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Contourage: The Best Hair Color Trend of 2017 + Maintenance Tips

Contourage hair trend.

The Cool Color Craze That Flatters Everyone

Nothing adds oomph to your appearance like fresh, vibrant highlights. And these days the most popular highlighting method is contourage (rhymes with “entourage”), also called color contouring. Declared the best hair color trend of 2017, contourage combines balayage (a French highlighting technique developed in the 1970s in which tiny tendrils of hair are meticulously hand-painted instead of using foils), and contouring -- not unlike contouring with makeup, but using strands of hair instead. Highlights are colored in gradations of light and dark and placed in a pattern that enhances facial features.

Contourage hair diagram.

You Glow, Girl!

Lighter shades are applied around areas that naturally reflect light, such as the jawline, temples, and cheekbones, while darker shades are applied behind those, so the arrangement of light and dark tones together “sculpts” the face by accentuating contours. Not only does contourage give you a lit-from-within glow by literally highlighting your best features, but it also makes hair look thicker.

The tiny, diffused highlights blend with the base color to create a natural, lightened-by-the-sun look that’s soft, subtle, sophisticated -- and flattering on everyone. Contourage is the ultimate in custom color because the palette and placement of highlights are designed just for you, taking into account face shape, skin tone, and the color, texture and length of hair.

While blondes usually go for the sun-kissed surfer-girl look, now brunettes and redheads are becoming contourage connoisseurs as well. Highlights in caramel, honey, auburn and cinnamon can warm up brunettes, while redheads sizzle in tones of copper, bronze and rose gold. Contourage can be adapted to complement any hairstyle and length, but it’s especially effective on wavy or curly hair with long layers, where highlights accent hair’s texture and movement.

Celebrity Contourage Converts

Famous contourage converts include Blake Lively, Jessica Alba, Rose Byrne, Jamie Chung, Jennifer Lawrence and Gigi Hadid, but in celeb circles, Chrissy Teigen seems to be the poster child for this look -- luminous with face-framing wheat- blonde highlights on a deep brown base. Tracey Cunningham, reportedly tends to Teigen’s tresses (along with those of Katy Perry, JLo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Garner and Jessica Biel; she recently turned Lady Gaga brunette for her starring role in A Star Is Born).

Contourage Pros + Cons

Ready to head for the hair dye? First, there are a few contourage pros and cons to consider. The good news: With this technique, you can wait as long as six months to touch up highlights because regrowth is less noticeable than with single-process color. And when it’s time to touch up roots, you can do so without disturbing the balayage. Another plus is that now hair color has no season: The concept of having to adopt a beachy look for summer and darken your hair when the weather turns cool has gone the way of the roller set. Current thinking is that contourage is the ideal option to liven up your look for fall.

The bad news: Don’t try this at home. Contourage, when done correctly, is labor intensive, time-consuming (at least two hours), and requires artistry, scientific knowledge, and real skill to achieve, so it’s best left to the pros. It can be costly, depending on where you live, the length of your hair, whether you want partial highlights (just around the face) or a full head, and where your colorist falls in the hipness hierarchy.

The High Cost of Highlights

The lowest prices we found were at Ulta salons, where partial balayage starts at $50 and a full head at $100. It went up from there. Waaaaaay up. Top salons in Manhattan and Beverly Hills charge a beginning rate of $300 for partial highlights and $400 for a full head. Then there’s the star stratosphere, where Teigen’s hair guru (whom Vogue recently dubbed “Hollywood’s Most Sought-After Colorist”) charges a minimum of $525 for partial balayage and $625 for a full head. It appears that the highest-priced highlights come from New York City color queen Rita Hazan (whose clients include pop divas Beyoncé, Madonna, Mariah Carey and Heidi Klum), who won’t turn on her timer for less than $750.

7 Ways to Make Your New Look Last

If you decide to go for the contourage gold (or chestnut or amber or platinum), make your new look last by taking a few simple steps to keep your hair in optimum condition and stop color from fading:

  1. Cut down on washing -- a major color stripper -- and rely on dry shampoo to keep hair full and refreshed. A few spritzes of the, talc-free, NuMe Fresh N' Fab Dry Shampoo Aerosol remove excess oil, boost shine and moisturize, too.
  2. When you do shampoo, always use one that’s sulfate free (like the protein-packed, ultra gentle NuMe White Truffle Shampoo). Thick-lathering sulfates are found in most shampoos -- and household cleaning products. (What does that tell you?) Sulfates are notorious for fading color and causing dryness and frizz, so avoid them -- especially after chemical treatments. As for that ubiquitous shampoo directive to rinse and repeat? Try to cut down to just one sudsing.
  3. Use a natural boar bristle brush, which is best for distributing natural oils throughout hair. It also stimulates the scalp, encouraging hair growth. NEVER use a metal brush!
  4. Cut down on dryer, straightener and curling wand use if possible. When you do turn up the heat, always apply a thermal protectant first; it serves as a barrier between hair’s vulnerable cuticle and your heat styling tool.
  5. Coloring and other chemical processes rob hair of essential moisture and can leave it looking fried and frizzy. To hydrate, nourish and restore stressed strands, use a rich deep-conditioning treatment at least once a week. The NuMe Mane Goals Deep Repair Mask is full of botanicals such as argan and sunflower seed oils and shea butter to improve hair health, smooth split ends, strengthen and soften hair. Simply apply a dollop to clean, wet hair, leave on for 15 minutes (why not give yourself a facial while you’re at it?), then rinse.
  6. When you spend time in direct sunlight, wear a sunscreen specially formulated to protect hair, along with a hat or scarf.
  7. Give your crowning glory the polish it deserves with a light misting of NuMe Hottie Alert Shine Spray after styling. It smooths split ends, eliminates frizz and flyaways, and adds a gorgeous gloss.

With enough cash, the right colorist and hair care products to maintain your mane, you too can get on the contourage bandwagon for a look that’s all your own. For more hair tips and tricks, follow us on Instagram @NuMeStyle or sign up for our newsletter at NuMeUSA.com.

NuMe tips on how to prolong your hair color.
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