Forget Ombré — You're Going To Love Tortoiseshell Hair

Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
Now trending thanks to Jack Howard, the man who brought us babylights: ecaille hair color, otherwise known as tortoiseshell. "I stumbled upon it about four weeks ago," the London-based colorist (or is it colourist?) told us over the phone. "A friend of mine in California had posted some pictures on Instagram, and it seems to be a trend. We're moving away from ombré and onto this richer sort of brunette variation."

Before you put on your cynical hats, let's look at the positives of this alleged "trend," shall we? Ombré has begun to feel a bit tired and overdone. So, almost anything new on the hair-color front is more than welcome. 

"To be clear, this isn't so much a dye technique as it is a color," Howard says. "Think of tortoiseshell and all the colors that come in it: golden blondes, chestnuts, mahogany, chocolate, honey, and all those lovely, warm tones." It sounds delicious, sure, but the key here is that it's multidimensional, which means many tones are being painted — not foiled, Howard notes — into the hair.

The poster woman for tortoiseshell is Gisele Bündchen, but Howard also points to Khloé Kardashian and Jessica Alba as early adopters of the trend. "You see balayage through the mid-sections in alternating tones, and then lightness, usually in the form of golden tones or deep-honey shades, in the front of the face, which helps to brighten the eyes. It's just a richer, more luxurious feeling than ombré."

That is certainly inarguable — all of these ladies have sophisticated, expensive-looking locks. (And, just imagine what all these tones of highlights will do in spiral curls.) "Ombré can feel solid, or colorblocked," Howard says. "Think of this as ombré's moodier sister. It's just a fresh take."

Tortoiseshell, ecaille, whatever you call it — it looks damn good, right?


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