Gradient Hair Coloring

Gradient hair color
Photo: Kristina Kokhanova/Shutterstock
Q: I saw a girl whose hair was beautiful. Her hair was brown on top and auburn on the bottom and the colors faded into each other. There was no line. Looking at her from behind, I could see where the two colors faded into each other.
How was that done? My hair is dark brown, and I would like to achieve that look. How do I do that?

A: I've seen this effect created in one of two ways, usually depending on whether the hair is layered or one length. Regardless of the method you use, the first decision is the color(s) you will be using. Usually, one of the colors is the hair's natural color, and a complimentary color is used to create the gradient coloring. For example, the woman you saw was probably naturally brown, and the Auburn color was added.
When dealing with layered hair (where the ends of the hairs fall to different points vertically) the hair can be sectioned into horizontal segments, working from the top of the head to the bottom of the head (nape of the neck). These segments can be as thick as you want (vertically), but bear in mind that the more "steps" you have the more gradual the transition of the color will appear to be.
After sectioning the hair, we mix the hair color formula as directed and begin applying the color to one segment of the hair at a time. After the bottom segment has been plied with color, we wait 5 minutes and apply the color to the next section up. Wait 5 more minutes and apply to the next section. And so on. The results will be that the bottom section of hair will process the most darkly, and since the upper sections will have been given progressively less time to process, the hair color will be less pronounced.
The other optional method with one-length hair is to begin applying the hair color to the ends of the hair approximately 1/5th of the length at a time, working from the ends upward toward the scalp. Wait a few minutes between each 1/5th segment as you work your way upward. This will give you a gradient effect along the length of each hair shaft with the color deepening as you move from the scalp to end.
In either of these methods, timing is everything. Hair color, when mixed, has a lifespan of approximately 30 minutes, so you want to keep the pace set while applying the hair color. If it takes you longer to apply the color to a given section, you will want to reduce the wait-time in between.
See also:
Hair sectioning for coloring
The lifespan of mixed hair color
How to dye hair in multiple colors
How to achieve two-tone hair color