Variations of light brown and 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. Whether you want subtle babylights or a dramatic "money" piece, there are so many different caramel hues to flatter every skin tone and hair color.
Your stylist can help you pick out the right shade for your skin tone. "Caramel is always a warm shade, so either way you go, it has to have that perfect balance of warmth," explains colorist and salon owner Rita Hazan.
To inspire your next salon visit, we spoke with Hazan and two other celebrity colorists who specialize in caramel hair color.
Meet the Expert
- Michael Canalé is a Hollywood hair color guru and Jennifer Aniston's longtime colorist.
- George Papanikolas is a Matrix and Bioage celebrity colorist whose celeb clientele includes Hannah Jeter and Ana de Armas.
- Rita Hazan is a celebrity colorist, salon owner, and the woman responsible for the tresses of superstars like Beyoncé and J.Lo.
Take a look at their favorite caramel hues and styles below.
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. "
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 the techniques used
"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.
"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.
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 light brown with honey accents, created by Papanikolas.
Caramel Coffee Balayage
Transitioning from a lighter dye job or looking to brighten up a darker 'do? Try creamy caramel ends and just a few subtle face-framing highlights for a look that's low-maintenance but high-impact.
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.
Ciara looks stunning in this bold ash-caramel ombré. Her cascading waves start with a richer chestnut root, then transition through balayage to ash blonde on the ends.
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 Rosanne'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 give her darker caramel color a gilded, almost metallic touch.
Want an effortless look? This style keeps the crown of the head naturally dark, with warm, caramel blonde highlights through the mid-lengths. The addition of soft curls helps give the color movement.
Jillian Hervey's voluminous 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.
When Priyanka Chopra Jonas tried caramel hair in 2017, she went for subtle highlights that are the perfect inspiration if you want to stick on the darker side and just brighten up a bit.
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.
Blonde caramel that 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.
Bright reddish caramel highlights mix with a deep chocolate base for the ultimate candied color combination.
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.
Olivia Munn's delicate caramel-colored babylights give her hair just the right amount of dimension to highlight her face and skin tone. If you have thin hair, these types of highlights are a perfect way to make your hair reflect the light in a way that gives the illusion of thicker hair.
Caramel Blonde Balayage
Gisele Bündchen's hair always looks effortless, shiny, and healthy. Her caramel blonde balayage is undoubtedly one of the most requested looks for beachy hair. The warm caramel blonde hue adds lots of dimension to her hair. This looks also grows out well and requires little maintenance.
Bronze Caramel Highlights
Eva Mendes has found the perfect shade to flatter her skin tone: bronze caramel highlights. They frame her face perfectly, while also adding dimension to her hair. This would be a great choice for those with dark hair who want to keep their highlights on the warmer spectrum, versus the blonde spectrum.
What skin tone looks best with caramel highlights?
In general, warm skin tones that have a bit of olive or yellow to them look fabulous with caramel highlights. Those with cool skin tones should consider an ash blonde or champagne blonde. One quick way to determine your skin tone is to look at your eyes. Those with warm skin tones often have darker eyes or gold flecks in their eyes, while cool skin tones often have blue or green eyes.
Do you have to bleach your hair to get caramel highlights?
Depending on the shade of your hair and what color of caramel highlights you desire, you may need to bleach the hair you are wanting to highlight before the color is applied. If your hair is lighter and you want darker caramel lowlights, no bleaching is required. If bleaching is required, you may want to go to a professional stylist for best results.
Should I get balayage caramel highlights or foil caramel highlights?