It only took me, oh I don’t know, 100 months or something dumb to finally write this post, but after a lull in pestering from you guys, a reader’s email wanting to know how I ombréd my own hair prompted me to realize I needed to finally get this thing out there before ombré hair is totally over. It actually might be totally over but sometimes being a freelancer in LA means I don’t get out much and spot fashion trends nearly as much as I did in NYC riding the subway every single day, so WHO KNOWS. All I know is that I ombréd my own hair and I effing love it.

Before we begin I would like to note that I’m not a complete amateur at this kind of thing: my mom was a hairstylist when I was a kid and permed my hair at age four and dyed my hair for the first time at age 12 and taught me a lot (tortured me a lot? We are both unclear). I have had every haircut that exists (Winona pixie included – not a good look for me) and dyed my hair every color of the rainbow over the years. So, what I’m saying is that this is not for everyone. If you have never dyed your own hair before I don’t know if I would recommend this even though it was not super hard, it was tricky for sure.

There are approximately 1 million tutorials on how to ombré your hair, which is why I think a lot of you have asked me how I did it because it’s REALLY overwhelming. I researched for weeks before making the plunge. I know how my hair reacts to bleach and dye, and everyone’s hair is different!

There are two popular methods. On both your hair should be dry and at least 24 hours after a shampoo, and you should have no product in your hair if you can help it:

1. Apply bleach on the ends of your hair* below your chin line where you want the ombré to start. Wait 20 minutes or so (everyone is different!) Wash bleach out. Dry hair. Re-apply bleach a bit lower. Repeat steps until desired effect is achieved.


2. Apply bleach* at the very tips of your hair where it will be the lightest, wait 10 minutes, apply more bleach (not washing it out!) starting a little higher this time. Repeat steps until you reach the point you want it to start.

*Applying bleach with a big paint brush, a brush meant for applying highlights, or a soft bristle brush (what I used as I had it) makes it look more natural. Don’t try to do a perfectly straight line, it will look so fake and weird. I even grabbed a few random strands a bit higher and applied bleach to those.

I decided to go with option #1, and the problem with this is that washing the bleach out and then drying your hair in between each step is a nightmare and destroys your hair. I don’t understand how some people did it this way. So I was left with a very, very faint ombré because it just wouldn’t get any lighter and it felt SO brittle. I used Clairol Born Blonde and the bleach barely took to my hair, but I’d used boxed bleach before that had a tint and it was way stronger. So I did a deep conditioning hot oil treatment a few days later (I used this, it smells weird but works well and is at most drug stores. My mom likes the VO5 kind) and waited 1 week til I thought my ends could handle another round and bought a different box of bleach and re-did it using method #2. Bingo! So much better. I’m sure doing it the first time helped, but it may take two rounds. It’s still pretty subtle, but I like it like that.

Some things to consider:

– Bleach is toxic stuff and may burn your eyes. Please open a window/door/do it outside (ha) and don’t attempt this if you are sensitive to such things. I’m sure we could get into how terrible this is for you, but let’s just skip that argument as I almost never bleach my hair anymore and once a year isn’t any worse than my burrito/ice cream/coffee/laziness/not flossing/margarita loving indulging. :) :) :) (Three smiley faces to ward off arguments, natch.)

– This dries the holy heck out of your hair. Fortunately I have incredibly oily hair so this actually had an awesome result on my hair because styling it is much easier now. It holds a curl better and isn’t as limp. If you have dry hair, please be careful or go see a professional. You could literally break your hair off. A friend of mine had to cut her hair into a bob because it went sour. Pay very close attention to the condition of your hair while applying the bleach. Again, hot oil treatment is your friend for your bleached ends every few weeks. I also use strong, thick conditioner on my ends every time I shower. I was using the stuff that comes with the hair dye but just ran out and started using this, but I can’t report its effectiveness quite yet! I really like the Organix brand.

– The timing is different for everyone, and I did so many steps and back and forth that I can’t even remember my exact times, but I believe I waited 20 minutes between each application. This is kind of a dangerous time as it says to not leave it in your hair for more than a total of 40 minutes and I most certainly did, but it worked for me. I was just super careful and know my hair well.

– To add complexity to this story, my hair was bleached a year ago and dyed back to brunette, but I have to re-dye brown on top every once in a while as it fades in this bright California sun. So a month ago I had to re-dye my roots and avoid my ombré. Somehow I did it, basically just reverse ombréing my hair, but it was TRICKY! But it is possible. This makes me think that maybe it’s possible to reverse ombré your hair if you’re blonde. But the grow out might look ridiculous, just a warning. This tutorial is a similar method.

Phew! Did you just read all that? Anyone have any tips they want to add? Any photos to share? I think if you were a cooler person than I am ombré + a fun color like blue or pink would look rad. It definitely takes a certain person to pull it off without looking like a teenager, however.

details: my shirt is by the lovely Ilana Kohn, I use Organix Coconut Mousse on damp hair, dry it a bit with a towel – or better yet – a t-shirt, let it air dry (I know, forever) and then curl it a bit with a curling iron. My glasses are discontinued. You can read about other beauty products I use here and here.