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The New Edgier Ombre: Why the Multi-Tone Look is Taking Off


Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Humane Society

As if we needed any more reason to love Kate Mara (sister of Rooney, who will star in Fantastic Four next year)! When we recently stumbled on this photo, we got obsessed with the on-the-rise actress all over again. Part ombre, part punk rock, and a whole lot of color, we’re seeing this style—like Mara herself—trending big time for summer.

Frank Barbosa, owner of Frank Antonio Hair and Makeup in Newport, Rhode Island, agrees—he’s had a lot of requests for this look lately. “It’s the new way clients are asking for color,” says Barbosa, although there’s still no official moniker for this updated version of ombre. “People are still loving the ombre we’ve had for the last four seasons, but this is a different way to do it, so there’s not one stark color bleeding into another. This gives you many more color tones, and it’s a soft way for brunettes to ease in lighter colors.”

In fact brunettes itching to go blonde will find this a much more effective and safe way to lighten up. “Usually it would take a very long time to bring a level four client up to that tone, almost a year,” says Barbosa, referencing how Sofia Vergara was able to soften her hair when she went ombre. “It’s a great way to speed up the lifting process.” Having worked on Sex and the City 2, Mamma Mia, and The Equalizer, Barbosa has advised his own celebrity clients seeking similar color. Is the multi-hued look right for you? Find out!

Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Any length works, but longer is better

Mara rocks the look with her short chop, but Barbosa says this multi-tone effect looks great on longer hair with layers. “If hair was all one-length, the color might look too choppy and contrived,” he says.

Great for waves!

This look makes natural curls look more defined and stand out, much like the effect Mara has with her soft waves. But, if you have super fine or super straight hair, Barbosa says skip it: “I wouldn’t advise this particular type of transition because you’ll see all the color placement and gradation. Hair with movement is best.”

Reverse it

“A multi-tonal reverse ombre would be a great way to darken tones and add bold reds or violets,” says Barbosa. Something to keep in mind for fall.

Take it easy

As color goes, there’s nothing more low-maintenance. The main benefit of going ombre is that you don’t have to update it as much—root outgrowth only adds to the overall look. And that’s even more true with this multi-tone ombre, says Barbosa. “Because there’s so much variation, when darker roots grow in that will add even more dimension to the hair.” And for summer, there’s nothing better! “Because you’ll be outdoors more, the sun will lighten other tones—so it’s a good way to rock several colors together seamlessly,” Barbosa explains.

Final thoughts

If you want to give it a try, bring in this photo or a similar one to share with your stylist, and request a mix of foils and balayage hand-painting. Wherever you want bolder tones? That’s where the foils should go, says Barbosa.

And don’t expect ombre to go anywhere anytime soon—Barbosa predicts that we’ll continue to see different interpretations of it for the next few seasons. Next up? The ponytail ombre—in which a stylist gathers your hair into a ponytail and works in the color only at the tips. The idea is that the technique gives a softer, more subtle look that’s also super edgy. “We’ll keep finding new ways to ombre, I’m sure of it,” says Barbosa.