The Opal Hair Trend


Reviewing the different color trends that we’ve seen this year turns up a fascinating fact: 2015 was the year that we finally took “real” colors (read, not your usual natural-hair hues like the basic browns, blacks and blondes) and found a way to make them look sophisticated. I love that the hairstyling industry is finally at a place where we can take all sorts of colors and make them look and feel striking and natural all at once. It makes it so much easier for a trend to catch on and for more people to be able to experiment comfortably. And that’s really something to think about, because so many people pass up on fantastic trends because they’re worried they ‘can’t possibly wear it out’ or will ‘get fired from the job’ or ‘look weird in school’. This year, we’ve made experimentation seem a lot less wacky and a lot more welcoming.

And we’ve got the grey ‘granny hair’ trend to thank for most of it. From the edgy, moody oil slick hair trend to the pale, luminescent opal hair trend, it’s all about blending the silvery and stormy hues with all sorts of bright and beautiful shades. Who would have thought that grey hair would top all hair trends- as a standalone statement in its own right and the perfect base for a myriad of other color schemes.

So, what exactly is the opal hair trend? The trend is basically inspired by the pearly hues of the sea; where the oil slick hair trend is all about the rich jewel tones, the opal hair trend is about the more pastel tints. What sets the opal hair trend apart from the other candy/ pastel color trends we’ve seen all year is that the end finish is more metallic, almost silvery. If you’ve ever seen an opal up close, the stone reflects all sorts of colors with a diffused, backlit effect of sorts.


The process begins with lightening your hair; you don’t need to go all the way to grey, white or completely bleached out, so the stylist will stop when your hair reaches a soft, pearly hue. Think of it like a diffused platinum shade or the palest creamy hue. The choice of lightening method depends on the stylist: some people prefer to pre-lighten the hair while other stylists will recommend painting on strong highlights to get your base to a light enough shade.

After the base is prepped and lightened, the next step is to apply toner to it. Finally, the colors are added. What you get is a wave of muted yet pearlescent pastels. Think of it like light reflecting off a water puddle; the colors have a translucent property. It’s paler than the regular hair color trends we’re used to but no less impressive.

The opal hair trend is great if you want to experiment with colors but don’t want to position yourself squarely on either end of the spectrum: the uber-edgy dark shades or the candy-colored pastels. The dyes are applied such that the colors give off a green-pink interference and shift in different lights. The secret is in layering the dyes in a way that creates multi-tonality and the colors shimmer every time you move. It’s like holding up a light-colored gemstone in the moonlight. The end results are breathtaking.

The overall effect isn’t one that is going to reach you and grab you by the eyeballs at first glance, but the more you look at it the less you will be able to look away! The colors are subtle but they flirt with the light and shadows to create a constantly shifting whole: it might look pink from one place, green from another and lilac from a third. Instead of laying colors flat on top of each other, a skilled colorist will blend and shade in a way that makes it look like the colors are all within each other.

You might wonder how it’s different from the pastel color trend that’s dominated the scene all of 2015. A quick search online is going to turn up enough images to make it seem like the two trends are basically one and the same thing, but they’re not: with the opal dye job we’re working with a milky, pearly base and adding subtle pastel color to it but the overall wash itself isn’t pastel-toned. And because the colors are basically blended and blurred out they are nothing like the streaks of pastel highlights we’ve seen a lot of this year. It can range between swirling whorls of soft color to the subtlest colored sheen, but on the whole the effect is delicate. And that’s why the opal color trend is a lot more wearable than it would sound on paper!

One of the most common questions I get about all new hair color trends is whether or not they’ll suit a particular skin tone or sit well against a specific complexion. I’ve always advised my clients to go ahead and do what they want and experiment with color and have fun because at the end of the day, you should enjoy your choices. You might see a lot of the fair-skinned folks donning the trend on Instagram, but it can look equally stunning against olive and deeper tones. The trick is to set off your natural color by picking dyes that play well with each other and your features.

Just like the original grey hair color trend, this one makes for a powerful statement. If you’re already experimented with the grey and liked it but you’re ready for something new, the opal effect could be the perfect transition trend. If your grey dye is wearing out, the opal dye is just the thing you need to ride it out for a little while longer- you get to make the most of your base and rock one of 2015/2016’s hottest hair color trends.

A word to the wise: just like any other color trend that is rooted in pale dyes, pastels and light washes, the opal effect will also fade faster than the more traditional dark solid washes or opaque streaks. If you’re looking for something that is a little more long-lasting and you won’t have to worry about touching up,  I definitely recommend the oil slick hair color trend. That said, even if the opal color doesn't last very long, it is incredibly pretty and is just the thing you need to start 2016.