Oil Slick Haircolor: The Trend That Never Really Left – Color

Certain trends have a short shelf life (think “duck feet nails” or “squiggle brows”) because they tend to be either unattractive or are proven impractical.  

But then there are those trends with staying power because they are universally flattering, versatile, and adaptable.

A brunette woman with pieces of bright color throughout her hair.

Oil Slick shimmer and shine.

Falling into this second camp is the “Oil Slick Trend,” a hair coloring technique that we first covered in 2016, using the name that had bubbled up on social at the time to describe an iridescent hair color effect. An oil slick color palette got its name from that shimmering swirl of color that results when oil is mixed in a pool of gas or a puddle of rainwater.

Erin Munoz (@hairbyerinc), a stylist, educator, and MODERN SALON Artist Connective Member who works out of her Huntington Beach, CA salon, says that no matter what it’s called, the technique that creates an oil slick effect has always been in her repertoire.

“It might be trending currently, but it never really left,” Munoz shares. “I have always incorporated oil slick methods into my vivids over the years.  It sets a vivid apart and gives it a unique cast, an implied tint or subtle undertone of color that gives it the oil slick effect.

All About Oil Slick Hair Color

We asked Munoz to give us a refresh on this color technique and to remind colorists why it’s a beautiful way to offer clients a slick introduction to vivids.

A brunette woman with pieces of bright color throughout her hair.

MODERN SALON: What kind of client is this right for?

ERIN MUNOZ: “I would say a level 5 and darker. Someone with a darker base. That’s the client that really works with the oil slick because the true oil slick needs the darker base to reflect off of. It’s for someone who wants to explore and play off their natural hair color, without having to go through a whole bleach and tone vivid.

It’s also a great option for someone who would like vivids, but doesn’t want a high maintenance from roots-to-ends color.

 To apply, you can balayage the color on the hair, painting out from their natural hair color, so it has a pretty grow out and is low maintenance.

MS: How do you prepare the hair for color?

EM: I would lift it to a level 8 or 9. You don’t need to lift to white for the color to blend beautifully. This makes the hair ready for some gorgeous jewel tones.

A brunette woman with pieces of bright color throughout her hair.

MS: What does the color application look like?

EM: I do the lightening and then I use a color melt to apply the vivid colors.

I like to do some teasylights or balayage to apply the lightener and to keep it low maintenance.  Of course, you can also do this off a full bleach and tone, but then you have to color melt the whole head.

To melt the colors, after I have painted the colors, I take my index and my middle finger, and I use the two fingers to slide back and forth to blend and melt the color.  It creates a nice color gradient.

If you mix certain colors for the color slick—a deep teal or green, with a burnt orange, a maroon and silvery blue (alternating a dark color, lighter color, then darker)—and then melt it all together, the transition it creates is so cool and gives you those implied shadows.  

MS: What colors do you love to mix?

EM: I think multiples shades of purple mixed with a deep red and dark blue and a darker green or even a lime green can be beautiful.  Sometimes, it needs a little brightness to offset the dark.

MS: What products do you like for maintaining the look?

EM: My favorite is R+Co Gemstone Shampoo and Conditioner. It has anti-fading properties to help preserve the color.  And I always tell clients to shampoo in cool, not hot, water.

MS: Favorite color line for creating your color melts?

EM: I love Joico—it’s my tried and true.  I use their Joico Intensity, which are their direct dye pigments.

MS: Do you have people requesting the oil slick again, and using that name?

EM: In about 2017, I did have people requesting the technique by name; they were seeing it on Pinterest.  Nowadays, I don’t have clients asking with that name, but when they want a cool, melty blend, I think “oil slick,” and mix multiple fun colors and melt them together.

I do see the same type of application being used for the “holographic trend,” which creates light rainbows throughout the hair.  It’s really more about the technique than the name.  They can all be beautiful and beautiful hair color is always trending. 




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