Glamour July 19, 2023



The Coolest Brown Hair Color Ideas for Brunettes


From golden chestnut brown to midnight brunette

When you’re debating a hair color change, your first instinct might be to overlook classic brown hair color ideas in favor of platinum blonde or fire-engine red, but you should really give brunette another chance.

Thanks to whoever decided blondes “have more fun,” which we all know isn’t necessarily true, brown hair often gets the “boring” label. This couldn’t be further from the truth: Brown is one of the most versatile shades out there. Depending on the tone, it can read as classy, edgy, or mysterious—it’s just a matter of finding the look that’s best for you.

Feeling inspired? Here’s everything you need to know about embracing the dark side (of hair).

How to find the best brown hair color for your skin tone

“Choosing the best brunette shade for your skin tone depends on several factors,” Abby Haliti, French balayage and color expert and owner of NYC’s Abby Haliti Color Studio, tells Glamour, adding that much of it comes down to finding your skin’s undertone and knowing whether it’s warm or cool. “Generally, people with warm undertone in their skin look best with warm brunette shades like caramel or chestnut,” Haliti says, noting that warm undertones are usually yellow, peachy, and/or golden. “Those with cool undertones, such as pink or blue, tend to suit cooler brunette shades like ash brown or espresso.”

Nicole Lucero, a colorist at NYC’s Mahogany Grace Salon, concurs, pointing to base shades of caramel and honey brown as ideal for warm undertones. “If you have cool undertones, a base shade of ash brown or dark brown would be the best choice,” she says. “If you have neutral undertones, you can do like a rich chestnut brown or dark cherry brown.”

Haliti also notes that it’s important to consider your eye color and natural hair color when selecting a shade. “For personalized advice, it’s best to consult a professional hairstylist who can assess your skin tone and help you choose the most flattering brunette shade,” she says.

How to maintain brunette hair

According to Lucero, maintaining brown hair color starts with using the right hair care products. “Choose shampoos and conditioners specifically formulated for brown hair to keep the color vibrant and shiny, and limit washing to every other day to prevent your hair from becoming dry,” she says.

Haliti echoes the sentiment and also advises seeking sulfate-free products with ingredients like keratin and color-protecting agents. “Consider using a color-depositing shampoo or conditioner once a week to refresh and enhance your brunette shade,” she says. “These products can help prevent color fading and maintain the depth of your hair color.” Haliti’s go-to? Davines’ Alchemic Tobacco Color Depositing Conditioner.

Haliti and Lucero also recommend using a deep-conditioning hair mask every week as well as protecting hair from heat damage by regularly using a heat protectant and limiting heat styling. Some of Lucero’s favorite products for these tasks include Kevin Murphy Angel Wash Heat Protectant, Oribe Invisible Defense Deep Condition Treatment, Pureology Color Fanatic Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray, and No.9 Bond Protectant from Olaplex.

Now that you’re a color expert, keep scrolling for the best brown hair color ideas for brunettes, according to stylists. Get ready to screenshot.

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Cool Brunette

“Cool brunette hair is a trendy and chic option for those who want to darken their locks without going too dramatic,” says Lucero. “The color usually involves subtle highlights or lowlights to give depth and dimension to the hair.”

Cool brunette hair can also vary from a dark ash brown to a cooler chocolate hue, depending on the individual's skin tone and preference. “This hair color looks fantastic with soft waves or a sleek straight style, making it a versatile and low maintenance,” she adds.

Sun-Kissed Balayage

Prefer your hair on the lighter side with a sophisticated vibe? Haliti recommends creating a gentle light brown base and incorporating golden highlights and balayage throughout. “It’s important to remember that when working with brunettes, opting for more golden or subtle chestnut balayage can result in a sophisticated appearance,” she says. “Going extremely light can sometimes lead to a striped effect.”

Golden Chestnut Brown

Medium-brown hair lovers might want to consider golden chestnut hair. “Chestnut hair is a beautiful shade that ranges from deep reddish brown to light golden brown; it’s a very versatile color that suits many skin tones and can be both warm and cool in tone,” says Lucero, who adds that the look has become increasingly popular in recent years, with celebrities like Camila Morrone, Emma Watson, and Lily Collins sporting the shade. “It is a low-maintenance hair color that requires minimal touch-ups.” That’s always a win.

Midnight Brunette

Wednesday-inspired goth glam has sparked a resurgence in deep brown and black hair like midnight brunette. “This rich black with extra shine, as if to look reflective, is trending after Wednesday,” says Lorena M. Valdes, colorist at Chicago’s Maxine Salon. “For this look, ask your colorist for an allover hair dye from roots to ends. Malibu C treatments are great to remove any buildup that helps dull and greasy hair.” We especially love this shade with a chic short haircut.

Brownie Batter Brunette

Brownie batter brunette hair is rich chocolate-brown hair with about a level four to five at the root, Ashleigh Marie Rancilio, hair colorist at Meché Salon in LA, tells Glamour, while the mid-lengths of this hairstyle remain warm and neutral—brown ombré hair, if you will.

What really sets the look apart is its show-stopping dimension, along with how low-maintenance it is despite looking so luxe, adds Jennifer Korab, celebrity hairstylist and owner of Renaissance Salon & Spa in Hillsborough, New Jersey, who coined the shade’s name. “This hair color trend has soft blonde money piece and a few blonde highlights around the face,” she adds. “It can also have some softer blonde pieces throughout the hair while still maintaining mostly the rich brunette look.” Alternatively, you can add caramel or mocha brown colors throughout for a darker look.

Chocolate Cherry Brunette

If your hair is naturally dark but you want to dabble in red hair color, chocolate cherry is the perfect way to combine the two. “It’s an alternative to auburn but still in the warm, reddish family,” says Jason Lee, hairstylist, colorist, and founder of hair care maker Mela & Kera, defining the shade as adding a red wine undertone throughout brunette, which can also be accomplished through red highlights or balayage.

“For those of us who aren’t ready to take the full plunge into red, chocolate cherry seems to be a great way to update your look and make it modern but still live in the brunette world,” he says.

Caramel Lowlights

For a more quiet-luxury-inspired take on brownie batter brunette, Lucero recommends dyeing your hair a rich chocolate brown with reddish undertones and opting for lowlights instead of blonde highlights.

“This look is achieved by adding lowlights to the hair in shades of caramel or burgundy,” she says. “It is a great way to achieve a natural-looking hair color that is also striking and bold. This style suits individuals with warm-toned.”

Rich Brunette

“Rich brunette is a hair color trend we are seeing for 2023,” says Korab, pointing to Meghan Markle’s hair as a prime example of the shade. “It’s great to add dimension or depth to richen up brunettes. This hair color trend looks great on most skin tones, and will never go out of style. It’s a great color to try if you already have brunette hair and just want to enhance it.”

Mushroom Brown

If you love natural-looking ashy shades, then you’ll adore mushroom brown balayage. “I love the idea of using mushrooms to describe the tone of the hair color,” says Joel Warren, celebrity colorist and founder of the Salon Project. “They have so many different tones of beige and gray that are hard to describe. These tones evolved from the gray and silver trend to a slightly more natural look. The combinations with highlights and lowlights gives a beautiful modern look.”

Candlelit Brunette

One of 2023’s biggest brunette hair trends is candlelit brunette. Korab describes it as a “warm and radiant brown hair color that’s achieved by adding subtle highlights and lowlights to a brown base; the overall effect is meant to mimic the soft, flickering glow of candlelight.

“To achieve this medium-brown ombré color, I use a combination of foiling and balayage highlight techniques to add dimension and depth to the hair,” says Korab. “The tones of the highlights are typically a shade or two lighter than the base color. The shade of a candlelit brunette can vary depending on individual preferences and skin tones. Some people may prefer a more golden, honey-toned look, while others may opt for a deeper, chocolatey tone.” This is an especially ideal option for those with naturally light brown hair, and touch-ups can be infrequent since it looks so chic grown out.

Natural Brown

Love your natural hair? Perfect timing: “More natural color is still in, meaning people are avoiding over-processing,” says Jaclyn Curti, hair colorist and extensions specialist at Eva Scrivo Salon in New York. “Think Olivia Rodrigo’s rich chocolate brown with subtle amber brown highlights toward the bottom.” This look also works well for ashy brown colors.

Expensive Brunette

We also have good news for those who love warm tones: Expensive brunette is very much still in vogue. “Brunettes with a golden undertone are rising in popularity,” says Emily Boulin, hairstylist and Sally Beauty DIY color and styling expert, of the deep brunette shade. “It’s subtle, looks natural, and adds a touch of warmth, creating a soft, flattering dimension that looks like it grew out of one’s head organically.”

Smoky Espresso Brunette

Cool, smoky shades of espresso browns are also having a moment. “This smoky, natural brunette is a great option for brunettes looking to cool down their tone and is reminiscent of the mushroom brunette trend but with a fresh splash of sandy tones,” says Madison Reed master colorist Shvonne Perkins. “Use Madison Reed’s Color Reviving Gloss in Espresso to achieve this color at home, while using the Color Therapy Mask in Caffe for the ultimate refresh between glosses.”

Copper Brunette

Another way to add a red tint to brunette? Copper brunette. “We are seeing a lot of copper brunettes that are high in shine and rich in copper, golden tones,” Korab tells Glamour. “This hair color is soft and seamless. We are seeing a lot of brunettes also add highlights of copper to accentuate and create a warm vibrant look.”

Chunky Highlights 

“A lot of ’90s trends are coming back, and that includes chunky highlights,” says Katie Cartwright, colorist at LA’s Nine Zero One salon. However, gone are the thick stripes of your youth. Instead, the look is now more about a few bold face-framing pieces to really accentuate your features. While technically this style works with any shade, it’s particularly great if you’re looking to add some brightness to your brown.

“This trend works best for someone who likes to be pretty light around their face without having to deal with the maintenance of being light all over,” she says. Ask your stylist for an exaggerated pop piece with some babylights or balayage blonde hair sprinkled in.

Honey Brown 

“This look is fun and head-turning without being too drastic of a change from deeper tones,” says Dark and Lovely celebrity stylist Derick Monroe. If you’re going to go lighter, Monroe stresses the importance of keeping your hair healthy enough to handle color.

“The last thing you want to do is a chemical process on already damaged hair,” he says. “A pro tip is to have a maintenance program to keep your hair healthy, shiny, and moisturized. That could be as simple as a deep-conditioning treatment at home.”

Caramel Brunette

“I love a good brunette that doesn’t read red but has elements of warmth throughout—it gives a really balanced result,” celebrity colorist Matt Rez says of caramel brown hair. If you’re a natural brunette, ask your stylist for midlights one or two levels lighter than your base and neutral-warm caramel highlights.

“The combo of the two will pick up so beautifully without unwanted warmth taking over and reading as a red,” he says. “Done right, warmth on brunettes is unbeatable.”

Chestnut Brown 

“This is perfect for the girl that wants change but doesn’t want to go too far out of her comfort zone,” says Monroe. Keep your hair darker at the roots, and add a little lightness to the ends for some dimension that isn’t overwhelming. 

Long Island Iced Tea 

Beverage-inspired shades are back. This shade is great for brunettes who want some dimension and lightness without stepping into full-on bronde territory. Jeremy Tardo, Clairol’s color partner, used Nice’n Easy in 8A Medium Ash Blonde to lighten her brown hair by two shades, making sure the face frame and ends were a little lighter than the rest of her hair.

If you want to attempt this at home, only do so if you’re a natural brunette, as dyed brown will need a bleaching process to lighten it. If you’re in the salon, ask your stylist for cool-toned highlights concentrated on the face and ends.

Multicolor Braids 

To add even more dimension to your braids, mix in varying shades of brown. 

Wood Brown

This is a pretty option for deeper brunettes who are looking to switch up their color without going much lighter but still want a little something. Think of the way a gorgeous piece of lacquered wooden furniture features swirls of brown and how dimensional it looks.

To mirror this, ask your stylist for a rich, dark base with swirling highlights of pale ash and lighter brown shades. A gloss to finish will give your hair that same lacquered effect.

Cinnamon Brown 

Another way to add some red to your brunette hair color? Cinnamon Brown, which has been popping on Instagram this fall. If you have a brunette base already, the shade is fairly easy to achieve—all it takes are some warmer highlights.

“This warmth added to a brunette color palette can be flattering on a lot of different complexions,” says Tardo. To get in on the trend, he says to ask your colorist for warm brown hues: “They can use a brunette color as the foundation of their formula and add subtle bronzes and reds to the mixture to create this new glow.”

Sandy-Beige Bronde

Toying with the idea of dirty blonde but don’t want to leave your brunette base behind? Try bronde, which is basically if blonde and brown had a baby. “You’ll have a few bright pieces around your face and throughout your hair with a slightly darker neutral base,” says Stephanie Brown, master colorist at NYC’s IGK Salon Soho. “It’s a rooted blonde or a higher ombré that creates a very beachy-looking blonde.

Warm Dimension

If you want to take the warm trend up a notch and make your curls pop, try a variation of brown highlights or brown balayage on roots and ends. To get a similar look at home, Monroe recommends Dark & Lovely Fade Resist in Chestnut Brown at the roots and Honey Blonde on ends. Since both colors are on the warm side, the result looks natural, not fake.

Ginger Brown

If you’re considering dipping a toe into red but don’t want to go full auburn, add some red tones to darker hair. Red is notoriously high-maintenance; done like this, however, it’s easy to keep up. All you have to do is ask for half-head highlights in sun-kissed caramel and golden tones without changing up your base.