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What Is Color Melting? Everything You Need To Know About This Modern Hair Trend

Alright, think back to 2012… when ombré hair and dip-dye was all the new rage. Every celebrity had it, and countless Pinterest tutorials taught you how to do it yourself at home.

Next, came the age of balayage and sombré colors, which offered a more subtle variation of ombré hair mixed with a few blended highlights.

But do you think we could just stop there in today’s world of ever-changing hair color trends? Couldn’t we just settle on something that’s already perfect? Oh no…

Thanks to social media, it’s more important than ever to create the next big creative thing in the hair industry.

So, fast forward to modern times, and it’s all about the color melt… but what is color melting? And how is it different from the other types of highlight trends?

Let’s explore these questions a bit more…

💡TIP: Save this post to your Hair Color board so you can always reference it when you need to! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

You've heard of ombré and balayage, but what about color melting? Learn everything you need to know about this new trendy new technique...

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The Evolution Of dyed hair

Okay, let’s think back again to those days of ombré hair. When these types of hair color trends emerged, you’d typically strive for dark hair that blended into a lighter color on the ends.

Even though stylists would blur lines between dark and light, there would still be a small transition area between the two colors.

As time went on, it became quite favorable to have a more blended transition between the different colors. Balayage and hair painting techniques added in highlights that travel up the hair to add more dimension to the color.

Beautiful blonde balayage on medium length hair.
📷Credit: @jessicascotthair

So What IS Color Melting Then?

Beautiful brown to blonde color melt.
📷Credit: @_yesenia_olvera

This new coloring technique completely blends the two colors so that there are no harsh lines in the hair. Exactly as the name implies, one color should “melt” into the other.

FACT: If you never colored your hair, it would gradually lighten as it grows out and would typically be darker in the root section. This is because the hair that has been exposed to the sun and elements longer will be more oxidized.

In other words, good color melting will mimic a super natural look, although most forms of color melting are very exaggerated.

Beautiful grey, pink and blonde color melt.
📷Credit: @bescene

How Is It Different From Ombré or Balayage?

Beautiful black to red color melt.
📷Credit: @hiltonsophia

Ultimately, color melting and balayage are just a variation of traditional ombré hair. But what’s the difference between them, you ask?

Ombré is traditionally lighter at the ends and darker at the root, with a more solid transition between the colors. Balayage is much more blended but tends to have more dimensional highlights added throughout the hair.

Beautiful brown to blonde color melt.
📷Credit: @manes_by_mia

In a color melt, usually three or more colors are used, and they typically come from the same family to optimize the blending (although any color palette can be used).

The colors should seamlessly blend into each other with no line whatsoever. It’s typically less dimensional than balayage, but should still blend perfectly.

Beautiful red to platinum blonde color melt.
📷Credit: @mel_thestylist

Color Melting Technique:

Beautiful brown to blonde color melt.
📷Credit: @hairbycaarolina

The different colors involved in a color melt are usually applied in an overlapping fashion, and “smudged” together with fingers to create a seamless transition.

This video by Joico educator, Ricardo Santiago (on the official CosmoProf channel), demonstrates how you can use diagonal and vertical sub-partings to make the colors “flow” together.

Make sure that the hair is fully saturated with dye for the best results.

OTHER terms you should know

Beautiful brown to platinum blonde color melt.
📷Credit: @salon_58
  • Shadow Root – A shadow root is when a darker color is applied directly to the “root” area of the hair and melted into the rest of the hair without a harsh line.
  • Root Smudge – The technique of blending the darker roots into the lighter hair color.

Pros/Cons of Color Melting


  • It can be used with any color palette.
  • It can give a more “natural” look to unnatural hair colors.
  • Low maintenance, and can go longer between touch-ups, which ultimately lowers costs and hair damage.
  • There is a seamless transition between the colors.


  • A color melt doesn’t have as much dimension as balayage or babylight techniques.
  • It can cost more money upfront.
  • It may be harder to find stylists that are skilled in proper color melting techniques.
Beautiful dark blue to teal color melt.
📷Credit: @fashion_nubile

Before/After Color Melts

Before and after color melting.
📷Credit: @lavishbodyhome
Before and after color melting.
📸Credit: @saloncentric
Before and after color melting.
📷Credit: @alexisdidmyhair
Before and after color melting.
📷Credit: @annfranstyles

General FAQ

FAQ Icon
How Much Does Color Melting Cost?

A typical color melting service costs between $150-$175, according to The time, amount of dye used, the number of colors involved, and the stylist’s experience level are all factored into the price.

What Is a Shadow Root?

A shadow root is when a darker color is applied to the “root” area of the hair and seamlessly blended into the rest of the hair.

How Long Does a Root Smudge Last?

If the root smudge is similar to your natural hair color, it can last a long time, as there will be no visible outgrowth. In this case, your preference would dictate when you need to get it retouched. If using a different color (like blue or purple), you will likely need to touch it up within 4-6 weeks, as your outgrowth becomes more noticeable.

What Is a Color Melt vs. Balayage?

Color melting is the technique of seamlessly blending one color into the other. Balayage is the technique of adding painted highlights to blend one color into the other. It has more dimension than a color melt, but a more noticeable transition as well.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts Icon

If you’re looking for a trendy new way to add a few different colors to your hair, a color melt might be the perfect idea for you!

It can be used with any color palette, including a dark to blonde transition or even vibrant rainbow tones. The possibilities are endless when using this modern technique… they just need to blend into each other with no transition line.

It’s a fun new way to spice up your hair. I say, give it a try!

Until next time,


Your Turn:  Have you ever had a color melt? What do you think about this amazing new technique? Drop your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼


Di McDonald

Friday 18th of June 2021

Paid $265 last week for a “colr melt”. My base was dark blonde with golden highlights throughout. My hair in now brown with two blonde pieces in my bangs. Not at all impressed


Thursday 11th of February 2021

I used to have my cosmetology license in massachusetts back in 1989-1992. i moved out of the area and let my license lapse. I FOUND THIS VERY INFORMATIVE AND INTERESTING AS I'VE BEEN TRYING TO KEEP UP WITH NEW STUFF AND EXPERIMENT ON MY OWN HAIR QUITE A BIT. THANK YOU.


Tuesday 6th of October 2020

I have blonde highlights a wanted to do a color melt to soften the growout (low budget due to covi19 shut still!!)

Al have lots of yellow tones. Can a pearl tOner fix that with be too grey??

Hollee Wood

Sunday 11th of October 2020

It really depends on how porous your hair is and what condition it's in. If your hair is pretty healthy with yellowish tones, it shouldn't turn out too grey. But it's always best to watch a toner while it's processing. If it seems like it's starting to get grey, you can wash a small section off to see what it looks like. Hope that helps!