Gina Martin | Contributing Writer | Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ombre Hair: How To Dip Dye At Home Without Looking Shit

Ombre Hair: How To Dip Dye At Home Without Looking Shit

The Debrief: Ombre hair will be yours (for quite cheap) and it will look ACE.

Ombre and/or dip dye hair is the look that keeps on giving because even after it starts to grow out, it totes looks intentional. It was in 2010 that I saw a picture of Drew Barrymore on the red carpet at the Going The Distance premiere, in a khaki dress, natural makeup and tousled beachy blonde dip-dyed hair with a cheeky lil mini braid. She literally looked like a mermaid. I immediately decided to get my hair ombred or dip dyed, but the only problem was that, unlike Drew, I couldn't afford to get it done professionally - my purse consisted of a tenner, an old chewing gum, and a lump of weird fluffy stuff.


Somehow, with the help of Bleach London, an old work t-shirt and some odd purple shampoo, I pulled it off like a boss and have kept dip dyed hair for three years. Look, ombre and dip dye isn’t a phase, nor a fad, it's a way of life.

When my older sister, Debrief-staff-writer-Stevie started moaning about how she wanted hair like mine, I went round to her flat and did it for her.

What is ombre hair?

First, lets establish the difference between ombred and dip dyed hair. To tell you the truth, they're pretty damn similar and it comes down to the final effect. Dip dye is a stark contrast between the darker and lighter part of the hair, whereas ombre gives a more graduated gradient effect. It's up to you how defined you want to make it. In this article, they're going to be used interchangeably. Sue me.


Bear in mind that this is for people with dark hair, wanting to have lighter hair on tips, but you can do allll sorts with ombre. I'm talking blonde ombre, red ombre, purple ombre, blue ombre... You get the idea. Here is how to dip-dye your hair step by step. 

You will need:

·      Bleach London Total Bleach x2 £7.00 (gloves, brush, tray, conditioner all included)

·      A very old t-shirt that ideally, you hate (an ex’s is perfect)

·      Touch of Silver Shampoo £2.09 (Boots) 

ombre kit

How to ombre brown hair

Okay, so the most important thing here is stages. To avoid Stevie looking like she actually dipped her hair in a bucket of dye, I bleached the last 4 inches of her hair first and then went in for a second round, dying the bottoms to give that cool, gradual 'Oh this? Haha! It just grew out like that/ Oh this? Haha! In the sun it just does that!/Oh this?! Haha! I just read an extremely informative article on The Debrief and am now totally bodacious' effect. In other words: more ombre than dip dye.

Just a heads up, this works best on natural toned hair, and if you have a lot of warm tones in your hair it might go a little brassy (read: really ginger). However, that can be sorted with the Touch Of Silver shampoo after you’ve finished bleaching.

Stevie has a lot of hair.  It’s actually quite ridiculous, so I used two packets, but you could probably go with one. Unless you also have a ridiculous amount of hair. Anyway, just half the amount you would use if you were bleaching your whole head. 


I mixed the two sachets of powder with the one bottle of developer in the tray and cracked open a window because Stevie kept breathing in the bleach and sneezing. A compromise was found via the medium of lifting her tee shirt up and applying it like a gas mask, so you might want to try that. 

ombre tools

FYI, bleaching always works best on unwashed hair. I brushed Stevie’s through so thoroughly that it felt like baby unicorn tails; once you apply the bleach, it starts to get pretty knotted. Another tip is to put the top half of your hair in a bun, and separate the loose section into two to work on, so that you can make sure both sides are evenly bleached. 

Round One: Paint like Van Gogh

I worked through the hair, painting different thicknesses - think less Michelangelo perfect little strokes, and more Van Gogh-esque - with thick chunky sections and a really loaded brush. First I went to town on the chunky bits - coating the hair from the bottom first and then painting up as the bleach ran out - before painting a few thin strands and starting the bleach higher or lower than the last, like I was highlighting. The trick to making it look natural is to be random with it, and to make sure that you rub in the bleach where the dye starts, so that there are no definite lines, otherwise you'll get a more stark, dip dye effect. Are you getting the hang of it now? 

Once I’d randomly painted all over her hair, I left the bleach on for half an hour. It’s easy to see the hair changing colour, but it will always look lighter than it is because of the bleach so DON’T FREAK OUT. Stevie continually asked questions such as 'Is my hair going to fall out?', 'Should I take it off now? It's been seven minutes!', 'IT'S GOING WHITE WHAT DO I DO', 'Oh my god what if it all snaps off?' and 'What about now? Can I take it off now?' which was not entirely helpful, and should all be answered with either 'No', 'No, it isn't' and 'Calm down Stevie and eat your apple'. 

Round Two: Dip the Ends

After half an hour, hang your head over a bath and wash the bleach off really thoroughly. Bleach will keep working as long as it’s on your hair. Use the Bleach London conditioner as per instructions, and rinse that off too. It’s also worth keeping in mind that, when your hair's wet it’s about three times darker so don’t get really upset and say 'it didn’t work' with a wobbly chin when you appear from the bathroom in your turquoise towel turban like Stevie did. 

Next, I dried her off and separated the hair into sections again, which took so long I almost shot myself in the ear (Van Gogh reference, guys). Instead, I grabbed my brush and this time applied bleach to the bottom 2/3 inches of all of her hair, which lightened the already bleached sections and softly bleached the missed bits. Just think, if Van Gogh had taken this approach, he would have had two ears and amazing hair. And would probably have been way happier. 

I left it for 20 minutes, but you can leave it for as long as you want, depending on how blonde you'd like to go. You want the bottoms to be a lot lighter that the rest, so be brave and scrape a little bit of the bleach off every 15 minutes to get an idea of how light it’s going. 

Next I rinsed, dried and conditioned it again. Which, again, took 7 years. I had grown a small beard by the time her hair was dry. 

And there we have it! Stevie’s hair was naturally ombred and for a tenner! Alright, just over, but that's because we had to buy two packets. Which she, kindly, paid for because she is an excellent sister and really good at editing my articles. Oh the power. 

Top tip: If the result is a bit ginger (and you don't want it to look ginger), then apply the Touch Of Silver shampoo with some water as a hair mask and leave on for a few hours - it’ll take away any orange/warm tones and make it look way more natural. But a word of warning, this stuff is PURPLE. Like the purpliest thing in the world. It’s purplier than the aubergine emoji. Do not get it anywhere you don’t want purple. 

Now put it in plaits overnight, scrunch it with salt spray, have sex, or get drunk, and climb through a bush to reach peak mermaid goddess. The best thing is, it's the most low maintenance look ever.

The only thing is, my sister and I now have exactly the same hair, so now look even more like twins than we already did. 

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Follow Gina on Twitter: @GeeGeeAsh

Tags: Beautification