Ask Jeanne

ASK JEANNE Ombre Highlights

I have dark hair and am thinking of adding ombre highlights. Is that appropriate for a conservative workplace?



Dear Lauren:


First of all, let’s be clear that “conservative” is a fairly relative term: Your version of a “conservative workplace” may be very different from mine. But if what you’re craving is just a slight change—giving your hair a bit of tasteful “oomph” – I can’t imagine any workplace so conservative that a subtle bit of play with hair colour would be frowned upon. But that really is key: If you’re going to go for a bit of a trendy look—and the ombre effect is certainly that—just make sure that you don’t do anything too extreme. And while some people do feel confident in doing their own hair colour, you should probably go to a professional colourist for this first go ‘round.


For those who aren’t familiar with it, “ombre” is the French word for “shadow”. Basically, this effect is all about graduating your hair to a lighter colour on the ends. Sometimes, at worst, it can look like you’ve simply waiting too long between dye jobs, and it’s merely a case of your roots growing out. But if done correctly and artfully, it’s a cool look that can give you a nice boost of colour, without committing to the taxing business of constantly getting highlights. If your ombre highlights are done properly, you’d likely only need to touch up your hair a couple of times a year.


We’ve seen a variety of stylish celebrities—including Sarah Jessica Parker, Drew Barrymore, Hilary Duff and Jessica Biel—go the ombre route to fabulous effect. Of course, subtlety is always key if you are concerned about making a statement that may be too overt or edgy, so temper your tones accordingly. Generally speaking, chin level is the best place to begin the highlights, with the colour only in the last two or three inches of the hair. The deeper shade at your roots should be soft, and just bleed out gradually.


This technique is a great option for those brunettes who’ve always dreamed of being blondes but are afraid of doing anything too extreme, or looking too washed out. It’s also a look that works better and seems most natural on people who have some body and movement in their hair. If you hair is ultra straight and super fine, the ombre effect could look a little lame. Some people also think that bangs don’t really work as well with ombre hair, since your bangs would just be one colour, while the rest of your hair would be two-tone. As I said earlier, I would urge you to go to a professional colourist the first time out—someone who’s executed these types of highlights before. You might even want to bring a picture of what you have in mind, just to make sure you’re getting the right idea across. And make sure you stress to your stylist that you’re looking for something with more of a conservative edge. After all, you don’t want anything too drastic or skanky-looking—especially if you have an office full of “conservative” co-workers to impress.