All Beauty, All the Time—For Everyone.

Yes, You Can Pull Off Dark Hair With Highlights—Here's Proof.

Olivia Munn

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

An unavoidable truth in the beauty world is that trends come and go. 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 highlight conversation, which could be a huge missed opportunity. 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? Essentially, we're trying to say that dark hair can look just as amazing with highlights as blonde hair.

While coming to that conclusion is all well and good, our short stint on the high-school debate team taught us 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 for the celebrities and expert hairstylists who have created our favorite dark hair with highlights. Spoiler alert: We found 30 variations.

Dark Brown Hair With Highlights

Choosing a Shade: "I recommend going between 2-3 lighter tones for the highlight on dark hair," says Garnier colorist Millie Morales. "Highlights on dark hair should only be two levels lighter than your root color," agrees Nikki Lee, celebrity colorist and co-owner of Nine Zero One salon in L.A.

Maintenance Level: Low to high. According to Morales, "if the client wants lighter highlights the maintenance is going to be high, because as the new hair grows the difference in color is going to be more noticeable."

Goes Great With: Green, blue, or hazel eyes and all skin tones

Similar Shades: Bronde, caramel, brown ombré

Price: $85+

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.

01 of 30

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. In this photo, it's clear to see the soft chocolate-colored highlights undulating throughout her mid-lengths and ends. This is a great way to add dimension to the hair without high contrast.

02 of 30

Dark Ombré Curls

Black-ish and Grown-ish actor Yara Shahidi shows off her dark brunette color in our favorite way—with healthy, springy curls. We like how the top layers of her curls are subtly lightened from the black shade underneath. It's a natural ombré effect that looks effortless.

03 of 30

Face-Framing Highlights

One of Lee's many clients is pictured here sporting lighter locks subtly throughout her hair, and more prominently around her face. A beautiful way to shape your face, and give your hair some added vibrancy.

04 of 30

Auburn Ombré

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 auburn brown at the ends.

"On dark hair I recommend doing a more rooted look so the grow-out is easier," says Lee

05 of 30

Whispy Blonde Highlights

Lea Michele is just one of Lee's many celebrity clients. Notice the mix of light brown and blonde wisps throughout Michele's hair, giving her highlights balance and a bit of playfulness.

06 of 30

Dark Brown Highlights

Even with a chic, shaggy bob, Lee creates glossy, deep mahogany highlights for Sarah Hyland. The blink-and-you'll-miss-them highlights elevate her deep chocolate locks.

07 of 30

Dark Color Melding

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.

08 of 30

Dark, Wine Colored Locks

Instead of mid-length hair, you could try a long, dramatic 'do, like Vanessa Hudgens and her celebrity hairstylist, Chad Wood, did here. Her waist-length extensions are matched to her natural raven locks, and her natural color is expertly melded with a wine colored tint.

09 of 30

90's Highlights

Wood created modernized '90s highlights for actress Isabela Moner, complete with a double-knot that has us humming the Spice Girls.

10 of 30

Toasted Brown Highlights

Lastly, Wood created this bouncy, wavy bob for actress Olivia Munn, and incorporated some toasted brown highlights that brighten up the overall look.

There are several highlighting techniques your stylist might employ to lighten dark locks. "The sombre is a great choice for a softer ombre look," says Morales, while balayage creates a more natural effect with blonde on the ends. "Baby highlights are perfect to bring your hair into a lighter look without changing the hair color, making it light and fresh."

11 of 30

Reddish Brown Curls

Zendaya's big curls are enough to inspire major hair envy, but we especially can't get enough of the color. While her roots are a deep brown, her hair fans out into a rich, warm carmine.

12 of 30

Burgundy Highlights

Beauty, lifestyle, and fitness influencer Hannah Bronfman has black tresses accented with burgundy highlights.

13 of 30

The Perfect Black/Brown Hue

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.

14 of 30

Caramel Highlights

We love this color creation, also by Anderson, which is a glossy and saturated black accented with caramel-toned highlights.

15 of 30

Reverse Ombré

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.

16 of 30

Minimal Highlights

Here, Anderson shows us how brilliant and enhancing a few strategically placed highlights can be. They frame the face and give her grown-out bangs a little pop.

17 of 30

Blonde Ombré

Anderson creates a tousled, brown-to-light blonde ombré for actress Leslie Grossman, and frames her face with blonde ribbons, giving her that summery, just-back-from-the-beach look.

18 of 30

Ombré Lob

Should we just call Anderson the ombré master? What starts out at the roots as a true black shade gradually brightens until the ends turn cool-toned blonde.

19 of 30

Balayage Highlights

Consider this the most subtle way to incorporate balayage highlights into dark hair.

20 of 30

Deep Brown-to-Black Ombré

Stephen Garrison is an expert colorist who works between New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We like how this dark brown/black color gets more intense as it moves further down each strand.

21 of 30

Black Hair with Blonde Highlights

Garrison proves that you can pull off blonde highlights with even the darkest colors. He adds wisps of cedar and ash blonde to wavy, dark locks for a look that feels sophisticated with a bit of edge.

22 of 30

Sun-kissed

We love the way these light streaks add a beachy vibe to this stylish, choppy cut.

23 of 30

Redhead Ombré

Dark hair doesn't have to be brunette—we adore this burnt copper red with a hint of blonde at the ends.

24 of 30

Mauve Waves

This subtle mauve hue was achieved by colorist Jessica Scott using a variety of tones and fine highlights.

25 of 30

Touch of Gold

Rachel Redd, a colorist based in Atlanta who is also a brand ambassador for Redkin and Mizani, is responsible for this beautiful gold-tinged curly look.

26 of 30

Cool Brunette

The word "highlights" often brings about images of beachy, sun-kissed waves. But cool-toned, ashy highlights exist, and they can be so modern on brunettes.

27 of 30

Tiger's Eye Spirals

This higher-contrast look demonstrates how the tiger's eye hair trend can work on super curly strands.

28 of 30

Color Meld

"Seamless brunette" mixes two shades of brown to create depth and the illusion of even more volume. While highlights on dark hair can be low maintenance for natural brunettes, it "will require toning in between appointments" to keep the color from turning "brassy," says Lee.

29 of 30

Balayage

Balayage is one of the best techniques for getting the appearance of natural highlights, as Morales mentioned.

30 of 30

Crimped Caramel

When the sun hits this caramel balayage it really shows off the dimension in this style.

Related Stories