Variations of light brown/dark blonde hair dominate our Instagram and Pinterest feeds more than any other shade, from bronde to tortoiseshell to caramel. The way the light catches the subtle variation within the hues makes it one of the most nuanced hair colors, and we're here for all the hues, styles, and cuts that showcase caramel in all its glory.
To inspire your next salon visit, we spoke with three celebrity colorists who specialize in caramel hair color: Michael Canalé, Jennifer Aniston's longtime colorist; Matrix and Bioage celebrity colorist George Papanikolas, whose celeb clientele includes Hannah Jeter and Ana de Armas; and Rita Hazan the woman responsible for the tresses of superstars like Beyoncé and J.Lo.
Caramel Hair Color
Choosing a Shade: "It's important, when trying to achieve that perfect caramel shade, to decide if you want to go lighter or richer," says Hazan. "You can go one way or the other to achieve that perfect balance of lightness in the hair. Caramel is always a warm shade, so either way you go, it has to have that perfect balance of warmth."
Maintenance Level: Low to Medium. Your maintenance level will depend on how far you stray from your natural shade, and whether you opt for highlights or all-over color.
Goes Great With: Warm or neutral undertones, brown or hazel eyes, brunette hair
Similar Shades: Brown with blonde highlights, brown balayage, tortoiseshell, light brown
Price: Cost will vary depending on techniques used
Take a look at their favorite caramel hues and styles below.
"This is one of my most-requested looks in the salon," says Papanikolas. "The placement of the highlights is very strategic, focusing on the face frame, natural part, and ends. It's a great way for brunettes to add lightness and dimension to their hair, and it's universally flattering." The subtle transition from dark-brown to caramel is truly astonishing.
Pumpkin spice has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, including beauty. This look incorporates a blend of warm caramel, strawberry blonde, and honey blonde tones.
Pumpkin spice, according to Papanikolas, "is a great way for very dark hair to go lighter. To avoid the look from feeling brassy, you should be very strategic with a few highlights."
"These warm tones are a great complement to neutral and golden skin tones," explains Papanikolas. "If your hair tends to bleach out very late, you can ask for a warm golden gloss to give the hair a sheer finish." Ana de Armas positively glows with this raven to honey ombré, created by Papanikolas.
"This is an ideal shade for clients who don’t want to see any red or orange undertones," says Papanikolas. "It’s very flattering on fair skin and olive tones. Keeping the highlights very delicate allows them to lighten past the warm tones." These chestnut locks, have a soft and subtle bronde balayage, that's also highlighted lightly at the roots.
Light Golden Brown
While Queen B mainly sticks to light golden brown hues here (which pair well with her dark chestnut roots) you can still see where this darker caramel melds with lighter honey tones, creating a truly dynamic and rich color.
Caramel Coffee Balayage
L.A.-based colorist Christine Silverman-Ramirez is responsible for this gorgeous, creamy balayage. This rich tawny color is painted through her dark, coffee-colored locks, and brings some warmth to her long, ample waves.
To produce the weightless volume that you see here (and keep it intact throughout the day) keep the travel size bottle of Bumble and bumble Spray de Mode Flexible Hold Hairspray ($16)
Hazan describes Gigi Hadid's color as "a warm caramel shade, but not orangey." The overall look feels cooler, but still finds warmth in tawny highlights throughout.
Silverman-Ramirez is also responsible for this bold ash-caramel ombré. Her feathery waves start with light, barely-there caramel highlights around her face and throughout her dark oak-brown hair, and gradually move into cool, reddish-caramel hues.
If anyone knows sandy blonde color, it's the magical hands behind Jennifer Aniston's beige mane. This particular color is great for someone who wants a more ash hue instead of the warmer spectrum of caramel. Canalé describes it as "medium blonde with a cool tone." This is a perfect example of balayage done expertly.
Candied Caramel Curls
Apologies for the excessive alliteration, but we couldn't resist when it came to this bright, bouncy look. Janibell's beautiful curls go from dark brunette to a sweet, candied caramel, with her ends painted a light honey blonde.
We love a subtle highlight, but there's something so chic about these alternating coffee and caramel streaks.
Caramel shading melts into honey blonde tips on this gorgeous, full head of curls.
Gilded Dark Caramel
The lighter streaks in Sofia Vergara's luscious wavy hair gives her darker caramel color a gilded, almost metallic touch.
Don't want to worry about root re-growth? This style keeps the crown of the head naturally dark, with cool caramel blonde highlights through the mid-lengths.
Jillian Hervey's caramel curls resemble the mouth-watering shade of a Werther's Original Hard Candy.
This dark interpretation of caramel gets a dose of mahogany thanks to auburn streaks that start around the crown of the head and fan out towards the ends.
This warm shade, described by the colorist as "caramel toffee" perfectly complements its wearer's slightly tan skin tone.
The cool layered tips on this brunette 'do give us another example of how to do a caramel effect without warming up the overall appearance too much.
Chunky Caramel Highlights
Balayage is all the rage these days, but there's still a place for chunky highlights, like here on Gina Rodriguez's asymmetrical bob. The thicker stripes brighten up her face while still creating a gradual ombré effect.
This full head of balayage is an elegant, dimensional mix of caramel, oak, and soft blonde highlights. The all-over highlights add movement and swing to lightly wavy locks.
Blonde caramel that absolutely gleams in the light. Enough said.
Rich Brunette Melt
Naomie Harris's soft ombré transitions from deep mahogany brown to a lighter, but still rich, caramel shade without any harsh blonde highlights.
This gorgeous shade is a mix between caramel brown and auburn.
Bright reddish caramel highlights mix with a deep chocolate base.
Schitt's Creek star Annie Murphy gives us a breezy take on caramel with a salted ombré that gives her hair a light, bouncy appearance.