Every single time the spring season rolls around, we’re told to go lighter with our hair color, to reflect the longer days and warmer temperatures. We love that seasonal shift, but this year, we’re thinking of turning it on its head and going for something richer and deeper. Especially after seeing chestnut hair colors all over Pinterest—and on our favorite celebs, we’re sold and ready to make a change.
Chestnut hair is a rich brown color with red undertones that come through in natural sunlight. The shade, which is flattering at any length on every skin tone, can be combined with caramel, honey, and deeper shades of brown in the form of highlights, lowlights, or balayage. Although dying your hair chestnut brown may seem like an easy transition, it can be tricky to nail, which is why seeing a pro is a good option if you’re new to the shade. We asked the experts for their advice on this it-color and how to best rock it, no matter our hair texture.
Before you schedule an appointment, check out our favorite A-list sources of inspiration.
CHOOSING A SHADE: Make sure you consider skin tone before taking the plunge— take inspiration from your fave celeb if you can’t decide.
MAINTENANCE LEVEL: Low. Color should fade seamlessly but highlights might need some upkeep. “Maintenance can be pretty low with this hair color, luckily! The bit of copper and or golden warmth this color has is easier and lasts longer in the hair,” Bryant says, adding that cold rinses and extra trips to the salon are usually not required to maintain chestnut brown hair.
GOES GREAT WITH: Most skin tones and undertones.
SIMILAR SHADES: Try out the illuminated brunette trend, or enhance a dark brunette hue with highlights.
PRICE: Varies per salon. Your base color will also impact the cost.
“Starting with a gloss in the salon or at home is a great way to test the shade out and see how your hair wants to take the color whether you’re blonde, brunette, or darker shades of hair color,” says Bryant. “Since this color has a very soft coppery hue to it starting lighter with a gloss or tinted conditioner can be a nice way to step into chestnut or warm soft tones.”
Elizabeth Olsen’s hair, which looks like a shiny chestnut waterfall, leaves us speechless. For a warm, coppery take on Olsen’s shade, Bryant recommends Christophe Robin Shade Variation Mask in Chic Copper ($53).
While she maintains darker roots, Jessica Alba’s chestnut locks are a little bit lighter and a bit more golden in tone, sort of like the “Tiger Eye” trend.
If you want to try chestnut brown hair at home, Bryant recommends using Mr. Smith Chestnut Pigment ($50), which will result in a golden-brown chestnut color. However, to truly get the results you’re after, you should head to a professional.
Highlights do not have to be involved for deep brown locks to have dimension. Just look at Janet Mock’s Old Hollywood waves.
Soft Chestnut Balayage
Lucy Liu usually rocks nearly black hair, but here she takes on chestnut with dark roots fading into a softer brunette.
A Touch of Red
Lily Collins’s red-tinged locks are perfectly accessorized by a floral silk head wrap. Try adding a temporary dye if you want to try out another tint, like Collins’s red hue, without the commitment.
Olivia Culpo’s deep chestnut shade is sure to look stunning on similar olive skin tones, especially if you have dark features to match.
Gabrielle Union sported big chestnut curls at the CFDA Fashion Awards, and we fell in love. The transition from dark chestnut to auburn is stunning with her skin tone, too.
Chestnut with Sun-kissed Highlights
For the most natural look, you’ll want to ask your colorist to add dimension with highlights placed where the sun would hit.
“One solid color can look flat and inky,” Papanikolas says. “It’s always best to have richer roots and glaze the ends about two shades lighter. This is not only more flattering, but it’s also what brunette hair would naturally do in the sun.”
This look is mimicked on Kate Beckinsale, our OG celeb hair inspiration. Here she sports a dimensional chestnut hair color with dark roots and lighter ends at the GQ awards.
The tennis champ looks incredible as always, but her chestnut-toned coils truly steal the show.
Felicity Jones’s hair is right on the edge of the chestnut spectrum, nearing a deep mahogany shade. We love how her curtain bangs blend effortlessly into soft-medium length waves.
Rachel McAdams has rocked nearly every hair color. But can we petition her to always keep her hair this vibrant mix of chestnut and auburn?
To keep your color vibrant, incorporate hydrating masques and gloss-enhancing treatments into your weekly routine.
Sleek Chestnut-Auburn Blend
Lana Del Ray is another celeb who walks the fine line between auburn and chestnut with her amazing reddish-brown hair color, which is sleekly styled with a middle part.
Olivia Palermo’s short hair starts with a deep chocolate brown color and slowly transitions to chestnut at the ends, proving that any length can rock a balayage.
Comedy queen Maya Rudolph maintains luscious mahogany waves with two subtle streaks of chestnut that play wonderfully off of her freckles and dark eyes.
Jamie Chung gives us further proof that ombré chestnut hair is alive and well (and extremely flattering). The warm colors play off her olive skin tone beautifully.
Julia Roberts’s vivid hue is reminiscent of the red-brown hair she made famous in Pretty Woman.
Kate Mara’s chestnut hair is uniform in texture and color throughout. We’re loving her slicked-back and sleek look.
Anne Hathaway’s color is a little bit chocolate and a little bit chestnut, and her deep, side-swept part highlight the chestnut undertones peeking through. A winning color combination in our books.
While Mila Kunis’s chestnut strands border on a darker chocolate brown, the light-catching highlights have a tinge of gold to them.
Odeya Rush’s single-process dark chestnut looks amazing paired with a poppy-colored lip and black top, and complements her skin tone beautifully.
We love when Halle Berry wears her hair curly. You can really see the way her golden highlights add depth and light to an otherwise very dark shade of chestnut.
The Pretty Little Liars star is known for her brunette lob, which usually skirts just past her chin. Here, you can see dimensional chestnut tones applied to the very ends to add movement and warmth to the overall look.
Remember Kiernan Shipka, our modern-day Sabrina Spellman on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, as a blonde? Here, a blend of strawberry blonde and chestnut highlights frame her face, while darker roots add intensity.
Classic Chestnut Blowout
The Queen of the chestnut blowout, the Duchess of Cambridge never misses a beat when it comes to her locks. While she switches up her highlights from golden caramel to slight red tones, here, she shows off a warm chestnut with hints of light auburn highlights.
Years before she transitioned to a chic bob, Kaia Gerber sported long chestnut waves that seriously look so fresh with caramel-colored highlights.
Model Lily Aldridge is serving serious brunette inspo with this subtle ombré that moves from raven to mahogany to chestnut and complements her golden olive skin tone perfectly.
Gorgeous hair certainly runs in the Knowles family. Solange is yet another amazing example of a red-tinged chestnut, seen here, rocking her amazing natural curls in a fabulous afro.
A Drop of Honey
We’re used to her as a blonde, but we love this chestnut and honey ombré-inspired look she wore at the Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear Longchamp show.
“A warm chestnut gloss with a demi-permanent color is a great way for blondes to richen up their blonde/light brunette hair,” says Papanikolas. “If your hair is darker and virgin, then lightening it 1-2 shades to a chestnut tone will bring out natural underlying warm pigments. If your hair is not virgin, then it will be necessary to highlight the hair and glaze with the lighter chestnut tone.”
“Most of my clients I love to softly highlight and go over everything with a color that’s not too far off from the root color since it will always be a bit lighter on the highlighted bits and creates a beautiful movement in the hair via hair color,” Bryant says, and this photo of Mandy Moore with chestnut hair and warm caramel highlights takes note.
Ashley Streicher of STRIIIKE Beauty Studio used a T3 1.25 Micro Singlepass Curling Iron ($170) to give Moore these supermodel-inspired waves.
Chrissy Teigen’s blunt wavy cut is mainly bronde, however, it has undertones of chestnut that add to the warmth of her overall color.
Rashida Jones’s hair reminds us of a roasted chestnut: with deep, rich coloring at the roots that flows down to golden undulating waves.
Chestnut Brown to Blonde
Zendaya can do no wrong, and this lived in, natural look that transitions from chestnut brown to blonde is proof of that.
What color hair is chestnut?
Chestnut is a rich, dimensional shade of brown hair. It’s typically a warm shade, with golden or red undertones. It’s more of a subtle reddish-brown that looks redder in direct sunlight.
How do you make chestnut brown hair at home?
For at-home maintenance, try Bryant’s trick: “I’m always a fan of making my own shade using a regular white conditioner that’s your favorite and buying a semi-permanent color like Manic Panic and adding enough color into the conditioner and/or shampoo to create a customized color staining shampoo or conditioner you can leave in your shower for an extra color tint each time you wash.”
Is chestnut hair the same as auburn?
Though they both can have red undertones, auburn is typically much redder and richer overall than chestnut hair. Auburn can range from coppery brown to bright cherry red, while chestnut hair is primarily a brunette shade with warm or red undertones.