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Which hair color is best for dark brown hair?

Which hair color is best for dark brown hair?

When deciding which hair color is best for dark brown hair, there are a few key factors to consider. The existing undertones in brunette hair can affect how certain shades will turn out, so choosing a color that complements or contrasts with those undertones is important. It’s also crucial to think about the level of commitment and maintenance required for different hair colors when applied to dark brown hair. Understanding how light and vivid a shade needs to be to show up on brunette hair is helpful as well.

The Undertones in Dark Brown Hair

An important first step when picking a new hair color for dark brown hair is to identify your natural undertones. Hair undertones are the tones that come through underneath the dominant pigment. Brunette hair can have warm, cool, or neutral undertones.

Warm brunette hair has subtle red, gold, or orange tones mixed in. These warm undertones are often visible in sunlight. Dull or mousy brown hair is usually warm in undertone. Cool brunette hair contains ashy, blue, or purple shades. This gives the hair an icy, sleek look. Neutral brown hair has a balance of warm and cool tones, giving an even, natural appearance.

Once you’ve determined your undertones, you can select hair colors that will complement them. Warm shades like caramel, chestnut, and golden brown will enhance warm brunette hair beautifully. For cool undertones, ash browns, platinum, and sandier blonde tones are lovely. Neutral brown hair has flexibility to go warmer or cooler.

Low Commitment Hair Colors

For those wanting a low maintenance hair color change for their dark brown hair, subtle highlights or babylights are a great option. These methods lighten small sections of hair through fine highlighting or balayage techniques. This adds dimension while keeping upkeep needs minimal.

Temporary color rinses or glosses are another easy way to experiment with different shades on brunette hair without a drastic commitment. These wash out within 4-8 shampoos. Ammonia-free hair colors, whether permanent or demi-permanent, also cause less damage overall.

Some specific shades that work well for low commitment options on brown hair include:

– Caramel highlights
– Honey babylights
– Chestnut red rinses
– Cocoa brown demi-permanent color

These options allow you to test out a hair color before deciding if you want something more dramatic and permanent.

High Commitment & Dramatic Colors

For those willing to commit more time and money to maintaining their hair color, more intense options exist for brunette hair. However, bleaching is usually required first to lighten the existing pigment so vivid shades will show up properly.

Full head highlights or balayage can dramatically transform dark hair. But be prepared for frequent toner treatments and touch-ups to keep the hair blonde and prevent brassiness. Vibrant shades like mermaid blue and pastel pink can be stunning over pre-lightened brown hair as well. But these colors fade the fastest, needing re-dos every 4-6 weeks.

Here are some high commitment hair colors that look amazing with an existing base of dark brown hair:

– Full head bleached highlights
– Balayage with bright blonde pieces
– Vibrant rainbow hair coloring
– Unnatural shades like blue, purple, green, etc.
– Bleached platinum/white blonde

Just keep in mind the hefty amount of damage and upkeep these options require. Use plenty of hydrating hair masks and treatments if chemically treating brunette hair extensively.

Best Warm Hair Colors for Brunettes

Brunettes with warm undertones have lots of flattering golden-based shades to choose from. Here are some of the best warm hair color ideas for dark brown hair:

Caramel Highlights

Subtle caramel highlights blended throughout brown hair add beautiful warmth and dimension. Focus the fine highlights on face framing sections around the hairline and eyes for a soft sun-kissed effect.

Chestnut Brown

Chestnut brown has rich red-orange depth that looks amazing on warm brunette hair. This shade can be worn all over or concentrated on the mid-lengths and ends for a subtle ombre look.

Honey Blonde

For brunettes who want to go a bit lighter, honey blonde is a great choice. Keep the roots darker and blend into honeyed ends for lots of depth. The gold tones in this blonde shade complement warm brown hair well.

Cinnamon Brown

Cinnamon brown has a vibrant, coppery effect on warm-toned brunette strands. This spicy shade works well all over or as an accent color on small sections throughout the hair.

Maple Brown

The warm amber tones in maple brown look beautiful and natural on brunettes with golden undertones. This adds warmth without being overly reddish in tone.

Best Cool Hair Colors for Brunettes

For brunettes with cool, ashy undertones, here are some gorgeous cool-toned hair colors to consider:

Ash Brown

Adding in an ash brown hair color eliminates unwanted warm, brassy tones in naturally cool toned brown hair. For highlights, choose beige or platinum blonde shades with an ash base over golden blondes.

Chocolate Brown

Chocolate brown is a rich neutral that helps cancel unwanted warmth without being too ashy. This lush shade adds shine and enhances the sleekness of cool-toned brunette strands.

Mocha Brown

The mix of dark cocoa and milk chocolate shades in mocha brown looks beautiful on cool toned brunette hair. Mocha also helps neutralize and soften any previous red/orange tones.

Icy Platinum Blonde

Naturally cooler brunettes can pull off an icy platinum blonde beautifully. Avoid too yellow of highlights and keep the toner ash-based to complement the existing cool tones.

Sand Blonde

The beige-y tones in sand blonde make it far more flattering on cool toned brunettes than golden blondes. The muted yet ashy tone builds gorgeous dimension.

Best Natural-Looking Hair Colors for Brunettes

For a seamless, natural-looking hair color on brunettes, stick to soft brown shades blended with lowlights and highlights. Here are some of the most believable hair colors on brunette hair:


A smart blend of brown and blonde, bronde marries both tones beautifully on natural brunette hair. Keep the roots darker and lightly blonden mid-lengths to ends.

Chocolate Brown

Chocolate brown is rich but also neutral enough to mimic the natural spectrum of brunette hair colors. This lush shade blends seamlessly with minimal upkeep needed.

Soft Black

Jet black hair can look harsh, whereas soft black has a touch of brown that feels more believable against naturally darker brown hair. This adds subtle depth.

Chestnut Brown

With its warm red and orange tones, chestnut brown mimics the range of natural underlying pigments in brunette hair. The color blend results in a harmonious look.

Honey Brown

Honey brown is an ideal way to warm up brunette hair subtly. The golden blonde tones integrate beautifully for a harmonious sun-kissed effect.

How Light Should You Go?

With the right techniques, brunettes can go surprisingly light – even to platinum blonde levels. However, it’s smart to transition slowly and minimize damage by not over-lifting the hair in one session. For fine or damaged hair, aim to lighten it gradually over multiple appointments.

In general, here are some guidelines on how many levels you can safely lighten brown hair in one session:

Level 2-3 Brown Hair:

Lift 1-2 levels lighter

Level 4 Brown Hair:

Lift 2-3 levels lighter

Level 5-6 Dark Blonde Hair:

Lift 3-4 levels lighter

Test strands first and watch the hair’s reactions closely. Lifting more than 3-4 levels risks major damage. Perform conditioning and bonding treatments regularly when dramatically lightening brunette hair.

How to Transition from Brunette to Blonde

Changing your hair color from dark brown to blonde should always be a gradual process. Here are some tips for safely transitioning brunette hair to blonde shades:

– Get a Test Strand Consultation

Have your colorist do a test strand to determine how much pre-lightening is needed before applying blonde dye. This shows how your hair will lift.

– Lighten Slowly in Stages

Wait 1-2 weeks between highlight or bleaching sessions to give your hair recovery time. Don’t try to go platinum in one day.

– Use Purple Shampoo

Purple shampoo helps cancel brassy tones as brown hair lifts to blonde. Use this 1-2 times per week to neutralize warmth.

– Deep Condition Frequently

Nourish and hydrate your hair with weekly masks and bond-repairing treatments to limit damage from multiple lifting sessions.

– Get Regular Gloss Treatments

Use demi-permanent conditioning glosses between full highlight sessions to refresh your color and further cancel brassiness.

– Expect 2-4 Months of Transition Time

Depending on your starting level of brown, transitioning to blonde safely usually takes 2-4 months with 2-3 separate lightening processes.

How Dramatic a Change Works on Brunette Hair

Darker brunette hair provides a gorgeous canvas for dramatic color changes as long as the hair is in healthy condition. Here are guidelines on how vivid of a color shift typically works with different shades of brown hair:

Light Brown Hair (Levels 6-7):

Can successfully pull off richer, deeper colors like plum, magenta and vibrant red shades. Blues may turn out muted and sea green on this base.

Medium Brown Hair (Levels 4-5):

Vivid red tones look fabulous against mid-brown hair, along with brighter berry shades. Blue and green will likely only show up subtly on this base level.

Dark Brown Hair (Levels 2-3):

Needs near full lift to platinum to achieve an intense rainbow look. But deep regal purple, true red, and magenta can work well without bleaching. Blue and green still only result in a subtle effect.

Black Hair (Levels 1-2):

True platinum lifting needed for lighter vivids. But jet black hair can carry off rich crimson, eggplant and similar dramatically dark hues without pre-lightening.

Always customize your vivid color to your specific base shade for the best results. Bold unicorn colors pop better against lighter foundations. But dimensional vivid shades still give striking effects on natural brunette hair.

How Hair Color Affects Curl Pattern

For curly haired brunettes, hair color changes can impact your curl pattern, for better or worse. Here’s how hair dye tends to affect waves and curls:

– Permanent Color Tends to Loosen Curls

The harsher chemicals of permanent color often loosen tight curls, especially drastic dark-to-light shades.

– Lightening Color Can Cause Frizz

Lighter colors rough up the cuticle, causing frizz. Gentle lightening and tons of conditioning helps.

– Ammonia Swells the Cuticle

Ammonia in permanent hair color swells and separates the cuticle layer, loosening curl shape.

– Demi-Permanent Color Minimizes Damage

Gentler demi-permanent colors don’t alter curl patterns as drastically.

– Go Gradually Lighter

If lightening your curls, do so slowly and steadily over several months to limit curl pattern disruption.

Take curl-enhancing measures like deep conditioning treatments if permanent coloring curly brunette hair lighter.

How Your Face Shape Impacts Ideal Hair Colors

Your unique face shape should play a role in picking flattering hair colors for dark brown hair. Cooler ash tones typically complement square face shapes best. Softer chestnut browns and butterscotch blondes are ideal for round faces. Here are some recommendations:

Face Shape Most Flattering Hair Colors
Oval Chestnut, honey, ash tones
Round Golden brown, caramel, sand blonde
Heart Chocolate brown, ash blonde
Square Ash brown, platinum

So consider your face shape’s properties when selecting shades for your brown hair. Play up your best features with strategic hair coloring.

Celebrity Brunette Hair Color Inspiration

Looking to the red carpet is a great way to find hair color inspiration for dark brown hair. Here are some celebrity examples of gorgeous hair colors on brunettes:

– Jessica Alba’s Honey Highlights

Jessica Alba’s signature bronde hair beautifully demonstrates how softly honeyed highlights liven up medium brown hair. The dimension is striking and believable.

– Emma Stone’s Red Hue

Emma Stone’s strawberry blonde shade is the ideal way to inject red into naturally ashy, cool toned brunette strands for vibrancy.

– Megan Fox’s Espresso Hair

Sultry, glossy espresso-brown hair, like Megan Fox’s, allows cool skin tones to pop against the deep brunette shade.

– Kim Kardashian’s Contour Color

With strategic bronde contour coloring concentrated on the mid-lengths of her brown hair, Kim Kardashian’s colorist created incredible movement and shine.

– Olivia Wilde’s Ombre

Olivia Wilde’s brown to blonde ombre echoes the natural progression of light exposure on hair, with a seamless blend of color.

Studying celebrity hair colors on brunette hair provides smart tips for transitional hues, strategically placed highlights, and multi-tonal looks.

The Takeaway

The existing shade and undertones of your natural brunette hair significantly impact how new hair colors will turn out. Lighter levels of lift are needed for purity of tone, especially with unnatural vivid hues. Cooler complexions pair best with ash brown and platinum tones, while warmer skin suits honey, caramel and ginger colors.

To keep hair healthy, transition slowly when dramatically lightening or darkening your color. Get frequent conditioning treatments. And know that permanent coloring often relaxes curly hair textures. Ultimately, choose shades that enhance your complexion and flatter your face shape for beautiful, harmonious results.