Whether you already have brown hair or are looking to make the switch to brunette, highlights are a great way to spice things up. Want a subtle or dramatic finish? There is plenty of color inspiration out there. We did some research and asked our stylist friends to share the coolest shades to try now. From bronde hairstyles to honey hues, here are 35 ways to wear blonde highlights on brown hair.
35 Ways to Rock Blonde Highlights on Brown Hair
From bronde to caramel highlights
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Meet the Experts:
- Jennifer Korab is a celebrity hairstylist and owner of Renaissance Salon in New Jersey. She has over a decade of experience working in commercial, runway and editorial spaces. She is certified in all coloring techniques, haircutting and hand-tied extensions.
- George Papnikolas is a Los Angeles-based hair colorist and brand ambassador for Matrix. He previously worked on editorial shoots for Allure, InStyle and People Magazine. His clients include Madonna, Hailey Bieber, Nicole Scherzinger and Kim Kardashian.
- Sharon Dorram is a celebrity colorist and owner of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger Salon with over three decades of experience in the field. She is also a color director and brand ambassador for Virtue. Her previous clients include Barbara Streisand, Kate Hudson, Meg Ryan and Priyanka Chopra.
- Adina Pignatare is a hair color specialist and ambassador for L’Oréal Professionnel. She specializes in balayage, foil and vivid services at the Designer's Edge Salon in Massachusetts.
- Guy Tang is a hair educator and creator of Mydentity, a haircare brand that offers styling products and color dyes to licensed professionals. He’s based in California and is known for his YouTube channel ‘GuyTangHair’ where he posts fitness, beauty and lifestyle videos.
- Abby Haliti is a balayage expert and founder of Abby Haliti Color Studio. She’s based in New York City and is known for her European hair color technique. Her clients include Olivia Palermo, Sigourney Weaver and Rita Ora.
- Eric Lopez is a top designer stylist at Katherine Jon Salon in New York. He has over four decades of experience in the industry. He specializes in hair treatments such as relaxers, permanent waving and dimensional color formulations. He also does men’s barbering and styling.
What You Should Know Before Your Appointment
- Prep your hair. “You want to make sure your hair is in good condition for blonde highlights. If your hair feels dry or damaged, use a moisturizing hair mask a week or two before the appointment,” says Haliti.
- Schedule a consultation. “A stylist will be able to provide you with advice and guidance about which color to get and where to place your highlights based on your skin tone and face shape,” says Tang. “Highlight placement can completely change how your face looks so you want to make sure they’re in the best location to enhance your features.”
- Bring visual examples. Find images of people who match your hair type and/or face shape, so you and your stylist can get a better sense of your desired outcome.. (Luckily, we have a few examples on this list to get you started.)
4 Tips for Getting Blonde Highlights on Brunette Hair
Congrats, you just booked your appointment! Now, check out these four tips to prepare you for your new highlights.
- Find the right shade for you. “The right hair color will depend on your skin tone, eye color and personal style,” says Haliti. If you have fair skin, consider cool-toned shades like ash or platinum blonde. On the flip side, those with tan or darker skin tones should try warm-toned shades like honey or caramel highlights.
- Try out a new color technique. There are plenty of color ideas on this list (i.e., bronde, balayage, babylights, etc.) that you can try out for the first time. Have fun, just make sure to communicate with your stylist along the way.
- Get ready to implement a nourishing haircare routine. All the experts agree that your haircare routine is very important to maintaining the health of your hair, especially after getting highlights. They recommend using a shampoo and conditioner for color-treated hair to protect the vibrancy of your color and strengthen strands between appointments.
- Avoid using too much heat. “Don’t wash your hair with hot water, turn down the heat on your styling tools and try to stay out of the sun in order to get the most of your hair color,” says Tang.
1. Light Brownie Brown
Bronde is a staple shade, especially if you want to add blonde highlights on brown hair. To recreate Gisele Bündchen’s signature color, mix a dark blonde and light brown color together and apply throughout the hair. “Bronde can easily be achieved if someone is already blonde and wants to darken their natural shade,” says Dorram.
3. Bronde Balayage
Speaking of bronde, have you considered adding balayage into the mix? This combo helps your color grow out more seamlessly (see Sofía Vergara above). As Papanikolas previously explained, “It allows natural brunettes to adjust the tone of their hair to be warmer or cooler, and it sits right in the middle of the hair color spectrum, so a variation of this shade works for most clients.”
4. Warm Brunette
This “warm brunette” shade is a prime example of how blonde highlights on brown hair is an endlessly flattering combo. According to Pignatare, the process is simple. “When I paint on a brunette, I always stay on the surface, so I don’t expose too much warmth.” To maintain the shade, use styling products that help strengthen strands, reduce brassiness and nourish your hair.
5. Whipped Cappuccino
As Lopez previously explained, “This hair color is a caramel brunette mixed with milky blonde. It seamlessly blends balayage and baby highlights together and works best on naturally brown hair." To maintain this color, the stylist suggests using a hydrating shampoo and conditioner for shinier locks.
6. Money Pieces
Want striking highlights without making a full commitment? Meet money pieces. These face-framing tendrils brighten up brown locks and can be easily customized to fit your aesthetic. As Lopez previously told us, “It can be super subtle. Money pieces are the most flattering when kept right around the face.”
7. Beige Highlights
Prefer a cool-toned shade? Consider adding beige highlights to your hair. The neutral tone adds dimension and softness, while seamlessly blending incoming grays, as Jennifer Aniston shows us.
8. Winter Gold
“Winter gold” centers around a natural brown base with specks of gold sprinkled throughout the hair. The trendy shade brings warmth and softness to your strands by highlighting key areas like the crown, ends and a few face-framing pieces.
9. Honey Brown
Why stick to one color when you can rock a three-dimensional shade like Beyoncé? According to Tang, the base is a warm brown with honey highlights blended in. “The golden tones are placed on top to give the hair a goddess feel,” he explains. To maintain the color, Tang recommends a hydrating conditioner to reduce color fading and a heat protectant to minimize damage.
We all remember the early ‘00s ombré. To tone things down, take this softer approach instead. The sombré (aka a soft ombré) blends brown and blonde hues beautifully—just look at Elizabeth Olsen. As Tang explained to us, your stylist begins with a brown base before gradually lightening the hair, starting at the midpoint. “The ends should be the lightest color and everything should flow smoothly [throughout the hair],” he adds.
11. Milk Latte
For those looking for a subtle change, “milk latte” is a top contender on our list. This color technique applies lowlights to a dark blonde base for an updated version of our beloved bronde. To create Lo Bosworth’s color, ask your stylist to apply a gloss treatment after dying your hair to brighten things up.
Babylights add fine highlights throughout your hair to create a more natural look. To get a similar look to Jessica Biel’s color, a stylist will focus on lightening the ends and the front strands to brighten things up around your face.
13. Chunky Highlights
Nothing screams the ‘90s quite like chunky highlights. These statement strands provide dimension and a major contrast to your darker locks. To recreate J.Lo’s look, a colorist will apply bleach and foil on large portions of hair.
14. Dirty Blonde
Known as the darkest shade of blonde, this hue blends warm blonde and brown tones together. If you're already rocking a dark base, this shade is easy to get and maintain by having highlights weaved in.
15. Golden Chestnut Brown
Hailey Bieber knows a thing or two about switching up her naturally brown locks. While she’s rocked “expensive brunette” in the past, she’s recently been sporting a deep chestnut brown at the roots with a hint of gold starting at the mid-lengths and working its way down to her ends. Paired with her short bob, the color pops even more.
16. Caramel Highlights
“Warm caramel blonde highlights that seamlessly blend with brown hair creates a rich honey appearance,” says Haliti. To recreate Jessica Alba’s shade, a stylist applies golden blonde and light brown dye throughout to add a subtle contrast to your darker locks.
17. Ash Blonde Highlights
18. Auburn Highlights
Issa Rae shows us that mixing brown hues with a hint of blonde can turn your locks into a rich auburn shade. And if you have beautiful coils like the Insecure star, then the highlights will add warmth and definition to your swirls.
19. Bleach Blonde Ends
Highlights don’t always have to start at the roots. This dip-dying process focuses entirely on brightening the ends and leaving your darker roots untouched, which makes it a fairly low-maintenance color.
20. Toffee Highlights
Toffee highlights make for a sweet addition to brown hair. A stylist will mix light to medium caramel brown tones together and apply the color throughout your hair. As shown on Jourdan Dunn, the shade adds warmth and vibrancy to your natural hue.
21. Strawberry Blonde
Strawberry blonde is a great option for the curly gals. To create the most flattering hue, a stylist will mix a concoction of honey and reddish blonde dyes to make your ringlets shine, as seen on Jaz Sinclair.
22. Caramel Blonde Highlights
A regular bronde is fine, but consider incorporating caramel highlights to your look. Ask your stylist to lighten the mid-lengths, ends and some face-framing pieces to really bring out a sun-kissed glow.
23. Caramel Blonde
In contrast to caramel bronde, this variation takes a subtler approach. The light shade starts at the mid-length section of your hair before descending into a darker brown at the ends. To recreate Niecy Nash’s cascading color, a stylist will focus on each section at a time, so everything blends together beautifully.
24. Streaky Blonde
If chunky highlights and babylights had a sister, it would be this streaky blonde. The shade does a great job of showing off golden blonde pieces without overshadowing your brunette base. Need a reference to prevent your stylist from going foil crazy? Show them this picture of Jennifer Hudson.
25. Sandy Highlights
Once you apply highlights to light brown hair, you’re left with a warm shade that complements darker skin tones. Here Laverne Cox shows off her natural dark roots with blended blonde highlights that shine beautifully on the red carpet.
26. Barely-There Highlights
Blink and you might miss Zendaya’s blonde highlights. These barely-there pieces brighten up dark locks just so, and they’re a low commitment look.
27. Platinum Highlights
Before her signature golden highlights, Beyoncé loved rocking platinum pieces. Her natural brown hair mixed with cool blonde highlights offer a striking contrast that makes a big statement. To maintain the color, Haliti recommends a purple shampoo and a leave-in conditioner to bring moisture back to your strands.
28. Dark Caramel
Natural brunettes can easily warm up their color by adding pops of amber and gold throughout. See how defined Camilla Cabello's layers look with the addition of these shades?
29. Beach Blonde
You don’t have to book a sunny vacation to mimic Blake Lively’s color. “The subtle sandy blonde highlights mimic the natural effects of the sun and saltwater on brown hair,” says Haliti. To elevate the look, the expert suggests using a salt spray for more texture.
30. Subtle Caramel Highlights
These caramel highlights can brighten your natural hue with minimal commitment. “It’s a gorgeous, but simple caramel highlight. As a stylist, I focus on a subtle enhancement of natural brunette hair by adding face-framing highlights,” explains Tang. The key here is applying foil only on the pieces around the face and using the right formula (including pearl blonde liquid toner) to lighten the section.
31. Espresso Highlights
From Olivia Munn to Shay Mitchell, brunettes have been rocking darker highlights lately. According to Tang, a mixture of bright and pearl blonde is used for the highlights, before a brown glaze is applied to the rest of the hair. At home, Tang suggests misting a shine spray on the mid-lengths to ends for extra shine.
32. Neutral Blonde Highlights
This balayage looks so natural that you’ll forget you’re rocking blonde highlights. If you just want a subtle enhancement to your brown locks, show this picture of Jessie James Decker to your stylist.
33. Mocha Bangs
If you’re currently rocking a full fringe, consider adding this light brown shade for warmth. Similar to Margot Robbie, this small change can also bring out your eye color (in this case, her baby blues) and provide a soft contrast to your natural shade.
34. Bronze Highlights
Whether you’re returning back to your brunette roots (like Sofia Richie) or simply want to brighten your hair a bit, bronze highlights are the way to go.
35. Dark Roots
Rihanna shows us just how chic it can be to show off your natural roots. The dark base color and heavy blonde highlights creates an edgy contrast that's anything but boring.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Blonde Highlights a Good Option for Brown Hair?
100 percent. “If an individual wants to add dimension, and brighten up their brown hair, then absolutely! Blonde highlights on brown hair is a popular choice because they offer a subtle, natural look when done properly,” says Haliti.
What Are the Benefits of Getting Blonde Highlights on Brown Hair?
According to our experts, there are four main benefits of getting blonde highlights on brown hair. For starters, highlights can add dimension and depth to your natural hue. And depending on the shade and placement of your highlights, they can also create a sun-kissed appearance. Lastly, they’re a low-maintenance option that won’t make regrowth too noticeable.
Can I Dye My Brown Hair Blonde Without Bleach?
If you’re looking to go lighter, bleaching your hair is unavoidable. However, our experts say there’s a way to limit how much bleach is applied. “If you want to go lighter, your colorist can recommend options that minimize how much bleach is used. Techniques like balayage can reduce the amount of bleach used, while still creating a stunning, sun-kissed look,” says Haliti.
What Colors Should You Avoid with Brown Hair?
“Brown hair has the benefit of being right in the middle of the color spectrum, so there are very few colors you should avoid. Pick colors that are the opposite of your skin tone for more contrast. Another rule of thumb is to stay within four shades of your base color,” says Tang.
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