If there were a hair color equivalent of a chic, soft, one-size-fits-all cotton tee, it would be rich, chocolate brunette. The deep, chocolatey tone is flattering on absolutely everyone—and we mean everyone. It's a great hue for both cool and warm skin tones alike, and gives every hair type and texture a luxe, rich girl-esque vibe with tons of dimension. "What makes a rich dark chocolate brunette beautiful is the multiple tones which help reflect light," says George Papanikolas, celebrity hair colorist and Matrix Brand Ambassador. "These dark, tone-on-tone nuances help to reflect light and give the hair natural movement."
While deep brunette is a popular color choice every fall, it's having a very definite moment this year, with celebrities, influencers, and even the eternally-blonde friends on our feed shifting over to the dark side.
Read on to find out what the rich brunette trend entails, how to choose a hue that's right for you, and how to maintain your shade.
The rich brunette trend is a deep, chocolatey take on a brown hair tone, mixing multiple deep tones to create shine and dimension—think Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions. "When we actually see chocolate, it’s got depth, shine, richness and some warmth to it," says Gregga Prothero, Los Angeles-based hairstylist and owner of the Gregga LA salon. "This is what a chocolate color brunette is all about." Depending on your undertones, your hairstylist may choose to incorporate a blend of red-based brunette hues to flatter a warm skin tone, or chestnut-based browns to pair against a cool skin tone.
Although any base color can work a rich brunette hue, those who have naturally dark hair will have an easier time in the salon achieving the color. For those who have dark hair with highlights, the process can be as simple as having your hairstylist tone the lighter pieces to deeper shades of coffee or cinnamon. "If your natural tone is anything from a medium to dark brown, you will have the least amount of maintenance," says Prothero. "There is less maintenance between the new color and the root growth, so maintenance can be anywhere between six to eight weeks, whereas those with naturally light hair have a maintenance time of every two to four weeks."
Generally speaking, Papanikolas advises veering no more than two shades of your natural hair color when choosing a rich brunette tone. "Any darker can look harsh, and any lighter may appear brassy," Papanikolas says. "Especially if you have a blonde base, going any more than two shades darker will look like you have light roots growing out very quickly."
Another thing to consider? Whether or not your hair was previously bleached. "If your hair has been previously bleached or lightened, this can cause the brunette to fade out much faster, and you may need a gloss refresh sooner than someone who didn't bleach their hair," Prothero says. "As with any salon service, how fast a color fades depends on how often you wash your hair, how often you're using a salon-trusted shampoo and conditioner safe for color-treated hair, and how often you use heat styling tools."
Previously-lightened hair may have to go through several sessions to get that deep chocolate shade, so make sure you're in it for the long haul if you're itching to take your honey blonde highlights to a rich mocha. Aside from the time you'll spend in the salon achieving your hue, the intensity of the color could make re-lightening your strands more difficult.
"The transition from lighter hair to darker is very easy, but going from artificially dark hair to lighter is a much more labor intensive and expensive correction process," says Papanikolas. "Unwanted brassy and red tones are the biggest issues for brunettes, especially when they do end up wanting to go lighter." Counteract the brassy hints with a green-based shampoo—Papanikolas recommends the Matrix Total Results Dark Envy Green Toning Shampoo ($20).
Whether you're working with lightened hair or your natural tone, you can stretch out the hue's lifespan by investing in color-safe shampoos and conditioners to use every time you lather up, and incorporating a pigment-depositing treatment or at-home gloss into your routine once a week. We love the Good Dye Young DyePosit in Chocolate ($19), which contains bond rebuilding technology that can help to strengthen and nourish hair.
The Bottom Line
For those who already have dark hair, achieving the rich brunette trend luckily isn't a tall order—just keep the color-protecting formulas at the ready to stretch the lifespan of the intensity between salon appointments. Going from a pale blonde to deep brunette, however, is a lot more involved, but if it's your ultimate end goal, could be completely worth it if you're willing to put in the time to maintain the color and follow the aftercare routine.
"Anytime when you’re going darker in hair color, ask yourself if you like to change color often and if you’re going to be committed to this color," says Prothero. "If you’re someone who gets bored of dark hair quickly or feel like you'll miss your blonde hair, maybe ask for lowlights instead of all-over color."
Though, if you feel ready to take the plunge, you'll find that the multi-dimensional tones in your rich brunette can make your hair look dynamic and shiny with pretty minimal effort—not to mention, catch that warm autumn light so nicely.