Reyad Fritas, celebrity hair colorist and owner of the luxury salon Suite Reyad, once told us that anyone (yes, anyone) could go brunette if they wanted to. "Brunette will make your eyes and skin tone pop more than any other hair color," Fritas said. Indeed, dark brown hair isn't meant to blend into a crowd; it's a way to define your best facial features and complement your skin tone. We have good reason to believe that dark brown hair is universally flattering and looks just as lovely in the sweltering summer months as it does on dark winter days. To prove it to you, we rounded up our favorite celeb-inspired dark brown hair looks and spoke to expert colorists for their tips on going dark brown.
Meet the Expert
- Nicole Tresche is a senior colorist at Rita Hazan in New York City.
- Felicia Dosso is a colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon.
- Diana Mildice is a colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.
Dark Brown Hair
Choosing a Shade: “Choose a dark brown that is right for your skin tone. If you’re olive, it can be more ash. if you have warm undertones, keep it towards a velvety rich/golden brown," says Tresch.
Maintenance Level: Medium to high. "Hair color is more maintenance when you have a lot of gray or you’re changing it drastically from its natural color," Tresch notes.
Goes Great With: All skin tones and eye colors
Similar Shades: Illuminated brunette, ash brown, chocolate brown
Price: $150+ "Every colorist charges differently," according to Tresch. She suggests having a consult before your color appointment to get an official estimate.
Scroll to see which celebs are our dark brown hair ambassadors.
Face-Framing Toasted Brown
Naomi Campbell's signature long hair always looks flawless. Her dark chocolate-brown locks are accented with a toasted-brown shade at the tips and around the face that brightens her complexion.
Mila Kunis' glamorous look includes a dramatic side part with all of her umber tresses swept over to one side. The dark color is the perfect accompaniment to her olive skin tone. To get her silky shine without any pesky frizz or flyaways, apply a pump of John Frieda Frizz Ease Extra Strength Serum ($9).
All-Over Dark and Curly
Zendaya's natural curls are an all-over deep, dark brunette that flatters her skin's neutral undertones. We love the richness of this color as is, however, if you were looking to add some dimension, pintura may be worth your while.
While Laura Harrier's silky locks appear darker at the roots, the tips have a soft, hickory hue that perfectly matches her eyes. Paired with a deep emerald green dress and bright earrings to match, this look feels deeply elegant.
Lengthy Espresso Curls
Espresso-hued hair color gives Joan Smalls's crimped chestnut waves a relaxed, fall time feel. "Espresso is the most neutral shade of brown. It’s not too dark or too light, you’ll often hear it referred to as ‘medium brown’," Dosso tells us. "Brunettes who dislike seeing any red in their hair love this shade," she adds.
Long, Layered Chocolate
Emily Ratajkowski's chocolate-hued locks have an easy, relaxed feel (perhaps that has something to do with this color being low-maintenance—if you're a natural brunette, that is). If you want to obtain this sleek, yet carefree look, finish your hair routine with a spritz of Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Anti-Frizz Serum ($5).
We love how Jasmine Tookes's long, almost pin-straight brunette hair is melded with caramel highlights. If you're into this warm color, just keep in mind that it works best on whose skin has warm and neutral undertones.
Honey and Walnut
Ciara's walnut base paired with honeyed strands is the color pairing of our dreams. "Combining soft blonde tones around the face helps to soften the depth of a rich brown base color," comments Mildice. "The placement of the lighter tone is perfect around the face rather than incorporated throughout all the hair. This placement provides a random pieceyness that becomes an accessory to the sweeping updo. Dropping the lighter pieces out is a prime example of color and style speaking the same language."
"This color combination can be achieved by applying a blend of rich brown semi-permanent tones with an application of various honey blonde pieces balayaged throughout the front to frame the face," Mildice tells us.
Kate Middleton's signature bouncy blowout is almost the star of the show here, but it's actually her glossy chestnut locks that have us in awe. Subtle highlights placed throughout enhance her overall look without altering the overall true brunette hue of her strands.
Rooney Mara proves that even the darkest brunette color won't be too harsh for fair skin. The richness of her nearly black hair serves to balance out the coolness of her complexion.
The maintenance level will depend on your natural color. "If you’re older, or have a lot of gray, avoid making [the color] too dark, as it can be aging and the regrow line will be very obvious every 10 days," says Tresch.
Lupita Nyong'o wears her dark brunette shade in a sculptural updo. This dark shade works well on medium to dark skin tones whereas, with lighter ones, it might feel harsh. If you're styling curly hair between washes, use a reviving product like the Tresemmé Between Washes Curl Revive Styling Foam ($11).
While lobs have certainly been a popular hair trend, Rashida Jones reminds us that the classic bob never goes out of style. Paired with wispy bangs and gold statement earrings, her dark, single process locks look polished yet relaxed. "I love how this appears to go from a light top to darker towards the ends, accentuating the strength of the line of the haircut. Many brunettes wear lighter ends and a deeper root, but I found the opposite placement of light at the top and dark at the ends refreshing," admits Mildice.
"Placing the darkest brown underneath and around the perimeter enhances the precision cut. By applying a slightly lighter shade as we work towards the top, we create a veil of soft shine rather than visible pieces of highlights," explains Mildice. "This is similar to outlining in a coloring book when we were young... a darker outline frames the picture being colored so she's not just a brunette, she's a 'spotlight brunette.'"
Dark Auburn Updo
Park So-dam starred in Parasite, so we've had ample opportunity to admire her dark auburn hair. But before you go running to your colorist, be aware that this color requires some maintenance; specifically, touch-ups every four weeks or so since red tones are prone to fading.
90s-Inspired Deep Brown
Constance Wu's dark-brown locks are twisted up into double buns with complementing face-framing tendrils. The color is fitting and natural since it matches her eyes. If you join in on the space bun craze, keep them intact with L'Oreal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Hairspray ($8).
Chestnut Ponytail With Honey Highlights
Halle Berry's chestnut-hued tresses with warm honey highlights look great with her skin's warm undertones, creating a brightening effect. To style, pull hair up into a perfectly undone high ponytail and you've landed yourself red carpet-worthy second-day hair.
Dark and Dimensional
Meghan Markle's dark brunette hair has subtle, lighter highlights intertwined toward the tips to add a bit of dimension without the two-tone appearance. "This strong brunette looks soft due to the delicate placement of ultra-fine highlights throughout the hair. Many clients prefer this tone-on-tone type of service because it's low maintenance," says Mildice.
"As seen, this isn't to be confused with the blonde highlights we see on many brunettes, These are more subtle shifts of browns within a deeper brown. The highlights are very organic in appearance and do not take away from the depth of this brunette at all." To get this color, "Apply balayage pieces within two levels of the base color creating a dimensional brunette," instructs Mildice.
Dark Walnut Coils
Viola Davis's bouncy ringlets are a rich, dark-walnut shade, which brings a toasty warmth to her complexion, not to mention, her chic black ensemble. To keep your curls hydrated and free of frizz, try Bumble and bumble's Curl Anti-Humidity Gel-Oil ($32).
Spiced Chocolate Lob
Selena Gomez looks effortlessly chic in her long bob that playfully swoops at the tips. Her mostly chocolate-hued locks sport auburn highlights. By placing them prominently around her face, they accentuate her facial features and hair color.
"This color has warm, reddish undertones. It’s very rich. Warm tones reflect light better than cool tones, which creates more shine in the hair," explains Dosso. "In my opinion, warmer tones look most flattering on fair skin tones. They also complement light eyes, like hazel and green."
Slicked-Back Dark Brown
Elizabeth Olsen's dark-brown locks are slicked back and tucked behind her ears, bringing full attention to her bright-red lip. Her smoothed-over roots give her already dramatic color even more intensity.
Chanel Iman's slick, espresso-colored strands and dark roots add edge to her winged-out smoky eye. "Espresso is one of the easiest shades to pull off," says Dosso. "Being that it’s neutral in tone, it works with all skin tones and eye colors."
To keep your brunette looking this fresh and shiny between salon visits, use the Overtone Espresso Brown Healthy Color Duo ($47), a shampoo and conditioner combo that fortifies strands with ingredients like coconut oil and deposits pigment for a color boost.
Jamie Chung intentionally pulls a few strands of her dark auburn-tinged locks gracefully out of her updo. They're slightly lighter in color than her roots, the effect of which opens up her face. While this can complement an oval-shaped face, those with rounder faces might want to go with a darker face-framing color, which can have a slimming effect.
Adriana Lima is serving us old Hollywood glamour with her nearly raven brunette hair parted at the side and pinned back with big, sculpted waves. Not only does the dark color flatter her medium skin tone, but it makes her blue eyes pop.
Honey Brown Ombré
Just call her Ariana Ombré. Her signature high ponytail features dark-brown roots that slowly become honey blonde near the center of her face. Ombré is a great way to lighten up the overall look for natural brunettes without committing to a huge change.
Highlighted Espresso Waves
Medium brown highlights flow through the middle of Olivia Munn's hair, starting near her cheekbones and softening dark dark hair color. It's a low-maintenance color technique that is a more natural-looking, subtle ombré; hence, its name: sombré.
Midnight and Mahogany Bob
Lucy Hale's chin-grazing bob appears to be one shade of midnight brown, but if you look closer, you'll see a second mahogany hue at the ends. This is a chic example of growing out your natural color without being too obvious.
Kerry Washington's blackberry curls are as dark as a brunette gets. This color is edgy and modern paired with her skin tone and her deep berry lip. Make sure to apply some shine spray since dark tresses look best when they are glossy.
Glossy Caramel Streaks
Fine caramel streaks accent Priyanka Chopra Jonas's thick, dark brown hair color. A smoky eye adds further drama to this beauty look and brings some of the focus to the face rather than just the darkness of the hair.
Sandy Brown Braids
Beyoncé is often sporting honey-colored waves, but we love seeing her switch things up, as she did at the premiere of Disney's live-action The Lion King. Her gorgeous dark brown braids showcase the versatility of this hue, which works on loose tresses to protective styles, and everything in between.
Issa Rae's dark curls get a brightening boost from a few face-framing auburn pieces at the crown of her head. It's the perfect example of a multidimensional color that works to define her tight coils.
Long Midnight Mahogany
Maid star Margaret Qualley shows that a solid midnight mahogany shade can be just as riveting to the eye as balayage or ombré. For a dark shade to work with a fair complexion, you almost always go with an off-black color—like this one here—since true black can wash you out.
Honey Brown Pixie
Jada Pinkett Smith's swoon-worthy pixie cut has a few well-placed honeyed streaks along her matted down side part. For maximum staying power, secure your style with Ouai Matte Pomade ($24).
Chic Dimensional Brown
Gemma Chan has a beautiful auburn shade melded throughout her rich, dimensional brown. Styled in loose waves, this look reads as "effortless glamour" for a more formal event.
Cool-Toned Brown Waves
While model Barbara Palvin's pink undertones and blue eyes might make her the obvious choice for going blonde, she opts for this shade of medium brown instead. Its ashy-cool tone is still quite rich and serves to complement her complexion and highlight her eyes.
Glossy Walnut Waves
The walnut strands woven through Iman's lengths give her undulating waves a nearly metallic sheen. To keep dyed tresses healthy and hydrated, invest in a color-safe hair routine.
Deepest Brown Waves
Rihanna's soft nearly black waves serve as a nice contrast to her white lace top and chandelier earrings. "Deepest brown often gets confused with black," Dosso tells us. "True black tends to look dull and harsh, whereas deepest brown is soft and shiny. This color looks best on people who have naturally very dark hair. It will look exotic on someone with darker olive skin, and more dramatic on someone with very fair skin and light eyes."