When deciding to dye your hair brown, choosing the right shade can be tricky. There are warm, cool, and neutral undertones to consider that will complement your complexion. Factors like your natural hair color and eye color play a role as well. Here’s a quick guide to picking the perfect brown hair color for you.
What is your base color?
Your natural hair color provides the base from which the brown dye will take hold. Blonde and redheads will need to pre-lighten their hair first to achieve a true brunette color. Brunettes can go darker easily, while black hair is better lightened subtly for a rich brown. The level of lift needed before applying brown dye depends on where you’re starting.
What tone suits your skin?
Brown hair colors come in warm, cool, and neutral undertones. Knowing your skin’s undertones will help you find a flattering match. Warm brown shades like copper and chestnut complement peachy, yellow-toned complexions. Cool ash and chocolate browns pair best with fair, pinkish skin. Neutral medium golden and honey browns work for those with an olive skin tone.
Eye color considerations
Your eye color is another factor when selecting a brown shade. Warm brown shades make blue eyes pop, while cooler browns intensify green eyes beautifully. For brown eyes, go with a rich neutral or match the depth of your eye color. Soft brown shades complement hazel and amber eyes nicely.
Hair highlights and lowlights
Adding highlights and lowlights creates dimension for brown hair. For depth, add lowlights just a shade darker than your base. Face-framing highlights around the hairline and eyes will brighten your complexion. Subtle caramel highlights on medium or dark brown hair imparts warmth. Blonde highlights on light brown hair brightens, while subtle blue adds coolness.
How to choose the perfect brown
With so many brown shade options, picking the right one can get confusing. Here are some flattering browns to consider based on your coloring:
|Skin Tone||Eye Color||Brown Shades|
|Fair, pink||Blue||Ash brown, chocolate brown|
|Fair, neutral||Green, hazel||Chestnut brown, honey brown|
|Medium, olive||Brown||Golden brown, caramel brown|
|Medium, yellow||Brown, amber||Maple brown, mahogany brown|
|Dark, neutral||Dark brown||Espresso brown, coffee brown|
Warm brown hair colors
Warm brown shades have undertones of gold, red, and copper. They complement fair to medium complexions with yellow undertones best. Here are some beautiful warm brown options:
- Golden brown – A vibrant, rich shade perfect for light to medium warm skin tones.
- Maple brown – Has subtle warm red tones that look beautiful with golden skin.
- Copper brown – A spicy reddish shade that pops on medium to olive complexions.
- Mahogany brown – A deep reddish brown that’s lush on yellow-toned skin.
- Chestnut brown – A rich, dimensional brown with warm red undertones.
Cool brown hair colors
The best cool toned browns have undertones of ash, blue, and chocolate. They flatter fair to medium skin with pink or red undertones. Some gorgeous cool browns include:
- Ash brown – A cool-toned light to medium brown shade.
- Chocolate brown – A rich, deep brown with subtle blue undertones.
- Mocha brown – A medium-dark brown with hints of gray and blue.
- Espresso brown – An intense dark brown that looks lush on fair skin.
- Taupe brown – A grayish brown that complements pink skin tones.
Neutral brown hair colors
Neutral or natural brown shades don’t lean too warm or cool, making them universally flattering. They include:
- Medium brown – A versatile mid-tone brown that flatters most complexions.
- Mink brown – A luxurious medium-dark brown with subtle warmth.
- Cappuccino brown – A creamy medium brown with gorgeous dimension.
- Honey brown – A rich golden brown that brightens all complexions.
- Caramel brown – A smooth muted brown with warm peach tones.
How does your lifestyle factor in?
Your haircare routine and styling habits also impact what brown shade will work best. Here are some tips for choosing the right brown hair color based on lifestyle:
- Low maintenance – Stick to a lighter brown without highlights if you wash infrequently.
- Active lifestyle – Medium to dark browns withstand sweat and sun exposure.
- Quick styling – Multi-tonal browns add depth without extra styling time.
- Frequent heat styling – Avoid extra warm tones if you blow dry and curl often.
- Swimming – Cool ash browns resist brassiness from chlorine.
Does your complexion influence your shade?
Certain brown shades can emphasize skin tones in flattering or unflattering ways. Here are some tips for picking a brown based on your complexion:
- Fair skin – Avoid very dark brown shades which can wash you out. Medium golden browns add warmth.
- Olive skin – Neutral caramel and honey browns bring radiance to the complexion.
- Tanned skin – Go for golden browns to complement and deepen your tan.
- Pale skin – Ashy chocolate browns and deep espresso shades create striking contrast.
- Yellow undertones – Warm chestnut and mahogany browns make your skin glow.
How do you find your perfect brown?
With all the factors that go into choosing that ideal brown hair color, it can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips for zeroing in on the right brunette shade for you:
- Look for inspiration photos online of shades you love, then show your stylist.
- Know you can customize your brown by adding highlights and lowlights.
- Don’t be afraid to go dramatically darker or lighter than your natural color!
- Ask your colorist to do a strand test so you can preview the brown shade before committing.
- Change is good! Browns can go darker for fall/winter and get warmer for spring/summer.
What’s the maintenance?
To keep your brown hair color looking fresh, be prepared to enhance it every 4-6 weeks. Here are some maintenance tips:
- Use a color safe shampoo to preserve brown shade longer.
- Apply a weekly glossing treatment to boost shine and tone.
- Use a purple shampoo to cancel brassy yellow tones.
- Protect hair from sun exposure which can fade brown shades.
- Get a root touch up around week 4-5 to conceal new growth.
How do you transition your hair from blonde to brown?
Going from blonde to brunette is a dramatic color change. Here are some tips to transition smoothly:
- Have your colorist fill in your blonde with lowlights in a darker blonde shade first.
- Gradually increase the ratio of lowlights to highlights at subsequent appointments.
- Use a toner like a blue or green based one to cancel yellow tones as your hair gets darker.
- Try a demi-permanent brown shade before committing to a permanent one.
- Be patient! It can take several sessions over months to achieve your ideal brunette shade.
What if you don’t like your brown shade?
Not loving your new brown hair color? Don’t panic. Here are some fixes:
- Add warm highlights and lowlights to make it more dimensional.
- Use a toner to neutralize unwanted brassy or ashy tones.
- Try a semi-permanent gloss to adjust the tone and depth subtly.
- Go gradually lighter with highlighting if it’s too dark. Avoid bleaching.
- Use a clarifying shampoo to help fade an unwanted brown faster.
- Be patient growing it out! Regular trims help minimize obvious roots.
Finding that perfect shade of brown hair can be a process. Whether you want to go lighter, darker, warmer, or cooler, keep your skin tone, eye color, and lifestyle needs in mind. Talk with your colorist about your goals for your new brunette hue. Book appointments for a progressive transition to your ideal shade. With proper maintenance and toning, you’ll have healthy, beautiful brown locks in no time.