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Baby Ombre = highlights closer to the roots than the ends. A new-again highlighting technique called ballyage (or balayage) is ideal for this look, and it's an easy DIY.
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You can call this "baby ombré." The highlights start closer to the roots than the tips, as though only a couple of months back you spent a solid week lounging on a sunny lakeside dock or breezy tropical beach. A pro colourist might give you this effect by painting highlights on your hair freehand, without using foils -- that's a new-yet-again technique called ballyage (also spelled balayage; I wrote about it for Fashion Magazine in 2009), and it yields the most gorgeous, nature-did-it colour. Or you can save yourself the cash and DIY at home. Truth. And you won't believe how crazy easy it is. (#gotusthinking)

Hilary Swank

Hilary Swank

Hair colour expert Luis Pacheco, owner of Hair on the Avenue in Toronto and consulting colourist for Clairol, says this look is best for dark blonde, and light or medium brunette hair. All you need is a box of permanent blonde hair colour at least three shades lighter than your starting point. (Go with a neutral or warm blonde if you're starting from dark blonde; go with a neutral blonde if you're light or medium brunette.)

starting with virgin dark brown hair?

Luis confirmed via this series of tweets that yes, you can try this technique even if you have dark brown hair, as long as it's not already coloured (dye can't lighten dye). Choose the lightest blonde you can find; you'll get highlights that are more of a medium golden brown, which will look beautiful with your darker roots.

starting with coloured hair?

If you do already dye your hair, here's how to DIY ballyage (or balayage) colour-treated hair for baby ombré colour.

before and after this DIY balayage -- ballyage -- technique

before and after this DIY balayage -- ballyage -- technique

how-to DIY ballyage for baby ombré colour

  1. Prep hair colour as per box instructions (don't forget the patch test 48 hours prior; a strand test is a good idea, too).
  2. Part hair evenly down the centre, from forehead to nape of the neck; secure the right side to keep it out of the way.
  3. On the left half, from the centre part down toward ears, create four or five 2-inch sections.
  4. Twist each section tightly; secure with a clip at the base, near the scalp.
  5. Repeat on right side.
  6. Watch the little video below for tips on technique.
  7. To apply the colour, twist the section again, then use your gloved fingers to smooth colour from about one third down the twist to the tips (see video below). The higher you apply the colour, the higher the starting point of your highlights.
  8. Once all twists have been treated, allow colour to process according to directions in the box. When time is up, wash the dye out.
  9. Style and admire your baby ombré highlights, then treat yourself to something lovely with all that cash you've saved.

This less-than-two-minute vid features Luis Pacheco (well, just his hands) demonstrating his baby ombré/ballyage technique.

We're utterly fascinated by this baby ombré colouring option, which Luis adapted from an approach developed by Clairol Global Colour Director Marcy Cona. It's so dead simple it's freaking genius. (#nofailcolour)

Would you do it? Here's how this technique worked for reader Diana!

Prefer a classic, natural-looking ombré – now known as "sombré?" Hit this handy link our new DIY ombré (or sombré) tutorial vid with Luis.