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Color Melting 101: Everything You Need To Know

Color melting is a hair color technique that came on the scene almost a decade ago and has been adored by hair stylists, celebrities, and our favorite Instagram influencers ever since.

Color melting has made its mark in the hair coloring world and is definitely here to stay. It is versatile, natural, and low maintenance, making it the perfect hair color option for just about anyone!

We love hair color melting because it combines all of our favorite things about other hair coloring techniques and uses them to create one beautiful, dimensional masterpiece.

It has the lightened ends of an ombre, the soft blend of a balayage, and the perfect dark root of an all-over color.

We’re going to tell you all about color melting and we think that you’ll be picking up that phone and calling your favorite hair salon by the end of this to book an appointment for your very own color melt.

That’s how confident we are that you’ll love color melting as much as we do! So get your hair stylist number on speed dial and let’s talk about color melting.

What Is Color Melting?

color melting

Color melting is a hair coloring technique that seamlessly blends your natural hair color with highlights using two or more hair colors to softly transition the hair from the dark root to the lightened ends.

The technique became popular around 2015 and rightfully so, it had a softer look than the ombre that had been so popular in the 2010s but still allowed for those gorgeous lightened ends and dimensional color.

It was also around the time that balayage became a favorite in the salon. Like we said before we think the way color melting is done really combines these popular hair color trends and makes them more natural and timeless.

This is what gives hair the appearance that the hair colors have been melted or blurred together.

You won’t see any streaky highlight lines or obvious hair painting strokes with color melting and no stark contrasts between the dark and light colors like a standard ombre.

With a color melt, you will typically see three different hair color shades; the dark shade at the root which then melts into a medium shade through the mids of the hair, and then lastly the lightened ends.

The three colors shouldn’t be obviously different from each other, it’s more that you’ll notice the soft transition between the three shades.

The colors used in a color melt will be from the same tonal family, for example, a color melt starting with a dark golden brunette will then melt into a medium golden brunette and then into dark golden blonde ends.

A color melt could also start with something like a dark red fading into a medium copper and then into strawberry blonde ends.

You get the idea! This is another reason why color melting gives such a natural-looking progression from dark to light.

You can use permanent hair color or demi permanent hair color for a color melt. This will depend on what your starting hair looks like, what colors you end up choosing, and what your end goal is.

How Is Color Melting Done?

how to do color melting

There are two different methods when it comes to color melting application. Which method you end up having done by your stylist will depend on what your hair color starting point is.

1. If You Already Have Lightened Hair

The easiest way to start out a color melt is to already have bleached, highlighted, or balayage hair, this way you have the ends already pre-lightened and you can skip having to have your hair bleached by your stylist.

So if you have been lightening your hair already but are looking for a change, color melting is right up your alley.

You and your stylist will decide on the two to three colors and the overall tone you want for your color melt.

After you’ve decided on your colors, the stylist will start by applying the darkest hair color shade to your root, then apply the medium shade directly underneath the darker color and onto the mids of the hair.

Your stylist will use either a gloved hand, color brush or comb to ensure that the hair colors are seamlessly melting and blurring into each other.

Once the medium shade has been applied it will be combed down lightly to transition into your already lightened ends.

The hair color will then be processed and rinsed out. Your stylist will most likely tone the ends of your hair to match the tone of the hair colors that were just applied, this will also give the hair even more of a melted and natural appearance.

2. You’re Starting Out with Dark Hair

Now don’t let dark hair deter you from getting a color melt, it’s still a great option for you!

If your hair hasn’t been previously lightened before getting a color melt, you will just need to add some lightening into the mix!

More than likely your stylist will begin applying the hair color in the same way as the previous method that’s down on previously lightened hair.

Your stylist will start out with the darkest shade applied at the root, then apply the medium color onto the mids of the hair but when your stylist gets to the ends they will need to use bleach to add in the lightened ends.

Your stylist will use foils or hand-painted balayage to seamlessly blend the bleach into the medium hair color applied to the mids of the hair.

Your hair color will process and be rinsed and your stylist will tone the freshly lightened ends to really finish the melt of the hair color.

This process will take a little bit longer than it would if your ends were already lightened but the results will be just as beautiful!

What Colors Can Be Used in Color Melting?

rainbow color melt hair

One of the best things about color melting is that it can be done with all hair colors from natural brunettes and blondes to funky fantasy colors.

Color melting is a technique that can be done using a wide variety of hair colors. The only thing you really have to make sure of is that the colors are in the same family and that they can go from dark to light!

If you are going to be using fantasy or rainbow colors you may have to get some hair lightening done ahead of time so just be sure that your hair is healthy enough to handle bleaching.

Other than that the world is your oyster when it comes to colors for color melting!

How Long Does Color Melting Last?

Yet another reason why we love color melting is that it’ll last you quite a while, making it more low maintenance than other hair coloring techniques!

On average, color melting can last between 2-3 months. However, it’s essential to note that lighter or pastel shades may fade faster compared to darker colors.

Additionally, hair growth at the roots can also affect the overall appearance of the color melt over time.

The reason it lasts longer is because of the soft blending between the colors which allows the color to grow out beautifully.

When you have an all-over color or traditional highlights you start to notice a heavier line of demarcation not long after you have your hair colored. Color melting softens the lines of demarcation making them less noticeable.

Also, since the root will be darker than the rest of the hair, your new growth won’t be as noticeable especially if the darker root is close to your natural hair color!

Reasons you’ll eventually need to get your color melt touched up will be to touch the roots especially if you have gray or because the color on the mids and ends has faded.

You’ll also want to bring the color melt back up a couple of times a year as it grows down and eventually will start to be cut off during haircuts.

You should be able to go 8-12 weeks before getting a touch up though, making it an excellent choice for those who don’t want to be in the salon every month.

How to Maintain Color Melt Hair at Home?

how to maintain color melt hair

Color melting is simple to maintain at home, it’s basically the same at-home maintenance required with any hair color technique.

If you’ve been coloring your hair for years, you’ll most likely have all the at-home maintenance products we’re going to suggest!

To extend the life of your color melt, consider the following tips:

Use Color-Protecting Hair Products

We recommend using shampoo and conditioner that’s meant specifically for colored hair.

Invest in shampoos and conditioners specifically designed for color-treated hair. These products help lock in the color and prevent premature fading.

Avoid Frequent Washes

Washing your hair too often can strip the color from your hair. Try to space out your washes, and consider using dry shampoo in between to keep your hair looking fresh.

After getting a color melt or any hair coloring treatment, it’s best to wait at least 48 hours before washing your hair. Letting your color melt to be fully set ensures better color retention.

When you wash your hair use cool water instead of hot to prevent hair color from fading.

For most people with color-melted hair, washing every 2 to 3 days is a good starting point. This frequency allows your hair to maintain its natural oils, which can help protect and prolong the color.

Protect Hair from Heat

If you use a curling iron or flat iron regularly, be sure to use a heat protectant to keep your hair color safe from the fading effects of hot tools.

Excessive heat styling can cause color-treated hair to fade faster. Opt for heat-free styling methods whenever possible.

Limit Sun Exposure

Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays can lead to color fading. If you’re spending time outdoors, consider wearing a hat or using hair products with UV protection.

Conditioning Treatment and Regular Touch-Ups

To maintain the vibrancy of your color melt, schedule regular touch-up appointments with your hairstylist. This will help keep your hair looking fresh and prevent any noticeable regrowth.

Since your hair will most likely have been bleached or lightened to get your color melt, be sure to treat your hair with care and add a hair product or hair mask into your hair routine.

Add deep conditioning treatments to keep it healthy and hydrated, as well-nourished hair holds color better.

If you plan on swimming, protect your colored hair by wearing a swim cap. Chlorine and salt water can both strip the color from your hair.

Who Should Get Color Melt?

woman with color melt hair

We are huge fans of color melting and love singing its praises to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Basically, anyone can embrace color melting but we think it’s especially great for darker brunettes who want to try out having blonde in their hair in a very natural and low-maintenance way.

The same goes for fantasy colors, it can be a great way to incorporate fun, rainbow colors without having to have them from root to end.

We also love it for our ladies who need gray coverage but also want a beautiful and dimensional hair color.

Color melting allows you to just touch up the roots as often as needed without touching the color on the mids and ends. You can let your color melt and grow out beautifully while getting your roots done as needed!

It’s possible to do coloring melting on shorter hair but you’ll see the full effect of the color melting and the beautiful transition between the color shades on longer hair lengths. So long-haired ladies, this one is perfect for you!

Key Things To Remember About Color Melting:

  • Color melting is a hair coloring technique that uses 2 or more colors to seamlessly transition your hair color from dark at the roots to light on the ends.
  • Color melting uses colors that are from the same tonal family so you get a flawless blend.
  • Color melting is done by applying a darker color on the roots, a medium color on the mids, and then either leaving lightened ends out or highlighting the ends of hair with foils or balayage.
  • The colors will be melted together by gently combing the color into each other
  • Color melting lasts a long time and only needs to be touched up when you need your root color, hair color begins to fade or the hair color grows out over time.
  • You should only need to get color melting down 2-3 times a year and can maintain it at home by using color-safe products and being gentle with your hair
  • Color melting be used with any color from natural colors to fantasy colors
  • Color melting can be for anyone but especially for brunettes wanting to experiment with lighter colors but with low maintenance and those who need gray coverage but want a dimensional hair color

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Alice Rawling

Alice Rawling is the chief editor of HairdoHairstyle. She's a hair stylist with over eight years of experience in LA. She has been featured in prestigious beauty magazines and online publications like Brides, Business Insider, Hairstyle Camp, BuzzFeed, Bustle, etc.