While there's an entire wheel of hair color options—dark blonde, strawberry blonde, dark brown, red, and even rose gold—there's something classic, rich, and endlessly beautiful about a medium-brown. It's actually the most common hair color and includes a blend of warm, and cool tones.
There are variations of medium brown hair, of, course; whether it be 3D-color with highlights and dimension or a single tone, the options are kind of endless and no two colors look exactly the same. We turned to the experts get the inside scoop on this oft-overlooked staple, from the best ways to mix it up, to why it's so universally flattering on every skin tone—and they really delivered.
To go medium brown, you first have to get a single process all-over color, Carolina Ortega at Rita Hazan Salon says. Specific tones all depend on what you want—whether you're looking to cover gray or just want to change your natural color. If you have naturally lighter hair and want to go medium brown, Jasmine Sea of SALT Hair mentions it's really important to add warmth so the color doesn't end up looking flat or dull.
Another important factor to consider is hair texture. It doesn't change or enhance your desired color in any way, but Ortega says it does affect the speed of application and the amount of time color needs to stay on the scalp.
Also, consider how coarse your hair is, especially if you're going from a darker to a lighter color, as lightening can be more challenging, and takes longer the coarser hair is. Fine hair has fewer cuticle layers, Sea says, which can make lightening easier and less time-consuming.
It’s also helpful when you have visuals if you're not sure where to start. Ortega suggests booking a consultation first. This allows you more time with your colorist to speak one on one. Bring reference pictures, she says, as you always want to aim for images that have a similar skin tone to yours.
Below you'll find all the celebrity inspiration and stylist creations in every variation of medium-brown. Keep scrolling to see them all— and a little tip? Bookmark your favorites for your next salon appointment.
Medium Brown Hair
Choosing a Shade: Ortega says that yellow, tawny, or peach skin tones (warm) look best with golden highlights, and can also look great with red, auburn, dark brown or reddish-golden highlights. While pink or blue (cool) undertones look best with more neutral to ash tones.
Maintenance Level: It's low maintenance, but depends on your natural base color. Go in for a refresh every 12 weeks, or 2-3 months But, if you have grey roots or naturally light hair, you'll have to get touchups every 4-6 weeks.
Here, Joan Smalls shows off brunette waves and the bedhead of our dreams.
Medium brown is a very common neutral color that easily enhances most undertones, Ortega says. Like Katherine Langford's, it really works especially when it's mixed specifically to you.
Maggie Q hits all the right tones here. Her hair is vibrant and shiny with a hint of red. She's going straight to the top of our mood boards.
Chrissy Teigen's gorgeous hair is something we've come to rely on—always soft and a warm mix of dark blondes and brunette.
Unless properly toned and highlighted with a second color, like caramel, toffee or milk chocolate, like with Chrissy's expertly painted hair, Ortega says that medium brown hair can look dull on olive undertones.
A Lighter Brown
Sea says it depends on how many levels you are lightning and what tone you want to achieve, but if going lighter, like with Ciara's heavenly toffee hue, it's best to stick to a professional.
Issa Rae has skin you can see glowing from across the room and huge, bright eyes. However, the girl has incredible hair color too. Her wonderful curls have got it all.
Mandy Moore's hair journey has brought her from blonde to bronde to raven and now to medium brown. The one constant? It always looks damn good.
Often with this color, the fear is that it'll fall flat. Ella Purnell, for example, manages to find a lovely balance. The medium tones compliment her, giving her sharp blended brown color a nice and sleek dimension that shines.
Light Brown Curls
There are a lot of reasons to admire Elaine Welteroth and her incredible, highlighted curls are just another thing to add to the list. Sea is a huge fan of multi-dimensional color like this, noting it gives more life and personality to the end result.
Maude Apatow has perfected the medium brown highlighted look. Her tousled waves and slight face-framing highlights are a winner in our book.
Alexa Chung's hair has been one of the most lusted after since shoulder-length cuts and undone waves became a thing. Her highlights are subtle-looking and natural but add an enviable to punch to each carefully dyed strand.
You don't have to stick to just one color. Serena Williams shows off the perfect mix of dark and light tones. Plus, her caramel-colored ends are so pretty.
Jourdan Dunn is another woman who isn't afraid to switch it up from time to time. Here she debuts a long, flowing 'do with medium-brown tones.
Each time we come across an image of Kaia Gerber, it's no surprise that there's supermodel in her blood. Her hair, healthy, thick, and perfectly coiffed, is a rich shade of brown we can certainly get behind.
Balayage and Bangs
Lavern Cox shows us just how well this color works on her, opting for a natural, lighter balayage look. Plus, the bangs and a high, artful bun are super fun.
Ashley Graham does a brunette middle part like no one else on the planet—shiny and highlighted to perfection.
Perfectly Toned Waves
From partial highlights to a swoopy chop, to those bangs in The Devil Wears Prada, Hathaway has tried out a variety of looks and honestly, they all work. We're partial to an effortless middle part and some toned, glossy waves.
Cleo Wade decorates her gorgeous curls with lighter highlights, creating a dimensional blend of browns and dirty blonde.
Alyssa Coscarelli is a freelance fashion writer with an expansive wardrobe to boot, but we're also loving her easy shag style and impeccable color. It's effortless and easy but never boring. Plus, short hair is easier to style than you'd think.
Lily Aldridge has been our inspiration for brown hair since day one. Here she shows off her brunette strands with just a bit of warmth painted on the ends.
Zendaya is all the medium brown hair inspiration you need to make the switch.
Jamie Chung has gone from dark to light and back again—though we're partial to this warm, medium-brown balayage mix.
Everyone naturally has more than one color in their hair so adding dimension and contrast like Alessandra Ambrosio's brunette look creates a sun-kissed, effortless appearance.
The super glam model usually keeps her hair a deeper brunette shade, but we're loving this more medium brown style on her. The glossy all-over chestnut color and sleek retro hairstyle look amazing together.