Trends come and go like clockwork. Take hair color, for instance. So often, lightening and brightening hair is the goal, especially during summer. 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 simply to be on trend just isn't feasible? Basically, what we're trying to say is that dark hair deserves more credit all year-round.
While coming to that conclusion is all well and good, if our short stint on the high-school debate team taught us anything, it's that 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 24 variations. Whether you prefer soft and subtle highlights or bright and beachy ones, these looks are sure to inspire you to book a salon appointment stat.
1. Rich Chocolate Highlights
Aside from a few color switch-ups in the past couple of years, Kylie Jenner typically keeps 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.
2. Natural Brunette Ombré Highlights
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.
3. Golden Dark Chocolate Blend
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.
4. Dark and Ashy Ombré Highlights
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.
5. Dimensional Black and Brown Highlights
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.
6. Dark and Decadent Glossy Highlights
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.
7. Black and Brown Color Melt Highlights
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.
8. Face-Framing Raven Highlights
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.
9. Dark Hair With Light Ends
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.
10. Blackish Brown Highlights
Zendaya's big and bouncy curls are enough to inspire hair envy in our hearts, though we also love her undulating black/brown color.
11. Black Hair With Auburn Highlights
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.
12. Golden Blonde Highlights
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.
13. Bouncy Black and Brown Highlights
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.
14. Soft Caramel Highlights
We love this color creation, also by Anderson, which is a glossy and saturated black color accented with caramel-toned highlights.
15. Auburn and Light Brown 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.
16. Reverse Ombré Highlights
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.
17. Face-Framing Caramel Highlights
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.
18. Soft Golden Babylights
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.
19. Cool Blonde Highlights
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.
20. Light Brown Babylights
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.)
21. Rich Brown Highlights
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.
22. Brown Balayage Highlights
Here's the last piece of dark brunette hair inspiration from Anderson. Again, if you don't follow him already, you're missing out. It's so worth it. But we digress. Consider this the best way to incorporate balayage highlights into dark hair.
23. Brown to Black Reverse Ombré Highlights
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.
24. Subtle Ombré Babylights
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.
Next up: If you prefer light hair, check out what Kate Moss' colorist claims to be the five secrets of finding your perfect blonde.