We’ve been spotting ecaille—also known as tortoiseshell hair—on our favorite celebs. This multidimensional color blends rich variants of chocolates, chestnuts, caramels and/or golden blondes to natural-looking, flattering effect. Female stars that have worn this look of late include Ashanti, Kate Beckinsale, Gisele Bundchen, Jessica Alba and Sofia Vergara.

Ashanti hairTortoiseshell hair on singer Ashanti and actress Kate Beckinsale.
Photos by PR Photos

“Ecaille is a more grown-up and sophisticated version of ombre,” says Deb Gavin, Keratin Complex International Artistic Director for Color Therapy™. “Instead of a ‘grown out’ version of highlights, it is more tone-on-tone, yet blended throughout the hair.”

In general, ecaille hair involves darker roots that blend into varying warm tones, with lighter strands toward the ends. Keratin Complex stylists across the country are busy giving their clients customized versions of the tortoise hair look. Here are a few examples:

KeraHold® and It’s a Blonde Thing™ for soft ecaille waves

Carleigh Niedzwiedz, a Keratin Complex educator and owner of Designs by Carleigh at Transitions Hair Salon in Greenfield, MA, has a regular client named Hannah who is a huge fan of Keratin Complex’s Color Therapy professional hair color and the Express Blow Out™ keratin treatment.

On a recent visit, Hannah came in requesting a color update to her medium brown. She asked for something “fresh” but without the red undertone, so Carleigh mixed up a base formula of KeraHold shades in medium natural and golden browns. “I wanted to give her a lived-in look, because she’s a very busy girl working two jobs, without compromising fashionable, fun, refreshed hair,” Carleigh says.

Keratin Complex ecaille hairBefore and after the ecaille service on Hannah.

To get the ecaille results, Carleigh lightened the ends using It’s a Blonde Thing in a balayage technique. She then “married” the lightener with the base color, “to create a soft middle color also know as the transition area in her hair.”

Once Hannah’s ends were lifted to a pale yellow, Carleigh glazed the hair with a KeraBrilliance formula of light ash blonde and light caramel brown in order to “deepen the ends and give that soft, warm vibe to her hair.” This resulted in a lovely effect of ecaille color in cascading shades of chocolate, caramel and golden blonde.

After the color processed, Carleigh applied a cocktail of Vitalshot™ and Infusion and blow-dried it in. She then styled Hannah’s hair with Sweet Definition Texturizing Sugar Mist and a curling iron.

Reports Carleigh: “Hannah has a fun, carefree attitude and we wanted to bring that out in her hair. She was extremely pleased with the outcome, and was very happy to say she can always trust me to just do whatever I want, because we have such a great client-stylist relationship!”

Balayage for brunette and blonde tortoiseshell hair

At Serenity Salon and Spa in Chicopee, MA, stylist Chanelle Kareta gave her client Michelle a bright summer look by employing Michelle’s natural warm brown base and a balayage technique to give a beautiful ecaille effect.

“Doing a color that is off the scalp is perfect for her because she is a college student and doesn't have the time or money to do color regularly,” notes Chanelle.

Chanelle had previously given Michelle a red-violet dark blonde color that had mellowed to a warm brown tone. “Her goal is to go lighter for summer, so at her last appointment I lightened over where she was colored before and used the natural remaining pigment to my advantage to create a warm brown,” Chanelle says. “Luckily for me, her natural color is also beautiful, so I didn't even have to alter that.”

To get the ecaille hair result, Chanelle applied It’s a Blonde Thing lightener from mid-length to end in a W-shaped pattern on a diagonal, with a heavier saturation on the ends to create more lightness there. “I did leave some hair in between each section so she still had some dimension throughout the bottom as well,” she notes.

Ecaille hair result on Michelle.

Chanelle also lightened sections framing the face in the same sort of technique, and after processing cleansed and conditioned with Keratin Complex Blondeshell® Debrass & Brighten Shampoo and Conditioner. “Toner was not necessary,” notes Chanelle.

The result? “She absolutely loved it. Now her sister and cousin come to me as well, getting colors and Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatments!”

Clearly, tortoiseshell hair can help brunettes win a gorgeous-hair race. To get your own ecaille hair, consult with your Keratin Complex stylist.