20 Gorgeous Examples of Illuminated Brunette Hair Color

Alessandra Ambrosio

John Shearer / Getty Images

Just like how Korean women are known for "glass skin," and French women are known for low-key makeup that enhances their natural features, Brazilian women are known for long, shiny, and sun-kissed hair. Just think of the multitude of hair salons that offer Brazilian blowouts or Brazilian keratin treatments. Both are meant to make lackluster hair look bouncy and healthy, à la Brazilian supermodels Gisele Bündchen and Alessandra Ambrosio, and a new coloring technique is making these hair goals even more attainable. It just takes finding the right colorist and properly understanding the technique.

While proper haircare and styling methods are key to achieving long and luscious Brazilian-inspired hair, there's a popular color technique from the South American country that might help. "Illuminated brunette" is a tropical take on traditional brunette hair. In fact, it mimics the natural highlights that might result from a sunny São Paulo beach vacation. While we wish we could spend endless hours beachside to naturally gain sun-kissed highlights throughout our brunette locks, this technique brings a shimmery effect to your strands, even if you traditionally spend your days indoors at a desk.

Illuminated Brunette

Choosing a Shade: Refer to some examples that mirror the length and brunette shade that you desire.

Maintenance Level: Low. Since the highlights are being painted on your natural base color, your hair will grow out into subtle ombré perfection.

Goes Great With: Medium-tan complexions, warm undertones, and brown or hazel eyes.

Similar Shades: Brown balayage, tiger's eye, honey brown

Price: The cost will vary depending on the salon and how many highlights are required to get the look you want.

Before you dash off to your colorist, scroll through to learn more about Brazil's buzziest hair color trend.

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Versatile Highlights

Woman with subtle illuminated brunette highlights and curled hair


The illuminated brunette technique's versatility is part of what makes it such a great option for those with naturally dark hair. In this case, the highlights become more or less visible depending on how she moves her head.

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Illuminated Brunette

Woman with illuminated brunette hair


Morenas iluminadas translates to "lightened brunettes" in English, and it's meant to balance softly brightening up your hair without escaping your original hair color entirely. The technique involves painting subtle, golden highlights on a naturally dark base in order to achieve a subtle and sun-kissed color transition.

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Tons of Highlights

Woman with dramatic illuminated brunette highlights


Apparently, this golden brunette look has swept the entire nation of Brazil, and it's not difficult to understand why. If Instagram is any indication (which, when it comes to hair trends, it almost always is), the same holds true for other salons.

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Balayage Brunette

Woman with illuminated brunette balayage hair


It seems as if another name for this color could simply be "brunette balayage" since it involves highlighting the hair with hand-painted strokes of color that rise from the ends up through the mid-lengths of the hair. Even though balayage is most commonly associated with blonde hair transformations, this trend is proof that it suits brunettes just as well.

Balayage is the perfect technique to master this color trend, as the painting effect makes the brunette highlights more subtle. Rather than specific highlights themselves, your entire mane looks elevated.

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Sun-kissed Waves

The ends of this bronde hairstyle are tinged with lighter highlights for a sun-kissed appearance.

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Rich Espresso

Woman with espresso roots and illuminated brunette hair


The illuminated brunette hair color trend incorporates a wide range of shades. Whether you have naturally bright chestnut hair or rich espresso-colored locks, it can be customized to suit your exact shade of brunette.

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Chocolate Brown

This technique can be used in a lower-contrast manner to add light and bounce to a head of brunette locks. We love how full and shiny this head of hair is.

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Lived-In Illuminated Brunette

Woman with natural-looking illuminated brunette hair


The best part about illuminated brunette is that it's probably one of the most—if not the most—low-maintenance hair colors you could possibly spring for. The color typically lasts upwards of six months without any salon upkeep appointments necessary. Booking semi-regular color appointments can be timely and costly, so if you're looking for an upgrade that doesn't require constant updates, this may be the ideal style for you.

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Tinge of Auburn

Adding a touch of auburn can be another way to brighten up very dark hair without going the high-contrast route with blonde streaks.

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Short Illuminated Brunette

Woman with shoulder-length illuminated brunette hair


While this technique looks absolutely stunning on a long, flowing mane, it looks equally so on a shorter cut. This lob has been expertly painted with soft caramel hues, which livens up wavy, raven locks.

Because you don't need to visit the salon consistently for touch-ups, this is the perfect color technique if you enjoy getting a dramatic cut, letting it grow out, and repeating.

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Curly Illuminated Brunette

Woman with curly illuminated brunette hair


This technique truly looks jaw-dropping on every hair type, including curly. Colorist Jotha Cunha takes credit for this glowing mane, as he's painted this client's voluminous corkscrew curls with a shimmering bronzed hue, almost identical to her deep amber eyes. This technique will look just as good as it grows out, and we love that it has that irresistible glowing effect.

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Subtle Highlights

Woman with illuminated brunette hair with subtle highlights


Blink and you might miss the caramel highlights gently twining through the mid-lengths and ends of these stunning strands.

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Beachy Highlights

Illuminated brunette beach waves viewed from back


For more illuminated brunette hair inspiration, check out #morenailuminada on Instagram, which has over 1.3 million posts. You have been warned: this may result in several hours of scrolling and screenshots, concluding in a spontaneous salon appointment. After all, who doesn't want their hair to look like they just returned from a sun-filled vacation to São Paulo? When you're sporting the morena iluminada look, even a dark, dry winter day can't spoil your warm, beachy vibes—that's simply a part of its undeniable magic.

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Caramel Brunette

We love this bouncy caramel take on illuminated brunette, another great example of how this hair color trend can work for all different lengths and textures.

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Blonde Ombré

The concentration of blonde at the ends gives this miles-long hairstyle a beach-friendly ombré effect.

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Coffee Brunette

This beautiful, rich espresso brunette has lighter streaks for a coffee bean-inspired shade.

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Loads of Shine

Shiny illuminated brunette hair viewed from back


Illuminated brunette can help deliver loads of shine to your strands and prevent them from looking flat. Keep your strands at maximum glow levels with a shine serum.

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Mahogany Brunette

Woman with shoulder-length mahogany illuminated brunette strands


Dark mahogany brown overlays a raven-colored base for a less severe look than straight black.

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Blondish Illuminated Brunette

Highlights of many kinds are a great way for natural brunettes to add some blonde to their hair without super harsh processing or intense maintenance required.

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Brunette Braids

illuminated brunette braids


We're not sure what we love more, these beautifully styled micro-braids or the golden highlights of illuminated brunette peeking through to see the sun.

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