Let’s start with a flashback: It’s 2015 and the Byrdie office is a sea of ashy blonde hair. Around this time in Los Angeles (and then on Instagram, and then all over America), all anyone wanted was darker roots that faded super subtly into cool-blonde tones (think: beige, ash, faded lavender, and platinum).
I was not immune to the cool blonde mass hysteria. In 2016, my colorist Matt Rez (currently at Mèche Salon in Beverly Hills) gave me the ashy blonde highlights of my dreams, and I haven’t really strayed from that shade since. So, when Rez begged me to let him take my hair from cool blonde to strawberry blonde, my jaw dropped to the floor. Warm blonde?
But celebrity colorists agree: warmer blonde tones are all the rage. "Clients tend to be afraid of warmth, so I like to choose something soft for the transition," says colorist Matthew Nolen. "Redken 9G is my go-to for this."
Meet the Expert
- Matt Rez is a celebrity colorist at Meche Salon in Los Angeles, a Redken ambassador, and the inventor of the midlight technique. His clients include Margot Robbie, Chiara Ferragni, and Lili Reinhart.
- Matthew Nolen is a colorist at The Hair Atelier, founded by David Pierre Pappalardo, in Los Angeles.
Nolen recommends booking a consultation with your stylist before committing to a shade. He adds, "Beautiful color exists, but a good haircut also plays a huge role in enhancing color."
Choosing a Shade: "I truly think any level can work on anyone as long as there is depth and dimension in the color and the tones complement the client’s skin and/or eyes," says Rez.
Maintenance Level: Low to Medium, according to Rez, "depending on how solid or dimensional you go with it."
Goes Great With: "Light to medium warm or neutral skin tones" can seriously rock warm blonde, says Nolen. That said, small tweaks can be made so that just about anyone can pull off this look.
Price: "Toners start around $70, and highlights can range from $200 and up depending on where you go," says Nolen.
Keep scrolling for 20 expert-approved examples of warm blonde, and tips for how to get (and maintain) this look.
“The warmer you go with a blonde the deeper the undertone of the color will be," says Rez. "Once you go warmer than golds, you start going in the red undertones that will read more strawberry at a blonde level. "
Another option is to take your blonde to red. This video from Rez's Instagram shows a dramatic transition from an ashy blonde to a beautiful deep auburn.
"Bronde can have pops of warm blonde and strawberry blondes are in the same family," notes Rez. The '70s are having a major moment in fashion and beauty, and warm hair colors, like this red-tinged bronde on Jessica Burciaga, would fit right in with that mustard and burnt orange palette.
Margot Robbie's golden blonde with darker roots is a stunning example of how to warm things up while retaining a decidedly classic blonde look.
Rez says, “By warming up our hair, a warmer glow of light will frame our faces and bounce onto our skin.” You can certainly see how Gigi Hadid's caramel blonde strands enhance her dewy, vibrant complexion.
Need some guidance on how to choose just the right shade of warm blonde? Rez has an easy trick: "For me, level of color should be based on level of eye color. So the darker the eyes, the darker the hair," he says. "The more pigment/dense the color of the eye, the more depth the hair needs in my opinion."
Warm Blonde Ombré
David Pierre Pappalardo, creative director and cofounder of The Hair Atelier LA, agrees that the cool blonde trend has overstayed its welcome. “Those colors don’t last and require lots of maintenance,” he says. “They often damage the hair and it can’t be a sustainable way of wearing your hair.” On the other hand, a warm blonde ombré like J.Lo's can be quite natural and easy to upkeep.
“If a client wants to go warmer without fully committing to something with long-term maintenance, ask your colorist for a gloss,” says Nolen. Rez adds, “Ask your colorist to gloss your lightest highlight on the warmer side to ease into a warmer look and if you love it, you can always go even warmer on your next visit.” Brittany Snow rocks a carrot-tinged bob.
Rez also suggests requesting that your colorist weave a “midlight” into your highlights for a dimensional look similar to Serena Williams' honey blonde. “A midlight is a warmer connecting color that is perfect for those who want just enough warmth without changing their base or gloss,” he explains. “It is lighter than your base but darker than your highlight and will create a blended, high-contrast result.”
Another example of a gorgeous highlight is Ciara's tawny highlighted waves. Touch-ups are important for maintaining your color. "Between major base color and or highlight appointments, I encourage all my clients to come in for a Redken shade EQ gloss every six to eight weeks to keep their blonde color fresh and the hair structure healthy and strong between lightening services," says Rez.
A warm blonde can be achieved by mixing a brunette base with toned-down blonde highlights, as seen on this subtle bronde style by master colorist Cherin Choi. This is lower maintenance than a single process. "If you’re new to highlights, it can be as low maintenance as every six months," says Nolen.
A gold bob looks fantastic on a medium-deep skin tone like Taraji P. Henson's. Her shadowed root adds depth to her color—and, as a bonus, it allows you to go longer between touch-ups because the grow-out won't be as noticeable.
A glossy bob with a metallic sheen gives off a slightly bronze vibe. The base is dark blonde, with some lighter highlights running throughout to add texture. "I truly think clients who are blonde should not be over-washing their hair, as that alone can really expedite the drying of lightened hair," says Rez.
"Warm" doesn't necessarily mean dark. For a lighter blonde that still has warm undertones, champagne is a great option. Take a page from Emma Roberts' book with her single-toned vintage blonde and shadowed roots.
Going from deep brunette to platinum blonde will likely do a number on your strands. It's easier, more affordable, and healthier to go the warm route. Amandla Stenberg's amber braids are closer to blonde than brown, but still look natural and beautifully complement their complexion.
Selling Sunset's Chrishell Stause rocks a dimensional toasted coconut look, with a darker blonde base and pale highlights near the roots and framing the face.
This shade calls to mind a succulent butterscotch candy. Maintaining hair health is one of the most important factors in keeping your hair color looking fresh longer. "Between treatments, I like Redken Extreme Bleach Recovery Lamellar Water Treatment ($25), which helps repair hair that’s been lightened (like a liquid Band-Aid ) to keep hair from breakage due to heat styling," says Rez.
Reese Witherspoon's signature blonde is the color of a sandy beach just before sunset. It's a simple, classic look that always looks super modern.
Refresh your color between salon trips with a hair mask designed for blondes. Nolen recommends the Christoph Robin Shade Variation Hair Mask in Golden Blonde ($53). "It’s very moisturizing, but not too heavy and helps keep your warm hues intact between services."
This blend of pale blonde and warm copper results in a light strawberry blonde that resembles a faded photograph. While any texture can pull off warm blonde, according to Nolen, it's important to take hair density into account. "Someone with thick [hair] who wants to be a strawberry blonde might end up looking like a terracotta pot because no light can reflect through."
Zendaya's mix of fiery golden tones mimics the sunset, with a deep blonde base and sandy and strawberry-toned highlights. "Warm colors reflect more light, so the healthier the hair looks and feels, the more light will bounce off the cuticle and onto your skin. Who doesn’t want to feel Illuminated by their hair?" says Rez.
Balayage is a great way to infuse some blonde into the hair while keeping the look warm and inviting—and not over-processing. To maintain, Rez says, "oils and shine sprays [like Redken Oil for All Invisible Multi-Benefit Oil, $34] work really well to not only bring moisture back to lightened strands but also help bounce more light off of a warm blonde hair color."