While there are no rules when it comes to hair color, there does seem to be a universally agreed-upon pattern that most people follow: go lighter in summer and darker in winter, which makes sense considering that it mimics a natural seasonal fluctuation. That means no matter if our hair is bright blonde or a rich shade of auburn, the color will inevitably lighten underneath the summer sun, and darken again in the sun's absence. However subtly or dramatically it does so depends on your hair's original color and type.
For some people, this means that effortless highlights or a natural sun-kissed balayage effect will develop over the course of a summer. For most people, though, that aforementioned lightening effect is much more subtle—maybe just a tone or two brighter than the original color. (Yes, we're looking at you, brunettes). If this sounds like you, but you still crave natural-looking dimension and summer-y bronzed highlights, it's time to book a salon appointment, because expert colorists know just how to achieve your desired result.
Keep scrolling to see 17 examples of natural-looking brunette highlights, courtesy of some of LA and NY's most revered colorists (seriously, these people are masters of their craft).
Justin Anderson is an expert colorist at Nine Zero One Salon in Beverly Hills. He's also the co-founder of haircare brand dpHUE...You know, the brand that makes the super popular Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse ($35)? He's responsible for this seamless dark brunette to golden blonde color. We're putting this at the top of our Pinterest boards.
Johnny Ramirez is a celeb colorist and owner of the buzzy Beverly Hills hair studio, Ramirez Tran Salon. His speciality is creating "lived in" and beachy hair color, like this dark brown to ash blonde example. We like how her textured layers show off the highlights.
If you prefer to keep your brown hair more golden-toned, you might like this chestnut shade that's also courtesy of Johnny Ramirez. We like how the main brunette color is complemented by honey-colored highlights at the front.
For dark brunettes who don't want obvious golden highlights, take heed from this subtle caramel color, which especially flatters medium to olive skin tones.
This subtle ombre situation, also from Johnny Ramirez, is the perfect example of cool-toned highlights, for brunettes who "don’t like any kind of warm tones," as Ramirez put it.
Anh Co Tran is an expert celeb colorist and the other half of Ramirez Tran Salon. We like this wavy brunette lob that's dispersed throughout with hazy golden highlights.
For an edgier look, try recreating this melded color from Anh Co Tran. Complete the look with tousled, lived-in texture. Personally, we like Verb's Sea Texture Spray ($16).
Kimemily Pham is an expert colorist and owner of Excellent Hair Salon & Spa. She calls this color "brown beige and ice gold." What starts out as dark brunette at the roots slowly transitions to a cool ash blonde at the ends.
Pham is also responsible for this cool gold color meld, which looks insanely shiny and glossy, especially when paired with big barrel curls. It's making us want to reach for our GHD Curve 1.25 Inch Soft Curl Iron ($199).
Pham also created this auburn color meld, which we love, since dark brunette is usually highlighted with gold tones. Even though this deep red is more typical of Autumn, we think the glossy red highlights work perfectly for summer too.
Alysa Pace is a hairstylist and colorist at Bomane Salon in Beverly Hills. She created this dark brunette color with subtle light brown highlights. The color and cut are perfectly '70s-esque.
As Pace put it best in her Instagram caption, "let there be gold." Ribbons of yellow blonde highlights give this a beachy and California-girl vibe.
We also like this style, which is also from Nikki Lee. Instead of highlights interspersed without, the blonde highlights are concentrated at the ends and the front.
Matt Rez is colorist at MÈCHE Beverly Hills. He specializes in balayage, which is a coloring technique that creates gradual-looking color. We love this super dimensional dark brunette color with varying shades of blonde.
Cherin Choi is a colorist and co-owner of @NovaArtsSalon. Check out her Instagram feed for fascinating before-and-after transformation pictures like this, in which she changed a client's hair color to something lighter, fresher, and glossier.
Kristin Ess is founder of her namesake hair brand, which can be found at Target (we love her Strand Strengthening Reconstructive Moisture Mask $14). She posted this photo to her Instagram account, explaining that this is 9 months post-color. It's the perfect example of how highlights should grow out...subtly and naturally. We're obsessed.