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.


  1. Dana says

    I sure hope ombre isn’t “out” – ombre is my natural haircolor as a dark blonde whose tips naturally lighten as they grow out.

    I think your hair looks great! I love all of your hair tutorials. I’m also curious about the Coconut Mousse – what sort of feel does it add to your hair? I have extremely fine hair and am looking for something that adds a tiny bit of texture/”oomph” without making it crunchy and straw-like. Also, why dry your hair with a t-shirt over a towel?

    Thanks! Sorry for all the questions.

    • says

      I love the mousse because it doesn’t feel crunchy at all, it just adds a bit of hold and smoothes stray pieces, makes a good texture for curling when I do that.

      I forgot to add my t-shirt note, but a friend told me that terry cloth makes your hair frizzy, so the t-shirt is to avoid frizz!

  2. says

    Wow, that’s an impressive tutorial. I hadn’t actually considered the ombre thing until reading this. Not sure whether to thank you or curse you but your hair looks beautiful.

    • says

      Yeah it’s totally the bleaching as it would never hold a curl before! It definitely needs touching up later in the day, but lasts for a night out or something.

  3. says

    I’m the same as Dana – my hair is naturally ombre all the time as it bleaches in the sun in the summer and as it grows soooo slowly that I end up with blond ends during the winter months! I used to dye it out until a year or so ago when I realised I actually liked it. Also like Dana my hair is really thin too, you must love having beautiful thick hair? And it looks so great and natural, you did such a good job doing it yourself!

    • Dana says

      Jo, I dyed my hair for 12 years to make it consistently blonde but am totally highlight-free for the past 14 months, like you! I now use Shikai’s Henna Gold highlighting shampoo and conditioner and love the dimension and shine it adds to my natural ombre hair.

  4. Terreur says

    I also have ombré hair & it makes me so happy! I prefer being brunette, but in the summer i always crave lighter hair so this is a good balance for me. I occasionnally add neon pink in there, from Kevin Murphy’s color bug. I also heard that using pastels can work for fun & temporary color!

  5. kelly says

    dude, your hair is literally (literally!) perfect.

    my sister is a hairstylist and she keeps telling me she will do this for me if i would just find an hour to let her but…i’m lazy. it looks so good on you though i might find the time!

  6. says

    I did blue! You can see my instagram pics on twitter @alyssaberns if you’re interested in how it turned out. I had it professionally done, but to make it cheaper I brought in my own color.

  7. says

    I have had my Ombre for a few months and I got it done by Lauren at Stag Hair Parlor on Melrose. She did an awesome job. I actually just had it colored yesterday and changed it up a big so my roots are brown and my ends are a lighter brown. I couldn’t take having crunchy, damaged hair anymore.

    I also felt the same way about getting a colored ombre so to satisfy that urge, I got the Kevin Murphy Color Bug in pink. When I am feeling festive I put a little pink on the ends. It works well but does get on your clothes a bit so don’t wear white.

    I am not sure how to share a photo in this comment section but you can see my ombre in my most recent pictures on my blog:

    *On a random sidenote, I saw your cousin Taylor last night and gave him a ride home from a show :) He tried telling me that he had just gone to his cousins wedding in Seattle, and I had to remind him I already knew because I read your blog. The internet is a funny thing sometimes….

  8. ilana says

    love this (and the shirt! :), I’ve been getting ombre-ish highlights for a few years now but this DIY is looking mighty tempting especially considering each dye job costs me upwards of $200…will let you know how it goes if I work up the nerve to do it myself!!


  9. says

    When I got my ombré done she teased the ends so that one application could be done & there wouldn’t be a straight line. The only thing with that is the torture of combing it out. My hair is fine, wavy & very tangly so this was especially brutal for me but maybe not so much on other hair types? Just thought I’d put that out there. Yours looks great, Kate!

  10. Margarita says

    Hands down to your hair! Im so jealous of the color and way it curls :)

    I havent been a fan of hair dyes until I tried it for the first time 4 months ago. I became obsessed with hair styles and colors and I then found out about this ombre thing. Ive been really wanting to have ombre hair since then but I was such a chicken. But yesterday, I finally tried it to reward myself from a stressful semester. Its okay but its not what I expected it to be. I had light ash brown for the upper part and extra light blonde for the lower part. Im asian so I had a really black hair. The bleach didnt work out well, i think.So the lower part to the tips are kinda light brown, not blonde. And the previous hair color I had is still visible. I hate the fact that i paid so much for something not worth really worth it.

    HELP!! What should I do? :((((

  11. Tatjana says

    Love you hair! My cousin fluked doing this to my hair, I originally had blonde hair and then dyed it back to brunette this year so when I stopped colouring it for a few months, it has gradually gotten lighter. She did my regrowth with a darker colour (a nice chocolate brown) and then waited 30 mins, washed it out and dried it. Then she sectioned bits from the bottom of my hair, teased that section and then applied bleach to the remainder of the hair so when it washed out, it would all look blended in. Looks really good too!

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