Brown (BUY IT HERE)