Trends come and go like clockwork. Take hair color, for instance. Each and every summer, everyone starts to focus on lightening and brightening their hair. Whether it's blonde balayage, ombré, or a peachy pastel hue, darker brunettes are seldom included in the conversation. And that's not fair. What if you like the bold contrast? What if you're naturally raven-haired and bleaching it each summer just isn't feasible? Basically, what we're trying to say is that dark hair deserves more credit come summer.
That's all well and good, but if our short stint on the high-school debate team taught us anything, we can't claim something without backing it up with support. That's why we went through Instagram with a fine-tooth comb, searching the accounts of celebrities and expert hairstylists to find our favorite examples of dark hair with highlights. Spoiler alert: We found 25 variations. Whether you prefer soft and subtle highlights or bright and beachy ones, these looks are sure to inspire you to book a midsummer salon appointment.
Aside from a few color switch-ups in the past couple of years, Kylie Jenner has always kept a base of silky black hair (much like her older sisters Kendall, Kourtney, and Kim). In this photo, which she posted to her Instagram, it's clear to see the soft chocolate-colored highlights that undulate throughout her mid-lengths and ends. We're kind of obsessed.
Black-ish and Grown-ish actress Yara Shahidi shows off her dark brunette color in our favorite way. That is, with healthy, springy curls. We like how the top layers of her curls are subtly lightened from the true black shade they are underneath. It's a natural ombré effect.
Nikki Lee is an expert colorist and co-owner of Nine Zero One Salon in Los Angeles. One of her many clients is pictured here sporting medium-length tresses that go from dark chocolate to gold and back again. The highlighted pieces are so well-blended and subtle, it almost makes you do a double take.
Lee is also responsible for this gorgeous ombré situation. We like how the color starts off dark at the roots—almost black—before transitioning to an ashy brown color at the ends.
Lea Michele is just one of Lee's many celebrity clients. As soon as Lee posted this photo on her Instagram account, we noticed how rich and voluminous Michele's hair looks thanks to her dimensional black/brown color. Her thick U-shaped bangs don't hurt either.
You can better see Michele's color transition when she wears her hair down like she does in this picture. We only have two words for this look: rich and glossy.
Emma Roberts is also a regular client of Lee's. We consider her to be somewhat of a hair-color chameleon, but we're particularly partial to this rich black/brown color meld.
Instead of mid-length hair, you could go all in for drama, like Vanessa Hudgens. Her waist-length extensions are expertly matched to her natural raven locks.
Madison Beer's black/brown color accentuates her bold brows, freckles, and windswept texture. To us, it seems like an updated take on Farrah Fawcett's classic '70s hair. We love it.
The last piece of dark highlighted hair inspiration we have to share from Nikki Lee is this one, which was also pulled from her Instagram account (if you haven't yet, go follow her). We like the textured layers and lightened ends.
Zendaya's big and bouncy curls are enough to inspire hair envy in our hearts, though we also love her undulating black/brown color.
Beauty, lifestyle, and fitness influencer extraordinaire Hannah Bronfman posted this photo to her Instagram account. We like how her black tresses are accented with auburn highlights. They're the perfect mix of red and purple.
Cassey Ho from Blogilates demonstrates the perfect way to include golden blonde highlights in a base of dark black hair. The contrast is equal parts intense and eye-catching.
Justin Anderson is an expert colorist and the co-founder of DpHue (you know, the brand that makes the cult-favorite Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse, $35?). He's responsible for this black/brown hair color that's so dimensional and bouncy that it looks like light emanates from within each strand.
We love this color creation, also by Anderson, which is a glossy and saturated black color accented with caramel-toned highlights.
Anderson's client wears a sweatshirt that reads, "I'm a cool brunette," and we couldn't agree more. We like how her dark base has ribbons of brown and auburn placed throughout.
Anderson posted this photo of beauty influencer of Amanda Steele on his Instagram account. We're definitely into this reverse ombré situation, which starts out as chocolate brown and steadily grows into a dark black shade.
Here, Anderson shows us how brilliant and enhancing a few strategically placed highlights can be.
Golden highlights look best when placed on either side of the head to frame the face.
If it's not clear yet, Anderson is a master when it comes to shaggy, textured hair and golden brunette hair. It's a look that's effortless, chic, and so summery.
What starts out at the roots as a true black shade, gradually brightens up until the ends of the hair, where the color is a cool-toned blonde.
We can't decide what we like more, her baby bangs, loose beachy waves, or the perfect meld of black/brown color. (Oh, and those bold brows and bright complexion.)
This color is dark, rich, and chocolaty perfection. It's like the hair color equivalent of devil's food cake. And just like the actual dessert, it's hard to resist.
Here's the last piece of dark brunette hair inspiration from Anderson. Again, if you don't follow him already, please do so. It's so worth it. But we digress. Consider this the best way to incorporate balayage highlights into dark hair.
Stephen Garrison is an expert colorist who works between New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Here's one of our favorite looks of his. We like how the dark brown/black color gets more intense as it moves further down each strand of hair.
If your hair is naturally black or dark brown and you're looking for soft and subtle ombré highlights, then search no further than this look, which comes courtesy of Garrison.