10 Exciting Summer Hair Color Ideas for Brunettes

Because blonde highlights aren't the only option.

6 Exciting Summer Hair Color Ideas for Brunettes
Photo: Instagram @ciara / Getty Images/ InStyle

It's a myth that brown hair is boring. In fact, there are a ton of ways brunettes can elevate their hair color, whether it's by adding dimension to a chocolate brown base with caramel sun-kissed ombré highlights, or a bold contrast with chunky '90s-inspired honey blonde streaks.

Another common misconception is that going lighter is the only option for summer.

In reality, the best brown summer hair color is whatever you want it to be. With these two important notes in mind, if you're looking for inspiration for your next hair color ahead of your pre-summer salon appointment, you're in the right place.

We checked in with a handful of top colorists to find out what shades they predict will be the most requested this summer. Ahead, they break down 10 trending brunette hair colors, along with tips on how to maintain them.

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1. Ombré Highlights

Best Summer Hair Colors for Brunettes
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

"[Ombré] is such a great way to color brunette hair because you can tailor it to exactly what each client loves and it's the best way to keep a brunette true to their color without going too blonde," says Tracey Cunningham, a celebrity colorist. "I love doing caramel and honey highlights. It's a trend that will never go away because it is what natural hair looks like and it mimics the sun-kissed hair color you had as a child."

Even though ombré highlights have a natural finish, you're still coloring your hair, so Cunningham recommends using a color-safe shampoo and conditioner to prevent your highlights from fading. Redken's Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo and Conditioner are both sulfate-free and acidic to keep hair balanced while protecting the tone and vibrancy of your color.

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2. Red Tones

Best Summer Hair Colors for Brunettes

Ask any dyed brunette what annoys them most about their hair and they'll probably tell you brassiness and unwanted red tones. However, nothing says summer quite like warmth, so why not add a little bit of heat to your existing brunette base? "Tones of red are perfect for brunettes in the summer because the warm tones will not only match the climate change, but its instant eye-catching vibrancy will fade out beautifully, making the color wearable for an everyday look," says Sharon Spellman, a Matrix brand ambassador. Take Zendaya's face-framing mahogany highlights, for example.

If you're working with red this summer, Spellman recommends incorporating color-safe products into your routine — especially if you heat style and plan on spending time in the sun. Matrix Keep Me Vivid Leave-In nourishes hair, plus offers both heat and UV protection.

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3. Ribbon Lights

Ribbon lights are ideal for brunettes who love balayage but want to switch things up without going too far out of their comfort zone. The highlights can be done with any color, from warm auburn to honey blonde, like Ciara's color.

Celebrity hairstylist Sunnie Brook previously told InStyle that ribboning is a modern way to do '90s chunky highlights. "Over the past year, a lot of people have been taking a step back and taking less risk with their hair — but ribboning is a way to still have a low-maintenance routine but with a new, 'aha' moment," she said. You can add chunky panels to the under layers of the hair or up top.

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4. Mushroom Brown

Best Summer Hair Colors for Brunettes
Peter White/Getty Images

For brunettes who want to stick to cool undertones for summer, mushroom or sandy brown are popular choices. "I always say that hair colorists are superheroes fighting red, orange, and brassy tones," says Cunningham. "Luckily, Redken Shades EQ has so many good hair colors to help get the ash brown hair colors that brunettes want."

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5. Chunky Highlights

The beauty trends of the '90s are best described by one word: iconic. Unsurprisingly, many of the decade's looks are trending again, during a time when we've all been leaning on nostalgia for comfort. And that includes chunky highlights. "Yes, the '90's are back!" confirms Hitomi, a master colorist at Rob Peetoom Williamsburg. "If you're bold enough to try out chunky highlights, it's a fun way to add into your sense of style."

Hitomi says if you're concerned about the highlights looking like barcodes, ask for a few foilyage pieces on the ends to connect with the chunky pieces. Another tip: Consider investing in a blow dryer that doesn't rely on wind power and pressure to try hair. The colorist is a fan of BioProgramming hot tools.

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6. Auburn

Inanna Sarkis at the 2022 Grammy Awards
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Red hair is having a moment, and going auburn is an easy way for brunettes to partake in the color trend without fully committing to it.

The warm, red undertones of actress Inanna Sarkis's auburn hair by colorist Cassondra Kaeding are the perfect seasonal update for medium to light brunettes. To keep the color from getting brassy, use a shampoo and conditioner for color-treated hair, such as Redken's Color Extend Sulfate-Free line.

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7. Sun-Kissed Balayage

Best Summer Hair Colors for Brunettes
Steve Granitz/WireImage

Here, Priyanka Chopra Jonas demonstrates that sun-kissed highlights, like balayage, can be extra subtle. Instead of honey blonde, the actress has added caramel highlights to her ash brown base. "This is a technique where lightener is painted onto the hair to create a natural-blended highlight effect," explains Spellman. "It's extremely low maintenance and will accentuate key features of your face while leaving your hair dimensional and healthy."

For extra glossy deep brunette hair, try the Shine Conditioner from Anomaly, the star's haircare line. The clean formula includes shine-boosting and softening ingredients like jojoba oil and murumuru butter.

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8. The Money Piece Highlight

"Having a chunky, bold piece in the front will brighten up your look without having the whole head highlighted," says Hitomi. "A lot of celebrities have been trying this lately. Also, when you put your hair up with this style, you'll have a lightness that looks like the sun gave you a natural highlight."

When you're adding any bright blonde shade to dark hair, Cunningham says it's important to take care of your hair health as the chemical processing can be damaging. While the colorist uses Olaplex's Standalone treatment with every color service at the salon, she recommends using the brand's No.8 Bond Intense Moisture Mask at home. "It works from the inside out and will not weigh the hair down," says Cunningham. "This highly concentrated formula is scientifically proven to add two times more shine, four times more hydration, and six times more smoothness for all hair types after just one use."

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Red Money Piece Highlight

While Lizzo has experimented with this trend by adding chunky blonde face-framing pieces to her hair, Bella Hadid demonstrates another way to do the money piece highlight. Here, she's added two thin, face-framing, fire-red strands to her signature chocolate brown hair.

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9. Expensive Brunette

Dakota Johnson at the Lost Daughter UK Premiere
Samir Hussein/WireImage

Despite this color's name, you won't go broke maintaining expensive brunette hair. "It's shiny, it's warm, it sparkles in the light, and it's natural," Sarah Klein, a stylist at Nine Zero One, previously told InStyle. "What makes it look expensive is the richness of the tones and the shine."

Dakota Johnson is the poster child for expensive brunette hair with her lived-in deep brunette base and subtle honey blonde ends.

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10. Riviera Brunette

Hailey Bieber at the 2021 Met Gala
Kevin Mazur/MG21/Getty Images For The Met Museum/Vogue

Think of riviera brunette as expensive brunette's first cousin: the rich brunette base with and face-framing blonde ribbon highlights give off the same carefree vibe.

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