We don’t know about you, but our team of beauty editors obsesses near-constantly about what celebrities do with their hair. If you, too, are a style maven on a mission to look like a celebutante, jot this down: sombre hair color. Even the slightest golden blonde sombre gets the chat messages flying, with every one of us wondering which hairstylist did it, which products they’ll use to maintain it, and how soon we can steal (er, be inspired by) the look.
What is a sombre hair color?
Chances are you already know at least one woman with sombre hair. She has effortless, totally model-like hair in a dark or medium hair color with just the slightest hint of brightness at her ends—not more than a shade or two above her natural one. Sombre hair color stands for “subtle ombre” or “soft ombre” (depending on who you ask) and looks like a very precise ombre application of color to your mid-lengths and ends. It’s easy to care for since you’re not going super bright with your color, but the trick is finding a colorist who can work with such precision.
If your sombre hair is done right, you’ll see incredible dimensionality within the color but no clear lines of demarcation or highlights that scream, “I’ve had my color done!” It’s all about blending hair color seamlessly.
What's the difference between sombre and balayage?
Balayage, ombre, and sombre are often compared, but the three have some key differences.
Balayage is a freehand coloring technique that blends your root color with the rest of your mane, focusing its saturation from the mid-lengths to the ends of the hair. Balayage also leaves more negative space between colors, creating tons of dimension. By comparison, ombre hair color is a trend that creates a stark, purposeful contrast between two shades, while sombre hair color gradually lightens hair from roots to ends for a natural, sunkissed result.
How to Get Sombre Hair (and Keep It Fresh!)
Before a painter gets started on their next masterpiece, they take a second to look at the work of the greats and get inspired. The same goes for hair! In the weeks leading up to your color appointment, save social media photos of colors that inspire you, especially if the person in question has a similar hair color, hair type, or facial structure to your own. During the consultation portion of your sombre hair appointment, you’ll be able to whip them out and ensure your stylist understands what kind of hair color blend you envision.
To create sombre hair color, your stylist will start by painting on layers of bleach to lift your natural base color and make space for something new. Bleach will always cause damage, but your stylist will do their best to keep your hair as healthy as possible during the process.
From here, it’s all a game of customization. Depending on the final shade you and your stylist choose for your sombre, it may take dye or lightener to achieve your ultimate color. Be patient and believe us, it’ll pay off!
The key with fresh blonde ends is to keep brass away, which means what you do after the salon is just as important as what your stylist did in the chair. For brunettes with artificially lightened ends, a blue-pigmented care duo like Matrix Total Results Brass Off Shampoo and Conditioner can make all the difference in how your ombre looks until your next salon appointment. Don’t have lightened brunette hair? Try Biolage Professional’s Color Last Shampoo and Conditioner Duo to help extend the life of your new hair color.
By now, you might wonder, “What does sombre look like?” Allow these gorgeous professional looks to point you in the right direction.
The Best Sombre Hair Ideas to Try Now
Golden Sombre Hair
Admit it: This golden sombre hair look has you drooling. The soft shimmer of the blonde accents paired with a medium brown base is totally swoon-worthy...not to mention a perfect transition look when you’re stuck between seasons.
Dark Blonde Sombre Hair
Blondes! Get your sombre hair on with a laidback blend of dark blonde and sandy shades. This look says “I love summer, but I also live in a climate with four seasons” and is super wearable at any age—not to mention on most skin tones.
Coffee Sombre Hair
Like a splash of cream poured into fragrant black coffee, this coffee sombre hair has us wide awake and wanting more! Warm coffee sombre is a must-have when the weather starts to get colder—how else are you going to maintain that sunny mood?
Copper Sombre Hair
You heard it here first: Red hair is going to fully rule the world. Ruby and ginger hair colors are popping up on celeb and influencer heads everywhere...so next should be your own! Copper sombre hair’s reflective finish has us itching to add a flash of shiny-penny red to our manes.
Ginger Sombre Hair
If you want to add a punchier color to an already-red base, you can’t go wrong with ginger sombre hair color. We love the dimension of a darker ginger root that gets gradually lighter as it stretches to the ends.
Milk Chocolate Sombre Hair
Has any snack ever been as beloved as a milk chocolate bar? Channel this delicious treat by blending notes of light brown throughout your mane for dimension without all the upkeep of blonde.
Icy Gray Sombre Hair
Silver hair is here to stay, and we adore this iced effect. This blue-leaning grey color woven subtly throughout strands works especially well on cool blondes.
Like other lightened shades, silver requires bleaching before dyeing. This can potentially damage your strands, so consider using a hair care system like Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate. This three-part system includes a shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, and rinse-off treatment formulated with citric acid and a bonding care complex to repair and fortify weakened strands.
Cocoa Brown to Gray Sombre Hair
Cool-toned cocoa brown is excellent for covering grays, but it’s even better if you’re looking to embrace your gray hairs with an ombre. This look perfectly blends cool brunette tones with gray-kissed ends.
Espresso Sombre Hair
If you’re daunted by the upkeep needed after lightening your jet-black hair, take baby steps with an espresso sombre. It adds just the right amount of brightness throughout your locks to instantly revitalize your whole look.
Blue-Black Sombre Hair
Not afraid to make your black hair a little moodier? Opt for blue-black. Your colorist will add a tint of dark blue throughout your black hair color to create tons of depth.
A shiny finish will help the nuances of your hair colors stand out, so consider adding an at-home gloss like Pureology’s Color Fanatic Top Coat + Sheer Clear to your routine. Formulated for brunette to black hair colors, this high-gloss topcoat restores shine while leaving hair soft and silky and hair color beautifully reflective.
Mauve Sombre Hair
Here’s your chance to dip into fashion colors without going overboard. To achieve a whimsical mauve sombre, your colorist will need to combine notes of purple and pink to create a vibrant and dimensional cool or warm-toned shade.
Ready to try sombre hair for yourself? Head to Hair.com for professional products to keep your color vibrant.