There's no doubt that dark brown hair is gorgeous, but if you're looking to add a bit of dimension to your strands or simply want to switch up your hair color, you may be wondering what your options are when it comes to highlights for dark brown hair. Luckily, there is no shortage of stunning looks, from brown ombré hair to balayage brown hair. So, whether you want to spice up your look with shades of auburn or blonde, we've consulted the experts to give you examples of highlight ideas for dark brunettes.
Ahead, find 50 ideas for highlights on dark brown hair for a mane makeover.
Choosing a Shade: When choosing a highlight shade for dark brown hair, it's best to stay within one to two shades of your base color. That said, your stylist can work with you to achieve lighter and brighter highlights overtime.
Maintenance Level: The maintenance level of highlights on dark brown hair can vary based on the highlights you decide to get. If you ask your colorist for the balayage technique, you'll find the maintenance is low. If you want all-over highlights, the maintenance will be high. Keep in mind that the lighter you go, the more maintenance your hair will require.
Goes Great With: Neutral shades like bronze, copper, and blonde are great for emphasizing lighter strands.
Similar Shades: Dirty brunette and bronde.
Price: Depending on the type of highlights you plan to get and the salon you go to, you can expect it to cost anywhere from $75 to $350.
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)? Anderson is responsible for this seamless dark brunette to golden blonde color. We're putting this at the top of our Pinterest boards.
To add a bit of warmth and lightness to a dark chocolate brown base, Stephanie Brown, NYC-based hair colorist of IGK Salons recommends adding in caramel pops of color for a look that's subtle, pretty, and summery. "It's a great way to add dimension without going blonde," she says.
Ask your hairdresser to carefully place balayage caramel pieces throughout to frame the face.
Dark Blonde Balayage
If you're a fan of dark brown hair with highlights but aren't quite prepared for a stark contrast in shades, this dark blonde balayage look may be just what you need. And since the color won't go all the way up to your roots, you won't have to worry about a harsh line of demarcation as your hair grows.
Dark Auburn Balayage
Envious of your redhead friends? To get add a touch of their gorgeous natural color to your own mane, look no further than dark auburn balayage. "Brunettes usually hate having red in their hair, but for the few not scared this is a really pretty and subtle way to try it, and it’ll grow out very nicely," Brown explains.
To stay in the brunette family but still add some subtle dimension to your mane, consider giving chocolate balayage a try. This rich shade of brown will add instant warmth to your strands while the balayage technique will have your friends guessing if your hair is naturally so perfectly two-toned.
For those who want an all-over lighter mane, ask your colorist for an off the root or rooted highlight. "This is a subtle highlight to give you an overall lighter look with a small root of your natural dark brown color," Brown explains. "You can either have a highlight very close to the root or highlight that goes to the root then deepen the root with a gloss."
If you'd like to stick with low maintenance highlights for dark brown hair, face-framing strands are a great option. As you can probably guess, this involves lightening the hair that frames your face, which will instantly brighten your complexion without the upkeep that comes with an all-over highlight.
Beige Gold Highlights
On the note of subtle highlights, you don't have to stick to notes of brunette for a seamless look. Beige gold highlights, especially when applied using the balayage technique like here, can let you walk the fine line between brown and blonde.
"A lot of brunettes say they want ashy highlights, but I think they are just scared of brassy highlights," Brown says. "I find that most of my clients that want ashy actually want this tone." To create the look, she explains to lift the highlights to a yellow to pale yellow and tone with a neutral gloss.
If you liked the chocolate balayage we talked about earlier but would prefer root-to-tip dimension, look no further than chocolate foil highlights. This option will look particularly stunning on those with a warm-toned dark brown base, as well as those who have olive skin tones.
Chestnut Money Piece
Want your lights for dark brown hair to be front and center? We're just slightly obsessed with this chestnut money piece. This is another low maintenance highlights option since your brightened strands will be focused on your fringe while the rest of your hair is left natural and dark.
This subtle ombré situation from Johnny Ramirez, celeb colorist and owner of the buzz-worthy Beverly Hills hair studio, Ramirez Tran Salon, 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 celebrity colorist and the other half of Ramirez Tran Salon. We like this wavy brunette lob that's dispersed throughout with hazy golden highlights.
Golden Copper Balayage
Subtle pops of golden copper balayage looks great on very dark brown hair, according to Brown. Just ask your colorist to keep your highlights to a minimum, rather than a full head. "You don’t want to do too many because you don’t want it to look red or brassy," Brown explains. "When it’s just a few subtle pieces it’s very pretty."
Golden Ombré Balayage
For an edgier look, try recreating this melded color, which looks especially stunning on textured hair. Complete the look with natural, curly texture. Personally, we like SEEN's Curly Creme ($27).
Light Blonde Balayage Ombré
To test the waters if blondes have more fun, consider this bold light blonde balayage ombré look. "You need to be careful of this because you want it to look like beach hair," Brown says. Have your colorist frame the face with pale blonde pieces, then carefully place pale blonde all over for piecey dimension. "Make sure there is a smooth transition from dark to light!"
Rooted Blonde Highlights
If you want to give blonde hair a try, rooted blonde highlights are the way to go. "I like this look because it gives dark brunettes a way to be blonde without the crazy maintenance if it was a highlight to the root," Brown says. "It will still be some maintenance but it grows out nicely where you don’t have to come back as soon," she adds.
Chunky looks are in! Yup, as much as we love a seamlessly blended mane, there's something to be said about popping chunks of dimension. "This is balayage or ombréd pieces of a warm brown to richen up brunettes," Brown explains. "It’s really beautiful. Just take large sections and balayage with color, like three levels lighter with 30 volume."
Golden Ribbon Highlights
As Pace put it best in her Instagram caption, "let there be gold." Ribbons of yellow blonde highlights give this style a beach-y and California-girl vibe.
Rooted Ice Blonde
Ready to go blonde? If you don't want to shy away from a lighter mane, make sure to go for a rooted look. This rooted ice blonde color is sure to create some serious, envy-worthy contrast.
If you want a bright blonde look that's low maintenance, ask your colorist for a shadow root.
Golden Copper Face-Frame
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 nine months post-color. It's the perfect example of how highlights should grow out...subtly and naturally. We're obsessed.
Dirty blonde, step aside—your brunette counterpart is coming through. Dirty brunette is an ashy balayage ombré. "Be careful when doing ashy colors, there is a fine line between ashy and gray," Brown warns. "The lighter you go the more careful you have to be, but it’s a really pretty beach vibe."