Meet Smoky Blonde, the Cool-Girl Hair Colour That Looks Better as It Grows Out
If I approach hair colour appointments with a fair amount of trepidation and dread, it's only because it's been known to take four or five hours just to highlight my thick, dark brown mane. ("Your strands are just so porous," the stylists marvel aloud as I inwardly grimace about my bionic strands.) So when I was informed late last year that it would take two whole days to go from dark chestnut to a sparkling shade of rose gold, I said a little prayer to the hair gods: Please, let this colour last so I don't have to go through this godforsaken ordeal every six to eight weeks.
It turns out I didn't need divine intervention—just the very able hands of my stylist, Amber Maynard of Los Angeles colour destination Nine Zero One. "I'm going to give you a dark, smoky root that fades into the lighter colour," she said. "That way, even as the pink fades away, you'll just have a cool, intentionally grown-out blonde. The roots are already there, so you won't need to touch them up as much." Essentially, it would be an ombré but just focused at the root.
I was sold—and she was right. It's been nearly six months since that initial appointment, and I've only gotten my hair touched up once.
After the "rose" of the rose gold faded away fairly quickly, my strands have since settled into a lived-in shade of what we'll call smoky blonde. Aside from the minimal upkeep—which is a dream for this low-maintenance gal—the real appeal is the fact that it doesn't just look passable, but it looks better as it grows since the root only adds to the effortless aesthetic. It's essentially the lazy girl's version of balayage, which was essentially the lazy girl's version of highlights. And apparently, I'm not the only one who's smitten with this low-key look.
"We started with a very root-y look, but it had more of a dramatic, ombré feel," said celebrity hair colourist Matt Rez when I ask him to chart the rise of smoky blonde. "Then we moved into the sombré look." Then came balayage, which offered a more natural, sun-kissed feel to that grown-out colour. "Now, we're still shadowed at the root, but it's not such a stark rooted look [as ombré]," he explained.
And it's certainly taken hold of the cool-girl set—Kristen Stewart, Dree Hemingway, Olivia Wilde, and Chiara Ferragni have all been spotted with smoky roots in the past several months. And how's this for the visual evolution of a trend: After platinum blonde hair took fashion week in droves for some time, over the past couple of seasons, we've noticed that many of the same icy manes now sport conspicuously shadowy roots. (We're looking at you, Soo Joo Park.)
But smoky blonde's rise might have something to do with the fact that unlike the trends that feign effortlessness, this one actually is effortless—not to mention that it's universally flattering because it's endlessly customisable. "It's low-maintenance and has a good contrast to it," says Rez. "People with the darkest natural bases can have all the light they want around their face but keep an element of their dark natural base that complements their skin and eye colour." As for people with a naturally lighter hue, you'll get a more subtle effect, as seen on Ferragni (who just so happens to be one of Rez's clients).
(Bonus tip: If you're feeling playful, smoky roots pair quite nicely with a wash of pastel colour à la Pyper America Smith above.)
Getting the initial look at the salon is simple. "Ask for a shadowed root highlight! The placement all depends on your length and texture," Rez says. "For shorter hair, don't stretch the shadow too far because you will get the tired ombré look. Texture-wise, curly hair looks great with more defined or distinct ribbons of highlights that are more sporadic. It's all about individual taste and style."
Sachajuan Colour Save Shampoo ($33)
But the real joy of this 'do is in the upkeep, or really, the lack thereof. "It grows out gracefully, and it's definitely easy on the client's wallet," says Rez. Just stick with a colour-saving shampoo, and let time do the rest of the work.