8 Highlight Ideas For Dark Brown Hair

The possibilities are endless, but here are the best ones.

Highlight Ideas for Dark Brown Hair

Getty Images/ InStyle

One of the many benefits of having dark brown hair is its versatility when it comes to highlights. The stunning chocolate base serves as the perfect canvas for pretty much whatever shade you might be eyeing. If you want to give your hair some depth and dimension in the color department, highlights are the way to go. But how to choose the right shade?

Well, TBH you can do whatever you want — there aren’t any hard set rules. But like a kid in a candy store, it can be overwhelming to pick what highlights to go for if you have that many options. (Ah, the paradox of choice). To help narrow it down for you, we turned to two hair colorists for their advice when putting highlights on dark brown hair. Read this before booking that appointment. 

What types of highlights best flatter dark brown hair?

According to hair colorist and Matrix brand ambassador George Papanikolas, brown hair has the benefit of being the broadest and most versatile range. “Dark brown hair can look good with caramel, hazelnut, mocha, golden, or baby blonde highlights,” Papanikolas says. Hair colorist and R+Co Collective Member Richy Kandasamy adds that dark brown hair goes great with highlighting techniques like ombré, balayage, sombré, flamboyage, and so much more. 

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when wanting to highlight dark brown hair. Papanikolas says that if you want your highlights to look soft and the most natural, you’ll want to stay within two shades of the base color at the root area and no more than four shades lighter at the ends to keep the contrast soft and blended. “Highlights should only accent the hair and focus on where the sun naturally hits it,” he adds. “Keep your bright streaks to the places on the head that are most exposed to light.”  

Kanadasamy agrees and says the balance between dark and light is very important. Going two to three levels lighter is a good range. Then he says it depends on your complexion and skin tone when wanting to go for cooler or warmer undertones and adjust accordingly. “When highlighting dark hair, always keep your natural underlying pigment in mind,” he says. “The color tends to go warmer or brassy very easily if not maintained with appropriate hair care.”

No matter what type of highlight you opt for, he says that highlighting dark hair will usually require bleach or a high-lift tint. The darker your base is, the more work it will require to achieve your desired highlight, he says. For that reason, he recommends always seeing a professional colorist to minimize any hair damage. 

What's the best way to keep highlights on dark brown hair looking fresh?

 “To keep your highlights vibrant, maintenance is key,” says Kandasamy. “Maintenance is fairly minimal, as darker highlighted hair really only needs to be retouched at the roots every six to eight weeks with the occasional balayage or highlights top-up added.” 

Papanikolas agrees and says to use a shampoo and conditioner that will neutralize the blonde throughout hair and keep golden highlights fresh. Something like the Matrix Total Results Brass Off Blue Shampoo and Conditioner, he says, will keep brassiness at bay and infuse hair with moisture and shine. Kandasamy says that a mask is key and recommends the R+Co SUNSET BLVD Blonde Toning Masque

So, with all that in mind, see the 12 best highlight ideas for dark brown hair as seen from our favorite celebs. You’re bound to find something that will suit you. 

01 of 08

Caramel Highlights

dark brown hair highlights

Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images

Beyoncé lightened her dark brown hair with subtle face-framing caramel highlights. The lighter shade blended in so seamlessly with the darker strands for something more natural-looking. 

02 of 08

Sombré Highlights

dark brown hair highlights

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Sombré — aka soft ombré — highlights are a great option if you want some dimension without it being overtly noticeable. Olivia Munn’s dark brown hair gradually got lighter and turned into a a warm chestnut shade towards the end to get that sunkissed look. 

03 of 08

Hazlenut Highlights

dark brown hair highlights

Arturo Holmes/MG22/Getty Images

Yes, Kendall Jenner’s bleached brows took center stage of this look. But Jenner’s hazelnut highlights shouldn’t be slept on. The lighter shade of brown sat on top with her darker roots peeking out for some depth.

04 of 08

Balayage Highlights

dark brown hair highlights

Jeff Vespa/WireImage

All over balayage is a great way to get that natural-looking lived-in color. Just look to Rihanna. Here, she wore her balayage with copper highlights cascading evenly throughout her dark brown hair.

05 of 08

Golden Highlights

dark brown hair

Instagram @lucyhale

Lucy Hale wore her golden streaks bright and mixed with her darker roots. Paired with a layered bob and curtain bangs, this look gave total rocker edgy vibes. 

06 of 08

Mocha Highlights

dark brown hair highlights

Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images

Priyanka Chopra’s rich chocolate highlights not only brightened her dark brown hair but also framed her face quite nicely. Opt for this when looking for something to give your brunette shade an elevated look in color.

07 of 08

Auburn Highlights

dark brown highlights

Instagram @joansmalls

Blonde and brunette are an obvious match, but change it up and go for a more red base when it comes to highlights. Joan Smalls wore her long wavy dark hair with brown auburn highlights to warm up her base shade.

08 of 08

Ash Blonde Highlights

dark brown hair highlights

Instagram @chrisappleton1

On the cooler side, Jennifer Lopez opted to pair her dark brown hair with greyish-ash blonde highlights. Placed all over, her highlights bring dimension and depth to her overall look. 

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