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How Brunettes Can Get Rainbow Hair Without Bleach

Want to keep your locks dark but digging the vibrant, rainbow hair trend? We have the solution for keeping strands swarthy without compromising the multi-pigmented feel you’ve been lusting after–oil slick color. The technique works by layering iridescent tones over your dark hair and is a subtle way to show off multi-color tones, without compromising the shade you’re most comfortable in.  After all, not everyone is meant to have a blonde base and we’re not letting that stop us from riding the polychromatic wave.

If you’re thinking about getting the multi-tonal shades dreams are made of, look no further. We sat down with celebrity colorist Cassondra Kaeding, Celebrity Colorist at Sally Hershberger LA, to get real about fantasy colors—from how she preserves styles, to what you can expect after getting your own personalized pigment. Read on for a crash-course in how to be your most brilliant brunette yet!

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When we first started hearing the term “oil slick” buzzing around the salon space, we were a bit confused as well. What could be cool about a Chernobyl-inspired ‘do? Cassondra breaks it down. “Oil slick is a technique that consists of applying a mix of dark rainbow colors and tones (like blue, green, purple, magenta, red) over light to medium darker hair without bleaching it, giving it an iridescent appearance.” Which means darker-haired guys and gals can get in on the rainbow hair fun too!

“This technique is a lot of work, but the end result is always satisfying. It’s so much fun to do! I get to think outside of the box and be as creative as my clients will allow. I get to mix and make my own colors—this way each of my clients can have their own custom color!”


“It depends on how dark your brunette hair color is,” Cassondra tells us. “If you are a light-to-medium brunette this technique will work—especially if your ends have been naturally lightened from the sun. Unfortunately, the darkest-dark brunettes will have to bleach out their hair to achieve these lighter colors.”

Cassondra gives us her expert insight to getting the look. “I like to use Pravana, Pulp Riot, and Manic Panic color brands to achieve the oil slick look because they all carry a wide array of bright, saturated pigments. I apply the color of my clients’ choice to the hair with a tint brush, making sure the stands are fully saturated, and then I put them under heat for 20 minutes, and let them cool for five.”


Just like any hair color, the oil slick trend requires a mix of using the right products and routine maintenance. Cassondra recommends using any shampoo and conditioner that is for color-treated hair and is also sulfate and paraben free. This will helps avoid stripping out your oil slick color while shampooing. Also, try not to wash your hair as often because these direct dye colors will rinse away.


Okay–here’s where the realness happens… just how long will your oil slick color last and how often will you need a touch up? As you already know, rainbow and any sort of pastel color is not permanent. “On my clients, these types of shades typically last from one to four weeks,” says Cassondra. “To keep your color longer, ask your colorist to provide you with a take home color-depositing conditioner mix.” Brilliant. This way you can do touch-ups yourself and don’t have to be at the salon every week.


While this technique will get you closer to having rainbow strands without undergoing a major bleach and tone, it’s not a miracle worker. Some colors just won’t take, and that’s reality. If you’re light to medium brown, your odds are higher, but if your hair is dark brown and has never been lightened before–chances are, pastels are out. Think: lavender, rose goal, pink, baby blue, sea foam, etc.


For high-intensity hues right in time for Pride month, follow the rainbow brick road

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