your guide to gradience.

by ray siegel

Ombre hair is a technique where the hair is darker at the roots and lighter a the ends, which is basically a frequent hair color-er's dream, since its what naturally occurs when you wait too long in between sessions. Our sources say that the trend was started by colorist Kris Sorbie, who was bored with highlights back in '95. Since then, colorists have gone wild cultivating their own takes on the trend. Obviously we've tried them all--from pink ombre to the classic dark roots look (as seen on Lily Aldridge), but our favorite purveyor of the trend is Nikki Ferrara, the color director at Sally Hershberger downtown. "The great thing about ombre is that it works on everyone and you can make it as subtle or as dramatic as you like. The main thing is to keep it simple and low maintenance." Before you take the plunge, consider Ferrara's expert list of dos and don'ts.

THE DOS: "Always bring in pictures to your hair colorist. This way he or she can see the look that you are going for and can execute it properly. Always consider hairstyling and texture before you go ombre. This hair color looks good on hair that goes from straight to wavy with some hair styling help (ie, a blow out or using a curling iron). If you have really curly hair and have no plans to blow it out or wave it with a curling iron, then the ombre gets kind of lost. Your hair should at least hit your shoulders or at least graze them if you want ombre. Anything shorter won't work."

THE DONTS: "Don't choose something too harsh and contrasty. Example: dark brown or black roots up top and pale beige to white ends. This will only make your ends look and feel dry and brittle. Instead go for a tone that compliments the color you already have. If you have darker hair, go a lighter rich brown through out the ends. Same with dark blonde to a lighter pale golden or honey blonde. Keep the integrity and the shine of your hair! Ombre is supposed to be a natural and low maintenance hair color that you can get four to six months of wear out of. It also highlights your natural hair color, so my suggestion would be to not mess around with your base color. Do not darken your base color and go from blonde to dark brown. Your blonde roots will be showing in four to five weeks and then you'll find yourself back in the salon. Keep it simple!"