The Brunette Color Guide: 25 Sultry Shades of Brown Hair

curly hair

@khadijha / Design by Zackary Angeline

They say blondes have more fun, but we're taking a stand and challenging that notion. Some of our favorite looks and styles of the past year were sported by a brunette (or a temporary brunette—no judgment here). Not to mention, the different shades and tones brown hair can take on are mesmerizing—from amber to raven to sombré to espresso, we can't look away from a good brunette dye job.

When it comes to getting the brunette hair of your dreams, there isn't a lot of initial work to be done, like with platinum or pink hair, for example. Almost every shade can be achieved from a natural base, so really, it all depends on what you're looking for.

Sure, there are a lot of looks to consider when it comes to a great brunette color (highlights, lowlights, caramel ends?) but don't stress, just look for a celeb you share features with (eye color, skin tone, etc) and use that as reference. Lisa Satorn at Nine Zero One says her most-requested shades are: smoky brown, natural brown, honey brown, chocolate brown, and cocoa brown, which to us, all sound like the best latte options.

Choosing a Shade: "Most brunettes want to be warm and rich so golden tones are frequently mixed," Shalee Blatz at Nine Zero One Salon in Los Angeles says, "If someone starts with warm tones and wants to be a more neutral brown, then I would mix ash tones in the formula to cancel the warmth and neutralize the shade of brown."

Maintenance Level: Low to medium.

Goes Great With: Most eye colors, both warm and cool undertones, fair to deep skin tones, natural makeup

Similar Shades: Illuminated brunette, ash brown, honey brown

Price: This will depend on the salon and how much you are changing your natural color.

Whether you're looking for a major hair transformation or just a subtle transition that'll still warrant a double-take, we're willing to bet you'll find a look in our gallery of favorites. For our favorite looks featuring shades you'll want to bookmark ASAP, we rounded up the best of the best below.

01 of 25

Natural Dark Brown With Subtle Highlights

Joan Smalls with wavy brunette hair

Dimitrios Kambouris / Staff / Getty Images 

We can't get over Joan Smalls worked gorgeous, rich color from summer 2017. Subtle lightness added throughout the deep brunette helps to create dimension and show off her beautiful curls.

02 of 25

Chocolate Brown


Amanda Edwards / Contributor / Getty Images

We can't say we were surprised when Zendaya was announced as CHI's first-ever celebrity brand ambassador. She's a strong advocate for natural hair and embracing your roots (literally), and we're big fans of her grit (and her beautiful chocolate-brown locks). For shiny strands like Zendaya's, apply CHI Argan Oil Plus Moringa Oil Conditioner ($14).

03 of 25


Olivia Palermo

Jared Siskin / Contributor / Getty Images

Olivia Palermo appears frequently on just about every one of our Pinterest boards. Her clothes, her wedding dress, her hair—we want 'em all. Speaking of the latter, we haven't been able to forget this brunette-meets-bronde dye job that accents her features. 

04 of 25

Dark Natural Brown

Laura Harrier

Getty Images / Steve Granitz / Contributor

We can't get over Laura Herrier's windswept updo. While she tends to keep her hair a deep natural brunette, it's never boring or lacking dimension. To help hair stay in place, use a light-hold hairspray like Amika's Fluxus Touchable Hairspray ($25).

05 of 25

Medium Brown With Balayage Highlights

Lily Aldridge

Jon Kopaloff / Contributor / Getty Images

If we didn't know any better, we'd think Lily Aldridge's balayage was painted by Michelangelo himself. This is the perfect way to bring lightness to brown hair without going the full-blown highlight route.

Because lightening hair can cause unsightly damage, we recommend nourishing your mane with BioSilk Color Therapy Conditioner ($10).

06 of 25

Coppery Light Brown

Alexa Chung

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We're cheating a bit here, but we had to include Alexa Chung's coppery strands on our roundup. Hey, no one ever said brunettes had to be all brown, right? Brunette at the roots adds more dimension to the overall color.

07 of 25

Dark Brown With Caramel Undertones

Gemma Chan

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Gemma Chan has glorious dark brown hair that's both elegant and easy. Plus, do you see how the middle has a subtle lighter tone blended in? It's not as drastic as balayage but gives this color additional (and incredible) dimension.

08 of 25

Glossy Rich Espresso

Emmy Rossum

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Major voluminous waves? Check. An enviably glossy shine? Check. Emmy Rossum is a natural brunette pick we can't get over. While this is a super glammed-up version, her natural color is everything that we love about going brunette.

09 of 25

Dark Onyx With Burnt Caramel Ends

Yvonne Orji

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Yvonne Orji has tried out a variety of brunette looks, and they're all stunning, but we're especially loving how this deep espresso-style goes warm at the ends. It's a less intense way to incorporate additional color too.

10 of 25

Solid Medium Brown

Maia Michelle

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Never let anybody tell you brunette isn't elegant or exciting, okay? If they think that, they obviously haven't seen Maia Michelle's bob. It doesn't incorporate crazy colors, but it's still super stylish and more than noteworthy.

11 of 25

Honey and Caramel Highlights

Halle Barry

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Halle Berry often rocks some seriously amazing highlighted brown curls. We're partial to the Shea Moisturizer Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk ($8) when it comes to styling curly hair.

12 of 25

Honeyed Amber Curls

Khadijha Red Thunder

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Model Khadijha Red Thunder knows a thing or two about beautiful curls. The proof is right here—these multi-dimensions ringlets are beyond, and include various light amber to chocolate brown shades.

13 of 25

Medium Brown

Jessica Biel

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OK, not only is Jessica Biel married to Justin Timberlake, but she also won the genetic lottery. Sigh. While we've seen her rock a ton of bronde and balayage looks throughout her career, we find ourselves swooning over this simple, natural-looking hue. For healthy locks like Biel's, try quenching dry strands with PHYTO Botanical Smoothing Balm ($36).

14 of 25

Medium Brown With Subtle Balayage

Selena Gomez

Rob Kim / Getty Images

We can't get enough of Selena Gomez's medium-brown mane with subtle balayage. While simple in nature, this color elicits an air of mystique.

To mimic this striking look without the pricey salon visit, we suggest applying Oribe Glaze for Beautiful Color ($58) over pin-straight strands.

15 of 25

Medium Chestnut Brown

Jenna Coleman

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There's a really beautiful slight auburn tone to Jenna Coleman's lob style, and it really compliments her complexion. Her hair looks effortless and undone with a mix of warm and bright brunette shades. To emulate her shiny mane, try out a shine-boosting serum, like Colorwow Pop & Lock High Gloss ($20).

16 of 25

Dark Brown Sugar

Eiza González

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Show off stunning cheekbones and flawless makeup with a sleek middle part and shiny caramel mocha-colored hair like Eliza Gonzales. Look at how pretty subtle face-framing highlights look towards the ends of her hair. Instant brightness!

17 of 25

Mocha Brown

Meghan Markle

Max Mumby/Indigo / Getty Images

Hold on, let us grab our sunglasses to shield our eyes from the amazingly vibrant mocha color happening here. Meghan Markle's modest mane is proof that you don't need to hit the dye or bleach heavily in order to achieve stunning color. 

18 of 25

Natural Brown Almost Black

Kendall Jenner

​​Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Getty Images

While she's not nearly as much of a hair chameleon as her sisters, Kendall Jenner's dark natural strands are no less memorable when untouched by dye. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

19 of 25

Dark Espresso Brown


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Rosalia is all about embracing her natural color, which is again proof you don't need to add much of anything to make a brunette style pop. There's already a beautiful caramel highlight interwoven that's sleek and glossy. PS: To keep your scalp and hair nourished, try a hair oil.

20 of 25

Dark Brown With Copper Ombré

Jenna Dewan

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There's always that one celebrity who is so aesthetically perfect it's almost upsetting, and that person for us is undoubtedly Jenna Dewan. No matter what chop, color, or style she opts for, it's always undeniably flawless. This sombré bob is another example of how lustrous her hair is, transitioning from a deep brown to a sassy (yet subtle) copper.

21 of 25

Dark Brown With Red Tones

Olivia Wilde

Bruce Glikas / Contributor / Getty Images

Olivia Wilde told us she attributes her youthfulness to wine, but we're thinking her colorist has a hand in that as well. We're totally digging this dark brown bob with subtle red tones.

22 of 25

Light Brown With Face-Framing Highlights

Halle Berry

Jason LaVeris / Contributor / Getty Images

Halle Berry has that total lit-from-within thing going on, but those face-framing highlights definitely help, too. It's such a subtle touch to brunette hair, but it makes a world of a difference.

23 of 25

Honey-Hued Bronde

Sofía Vergara

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Call it bronde, dirty blonde, or whatever you like, but we think Sofía Vergara's honey-hued (pseudo-brunette) locks are a must-try, no matter the season. 

24 of 25

Light-Bronde With Visible Roots

Jourdan Dunn

Mike Marsland / Getty Images

We're all about finding sneaky tricks for covering our roots, but we think Jourdan Dunn's visible roots here are an exception to the rule. Couple those with a light-bronde bob and you've got a seriously red carpet-worthy head of hair. We suggest using Briogeo Farewell Frizz Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Cream ($24) to get a similarly sleek end result.

25 of 25

Light Chestnut Brown

Jessica Alba

Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images

Also rocking roots, Jessica Alba looks gorgeous in this chestnut color. Pairing the color with messy-on-purpose strands, she's making the case for imperfect hair.

In love with brunette hair already? Same! We are, too. When it comes to the brunette shade range, anything is possible.

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