Glamour June 14, 2021



The Best Summer Hair Colors to Try Right Now

Coconut candy, anyone?

As things slowly start to return to normal, the search for the best summer hair colors is on. After a year of box dye and overgrown roots, we can finally safely return to the hands of our hairdressers for a much-needed refresh. Over the past several months the overarching trend seemed to be low-maintenance shades with minimal salon upkeep—but much like summer makeup this year, the season’s coolest trend is whatever makes you feel like the best version of yourself. 

“People are ready to get out and show off and live their best lives, and I’m seeing that with color,” says Tracey Cunningham, a celebrity colorist and the author of True Color. “Some are going super blonde, and others are sticking to a beautiful balayage or ombré that makes them look and feel their best.” She says a big trend in her salon has been clients going lighter and brighter. (It is summer, after all.) “Highlights are back in. Every time I’m in the salon, I see hair getting blonder, blonder, blonder—whether their natural tone is a brunette, redhead, or darker blonde.”

No matter what your vibe is, we rounded up the coolest summer hair colors to try, from the bold Technicolor to the low-key natural and everything in between. We even threw in a few DIY options, in case you’re still committed to social distancing. (Just be sure to read our guide on how to color your hair at home first.) Read on for 33 hair colors to try this summer, and get ready to book an appointment. (Aren’t you so glad we can say that again?)

1. Soft Ombré

If you want to add a little bit of dimension without making a major change, Cunningham says you can’t go wrong with a classic ombré. “It’s a great way to color brunette hair, because you can tailor it to exactly what each client loves,” she says. “It’s the best way to keep a brunette true to their hair color without going blonde.” She recommends carefully choosing a colorist who can show you examples of their ombré work. “Then pick a photo you love so you and your colorist are both on the same page.”

2. Melted Pecan 

Another fun way to brighten up darker blondes or brunettes is with some subtle swirls of highlights. “It’s tastefully natural, with minimal highlights, creating a perfect summer glow,” says Karissa Schaudt, a colorist at Chicago’s Maxine Salon. She says this shade is ideal for low-maintenance clients, since there’s no obvious grow-out. “Ask for a two-dimensional color,” says Schaudt. “Keep the base color close to your natural, while adding the babylights through the hairline, mids, and ends.”

3. Soft Blonde

“Soft Blonde, like I did for Anya Taylor-Joy, is great for summer and works so well for people with light skin tones,” says Cunningham. “It’s so blond that it’s almost platinum, but still feels very warm and looks amazingly healthy.” To get the shade, she says to ask for a warm platinum blonde, and be sure to specify that you don’t want to look washed out. She also recommends using a bond-building treatment mask like Olaplex Bond Intense Moisture Mask at least once a week to keep your hair healthy and strong after lightening it.

4. Pintura Highlights 

If you have tighter curls, it can be scary to go lighter, but Jamila Powell, owner of Miami's curl-centric Maggie Rose salon says not to worry. “These highlights take your hair up a notch, and since they don’t require foils, cause minimal damage,” she says. “This style works best for those with curls who want a sun-kissed look for the summer months. Ask your stylist to hand-paint the curls throughout your hair in order to achieve this look.”

5. Glowy Apricot 

Looking to refresh your red after quarantine? Try a bright, sunny shade for summery vibes. “This color works great on faded red hair that needs a breath of new life in it,” says celebrity colorist Jeremy Tardo. For a similar shade, he suggests asking your stylist for a light auburn hue with peachy tones.

6. Iced Espresso 

Going lighter isn’t the only way to embrace the warmer months. “Brunette color appears more vibrant when a little darker than your usual ‘comfort zone,’” says Rex Jimieson, colorist at Maxine Salon. To get Dua Lipa’s rich espresso shade, he says, ask for a single-process deep brown color, with a cool ash tone. “While this color may appear black in photos, in real life you will lose the under-glow if you choose level an actual black dye.”

7. Pearly Gold Balayage

“This look is effortless and screams summer,” says Jimieson. He says the golden blonde shade is perfect for people with natural medium or light hair who want something bright and low-maintenance. “Ask for classic balayage highlights, slightly off the root, minimal toning,” says Jimieson.

8. Dusk Pink 

DIY pink had a major moment in quarantine. This summer, Tardo recommends trying a more unique take on the shade. “I love a nuanced take on more playful hair colors,” he says. “This blush tone feels like pink with an antique finish. The dusk-pink look is great for the person who wants to try a fun hair trend that isn’t screaming.” He says that if you’re already blonde, you can try the shade with a low-commitment toner that will wash out in a few weeks. “Bring photos to the salon to show the nuances you like,” he says. “Some hues are more rose, others are more coral. Ask for a soft, muted finish to the pink so that it doesn’t look bubblegum.”

9. Classic Highlights 

Sometimes it’s best to stick with what you know, and you can never go wrong with highlights for summer. Cunningham loves the trend, and just did this full head on Khloé Kardashian. “We were only doing lowlights and glosses during the pandemic, so it was really fun to lighten her up a bit. Ask your colorist for at a full head of highlights, or at least a half, to make them really noticeable,” she says. “Highlights look amazing on straight hair, curly hair, and textured hair. They are really versatile.”

10. Modern Brunette 

Just a touch of brightness can change your whole look, without having to bleach all over. “For a brunette, this has minimal maintenance with very manageable change,” says Schaudt. “Ask for face-framing balayage, keep it very simple, and finish with a gloss. This will keep everything super shiny and fresh.”

11. Babylights 

Chunky highlights had a major moment last summer, but according to Cunningham, this year is all about the babylight. “Just as with some of other ’90s trends coming back, I’m seeing more people ask for thin, ‘baby-like’ highlights, almost like they were pulled through a cap the way they were done years ago,” she says. It’s a super-versatile look that works with pretty much any color out there, from baby blonde to deep chocolate. “Tell your colorist you want very thin, cap-like highlights,” she says. As always, bring a few example pictures to be sure you’re on the same page. 

12. Sienna Pieces 

 “Strategic placement of lighter brown bits in dark hair can give you a whole new vibe this summer,” says Tardo. “This look works beautifully on brunettes who enjoy face-framing highlights. The pieces can be done smaller or larger depending on style preference.” He says to ask your colorist for a strong panel of lighter brown right around your face. Be sure to specify whether you want them warm or cool toned, as your colorist can use a toner to make sure the color doesn’t fade too brassy.  

13. Tuscan Sunned 

If you have curls, consider going a little brighter this summer to make your texture really pop. Schaudt loves this unique golden hue and says to ask for a full balayage. “Keep the pieces on the chunky side so they don’t get lost in the curls.”

14. Bold Gold 

“This look is edgy and bold, perfect for a seasonal change,” says Schaudt, who recommends pairing bright blonde with a shorter cut. She says to ask for a bleach and tone, but to specify to keep the tone golden. “This isn’t ashy blonde for a reason; it’s supposed to be summery and warm.” 

15. Coconut Candy 

Last year’s face-framing highlights aren’t going anywhere; they are just getting a little softer. There’s still tons of brightness around the face, but it’s not quite as stark a contrast. Schaudt says to ask your colorist to foil your hairline for that blonde intensity around your face, and have them balayage the rest, keeping a little bit of contrast. 

16. Lived-In Blonde

If you’ve adapted a lower-maintenance attitude during the pandemic, this shade is for you. “There is something so beautiful and casual about a lived-in blonde,” says Mark DeBolt, celebrity colorist and co-owner of New York’s Mark Ryan Salon. “The shadow at the root makes the color feel natural and childlike. The golden plays of light throughout the hair adds a skin-brightening glow with beachy pops of brightness throughout the ends.” He says to plan to head to the salon every three months or so for refreshes.

17. Maple Crush 

If you don’t want to bleach, going darker for summer can be just as impactful, especially if you want to shake it up. Schaudt likes this pretty maple shade, with its rich and luxurious tone. Since it is a one-dimensional color, she suggests asking for demi-or semi-permeant dye. “It will give the hair a very translucent shine.”

18. Honey Blonde

“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.”

19. Old Hollywood Blonde

The newest take on bright blonde is a little warmer than the true platinum that’s been dominating for the past few years. “Love this look—it’s so raw and youthful,” says DeBolt. “The hair has more of a champagne tone, which feels very Old Hollywood. This look works best on finer hair types and collarbone-skimming lengths and shorter.” He recommends bringing photos of the exact shade you want and being very clear that you don’t want any gray or silver tones. “This look is all about balanced warmth—think butter or champagne.”

20. High-Definition Warmth

If you have naturally dark hair, Jimieson says a shade like this is a perfect choice for the summer because the warm tones won’t fade in the sun. “Shift your base a shade or two lighter with bright buttery gold highlights,” he says. “The contrast and dimension keep this look warm without being brassy.”

21. Honey Chestnut 

Another great option for darker hair, Jimieson says, this shade “has dimension without over-lightening or doing the most.” He particularly recommends it for people with virgin hair who want to keep it healthy, but add just a little brightness. “If your hair is has never been colored, you can have this highlighted look without the use of bleach,” he says. 

22. Hyper-Golden 

For a classic summer vibe, go golden. “The summer is the perfect time for golden, hand-painted locks,” says DeBolt, who recommends pairing piecey highlights with beach waves. “This tone of highlight looks so pretty set against golden skin and can look striking against brown eyes,” he says.

23. Copper Flame

The red trend is not slowing down anytime soon, and Jimieson loves a bold take on the shade. “It’s vibrant and edgy without going super light or super dark and is great for someone who wants to be noticed and wear a signature hair color that is bold and bright.” He says to ask for permanent dye since red notoriously fades very quickly, and to add a colored glaze on top for even more longevity. 

24. Warm Dimension  

To get curls to really pop, add a variation of warm shades 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 doesn’t look fake, just super dimensional and pretty. 

25. Copper Tones

Take a cue from the weather and go slightly warmer for the sunny months ahead. “Any shade of copper-toned hair is a go,” says Powell. “This look is perfect for the warmer months. You can ask your stylist for lighter ends and a slightly darker base to create a seamless blend.”

26. Shade-on-Shade Dimension 

DeBolt loves this shade on Zendaya. “This look is so youthful and, combined with her natural texture, looks so modern,” he says. “This look is perfect for someone who wants to highlight their hair one time per year or never feel like they have outgrowth.” To get the look, DeBolt says to ask for barely there, hand-painted highlights.

27. Bold Red 

If the last year has left you feeling blah, punch it up with the boldest take on red. “This color is eye-catching in the best way. It’s for the person who knows they’ve got it and doesn’t mind being seen,” says Powell. “The brightness of the color means that it could take a session or two to achieve, so make sure you tell your stylist that you are looking for something bright and bold.”

28. Sunrise Blonde

“We are doing a lot of multifaceted blonde right now,” says Tardo. “These looks offer brightness as well as a soft, dimensional appearance to your hair color.” He says that variations of this can work on all colors and textures; just keep in mind that the darker your hair is naturally, the more processing (and upkeep) your hair will require. “Consult with your colorist to decide how light is ideal for your hair,” he says. “Have your colorist do sunny balayage or babylights, keeping enough of your natural color in the hair so that the appearance maintains a dimensional look.”

29. Sandalwood Strips 

If you want to add some dimension to your curls without an extreme change, go for bright highlights. “This color works best for those with thicker dark hair,” says Tardo. “The lighter ribbons of color give separation to highlight beautiful natural textures.” He says to ask for subtle ash bronde highlights, or use Clairol’s Natural Instincts 7A Dark Cool Blonde to tone any existing highlights.

30. Jet Black 

“I love seeing a monotone, luxe shade of glossy, rich black,” says DeBolt. “This looks is dramatic! And perfect to enhance a strong shape. Solid-color looks add strength to strong shapes. Think crisp, one-length haircuts, shaggy fringe, curtain bangs. It’s all about the finish and the cut, and the color adds such drama. Ask for natural black—not blue.” 

31. Chestnut Brown 

“This is perfect for the person who wants change but doesn’t want to go too far out of their 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. 

32. Dark Chocolate 

Priyanka Chopra switched up her already rich brown hair with a more dimensional chocolate shade. The look came courtesy of Sharon Dorram, master colorist at Sally Hershberger Salon. Going darker for summer is cool and unexpected, but the warm undertones still give it a sunny feel. 

33. Ice Blond Balayage 

If you usually go ashy, find a balance of warm and cool tones for summer. “The style still has some warmth to it because of the
root and would look great with a summer glow,” says Powell. “Completing this look would probably take one or two sessions in order to achieve it without sacrificing the integrity of the hair.” She recommends asking for a dimensional blonde balayage with highlights and toner.