Highlights, lowlights, single process, or gloss — a brunette can do it all. 

By Kaitlin Clark
Oct 09, 2020 @ 1:20 pm

While it’s debatable whether or not blondes actually have more fun, it is very much a fact that brunettes have more options — at least when it comes to their hair.

Color-wise, there’s no shade that's more versatile or primed for a refresh than brown. Wisps of sun-drenched highlights for summer? You got it. Shiny cocoa lowlights for New Year's? Why not!

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The only question that remains is which sultry shade best suits your vibe?

To help you out, we asked four top stylists to help us navigate the deep sea of brown hair color ideas, as well as how to put your own spin on it for your next look. And lucky you — the sky’s the limit for a brunette.

Cranberry Brown

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Emma Stone rocks this versatile color with ease.

“I have to say I really love a warm rich-toned brunette, so many brunettes are hesitant of warm tones. As a colorist you constantly hear requests for no red and no brassiness,” says master colorist at NYC’s Marie Robinson Salon, Angela Haight. “But there is a huge difference between faded, dull, oxidized brown hair that’s turned red or orangey — no one wants that — and an intentional rich amber or deep auburn tone. Warmer tones reflect light and give the hair a little sparkle.

Rich Chestnut

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“I’m obsessed with a perfect chestnut brown,” says Nick Stenson, Matrix's artistic director. “It’s the perfect combination of warmth and depth without ever appearing brassy and it looks great on most skin tones.”

Ash Brown

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Not interested in frequent trips to the salon? Opt for a tone that will grow out gracefully, says celebrity colorist and Redken brand ambassador, Matt Rez

“I love ash brown brunettes that have a cool tone base color with cool golden reflect,” he says. “It can flatter almost everyone because there’s a tonal balance of cool and warm that can be personalized to compliment the predominant skin tone and eye color of any client.”

Glossy Leather

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“For darker skin complexions, the most flattering shade of brown is a leather brown. It’s not too cool and not too warm,” says Richy Kandasamy, colorist and R+Co collective member. “Adding in some very seamless sun-kissed highlights will add dimension and freshness to the skin.” 

Rich Espresso

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Think a single all-over shade is a snooze? Think again. Stenson shares he’s been fielding requests for a darker brunette this season. But what does this shade look like, exactly? “Think hovering just above black, but with all the shine and intensity,” he explains. Say no more.

VIDEO: 10 Ways to Do Brown Hair With Blonde Highlights

Cinnamon Spice

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To bring lightness and incorporate a kick of color, but still maintain an overall cool girl, natural vibe, go with a less-intense color, like auburn or amber, to add vibrant dimension and depth. 

Golden Honeycomb

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The tried-and-true brown with sunny highlights is a classic for a reason. “It’s a great way to introduce anyone to a color change. It’s much more low maintenance than an all over color, you can get away with doing them once a year if you don’t bring them all the way up to the root and keep them very tone on tone and subtle,” says Haight. “The beauty of a highlight is once you’ve pre-lightened the hair you have many more options of shades to try out.”

90s Revival

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This year, 90s-inspired bold, streaky colored high and lowlights are making a comeback for a more contrasted look, according to Stenson. Make it modern by blending the contrast color away from the root so you’re far from that streaky, zebra-esque look, and focus on keeping your hair healthy to avoid unwelcome brassiness.

Sandy Brown

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“My favorite shade of brown is a sandy brown because it’s a very chameleon shade,” says Kandasamy. “It works well with both warm and cool skin tones.” 


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Fun, face-framing reds add a splash of pizazz and the mix of warm and bright shades lighten the face. And according to Haight, it’s “a great way to slowly introduce warm tones into the hair.”

For the Color Commitment-Phobe

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“For someone not ready to commit to an all over color, I recommend a high-shine gloss, with just a hint of color or a subtle balayage that gives just a kiss of brightness,” says Stenson. “Both options are low commitment with just the right amount of refresh."