While blondes are known to “have more fun,” and redheads make up only about 2 percent of the population, brown hair colors usually don’t get any sort of exciting metaphorical spotlight. (In fact, “mousey brown” hair typically gets a bad rap for being boring or drab. See: Vivian Kensington from Legally Blonde.)
Well, unlike redheads, brown hair might be ubiquitous—but that doesn’t make brown hairstyles any less sexy, gorgeous, and out-of-the-box. To prove it to you, we rounded up our favorite shades of brunette, along with industry insight from colorists Lorena M. Valdes and Felicia Dosso.
Below, find 40 shades of brown hair color that’ll convince you (once and for all) that blondes aren’t the only ones having fun.
BROWN HAIR COLOR
CHOOSING A SHADE: “Go according to your skin tone and eye color,” advises Dosso. “Deeper tones, like espresso, are more flattering on olive skin tones, whereas lighter more chestnut tones are more flattering on fair skin. Eye color comes into play in terms of dramatic effect. The contrast of blue and green eyes with deeper tones is more dramatic, whereas with lighter tones it’s more subtle,” she explains.
MAINTENANCE LEVEL: For all-over color, you should expect to get your roots touched up every six to eight weeks. Those with lowlights or balayage will see softer root growth and can space their appointments farther apart. “Always use a shampoo for color-treated hair. Avoid shampooing hair on a daily basis for minimal fading and oxidation,” recommends Dosso.
GOES GREAT WITH: Monochromatic nude eyeshadow, rich berry lip shades.
SIMILAR SHADES: Balayage brown hair, dark brown hair with highlights
PRICE: For all-over color (single process), expect to pay between $80-$200, depending on where you live. For more precisely placed lowlights or balayage, expect to pay $100-$300. “Every salon has different pricing, which is typically based on the experiment of the colorist providing the service,” says Dosso.
These aren’t your average blonde streaks you gave yourself from a box in the 2000s. (Remember Sun-In?) Try a Beyoncé-approved grown-up (and professionally colored) version of subtle, golden highlights. “Balayage is my favorite technique for this look and it’s low-maintenance,” Valdes tells us. This color will flatter most skin tones, add brightness, and bring the focus back to the person rather than away, she adds.
As a natural brunette, one of the easiest ways to experiment with color is to simply drizzle in some subtle, caramel-hued highlights à la Priyanka Chopra. Balayage allows you to lighten things up without committing to an entire dye job. And if you realize the look isn’t your thing, simply grow out your roots.
We’ve seen box braids in every color of the rainbow, but we’re particularly loving Storm Reid’s golden brown shade at the moment. “They’re a fabulous way to incorporate a brown that isn’t too copper or red without the work of lifting and depositing the color back,” says Valdes. “It adds a perfect gradient that most people like without the long-term commitment. So it helps maintain the natural shine and integrity of the hair.”
If you want something super natural-looking and warm, hair painting might be for you. “It’s the best color if you’re trying to recreate what mother nature does already,” comments Valdes. It exposes the warmth from the moment that you leave the salon until you come back, giving you that “I’ve been at the beach” look, she adds.
Shades of Gray
Whether you call it “gray” or “mushroom brown,” Jordan Dunn’s stunning bob incorporates smoky, ashy hues in a blended balayage for a perfectly on-trend moment. Pair with some silver eye makeup to really make a statement.
Not sure what “neutral brown” is? Meet the Switzerland of brown hair colors: It’s perfectly designed to balance out both the warm and cool tones in your hair for completely neutral, flattering results. According to Valdes, “It’s a fantastic way of going a little lighter without going blonde but will need glosses to maintain that neutral tone.”
Freshen up your entire face (and look like you belong on a surfboard) with golden, sunny highlights like Lily Aldridge. They draw attention to the eyes, skin tone, and add just the right amount of glow, notes Valdes. To avoid constant maintenance and root touch-ups, keep them intentionally dark and smudged so they can grow in with grace. “Balayage is the best technique for this look to continue a chic effortless look,” she adds.
If Zendaya were ever a Spice Girl, she would be Cinnamon. Lightening up brown hair with a reddish tint is the perfect way to give your ‘do next-level dimension. (And of course, you’ll have that much more glow when you find your light for selfies.)
Babylights (aka super delicate highlights) may be most commonly associated with blondes, but they work for brunettes seeking a sun-kissed look, such as Olivia Munn here. Rather than white blonde, your colorist will probably customize a hue that’s simply a few shades lighter than your natural color.
Dark Roast Balayage
If you have dark brown hair, take your natural color and majorly brighten it up with an auburn balayage situation that complements any complexion. Curating it with a dark berry lip like Lucy Hale’s won’t hurt either.
The best colorist out there will take into account your skin and eye color to pick the perfect shade of brown. Even though dark brown hair colors like Kendall Jenner’s might look simple, they’re personalized to a T, making for a striking finish.
“There’s a fine line between dark brown hair and jet black. For a more natural look avoid going too dark and into that jet black family,” advises Dosso.
The “brassy” hair color usually gets a bad rap, primarily for its perceived unwanted orange undertones. But when you pull off the shade (and undertones) perfectly like Jessica Biel, they look natural rather than neon. Yes, please.
With a warm skin tone, it’s always a good idea to find warm shades to match (in this case, a complementary chestnut brown hair color). Rihanna gets bonus points for gorgeous, bouncy curls too.
Toeing the line of blonde territory, the lightest brown you can go is probably Cara Delevingne’s soft, sandy beige. Keep it healthy and frizz-free with a good smoothing serum.
Tight curls are perfect for sprinkling in pops of color. Rather than highlighting entire sections, take a cue from Izzy Bizu and warm up brown hair with some unexpected dashes of gold or honey.
Can’t decide between going red or going brown? Try both. Lana Del Rey’s auburn hue is the perfect middle-ground between “firetruck” and “milk chocolate,” and we’re obsessed.
To go only a few shades darker than a “dirty blonde,” try a cool, ashy shade of brown like Barbara Palvin. Multifaceted highlights and lowlights can balance your look so it doesn’t veer into “gray” territory; of course, if that’s what you’re going for then by all means.
Good beach waves are made all the more covetable with great color. We love the look of Miranda Kerr’s balayage complete with sweet honey highlights. The face-framing pieces certainly brighten her complexion.
Brown hair color tends to get slightly brassier in the sun, so a subtle, brown-to-copper ombré is a simple way to fool people into thinking your dye job is all natural. Need proof? Lily Collins is it.
It’s almost black—but not quite. If you’re tempted to go to the dark side, you can’t go wrong with a deep raven hue like Meghan Markle. It’s nearly universally flattering, regardless of your complexion (or whether or not you’re royalty).
If you’re a natural brunette, up the ante by going for an ultra-rich and saturated brown (think: “chocolate mousse”). Emily Ratajkowski’s medium-brown tresses are where it’s at.
If you’re looking to go dark dark, try a rich, deep brown that borders on jet black. Imaan Hammam shows us how it’s done with extra length and waves that make an impact.
Let’s face it: The long bob is here to stay. This universally flattering cut will complement all hair colors, but we’re partial to Selena Gomez’s rich, dark brown hue that gives off an air of sophistication. “And no one can deny that a bold red lip looks sexiest with deep brown hair,” comments Dosso.
There are endless shades of brown to choose from, many of which have been in style for decades—but a multidimensional golden brown like Jessica Alba’s somehow feels completely fresh every time.
Golden Brown Balayage
Can we just say that Ciara’s golden brown balayage moment is major? When in doubt, we tend to choose highlights over single-process color (but to each their own). The former, which includes freehand coloring technique strandlights, requires less upkeep and adds tons of dimension.
You don’t have to be a coffee lover to appreciate deep, mocha-hued curls. Joan Smalls’s color strikes the perfect balance of warmth and richness, without it feeling too dark, says Valdes. To get the look, “I would do all over color with balayage to maintain dimension and a very rich gloss for shine and color,” she tells us.
Eileen Gu is having a “bronde” moment at the Met Gala with face-framing, golden highlights mixed in with a neutral, darker brown hair color. (Long, gorgeous waves sold separately.)
The beauty of brown hair is you can incorporate however many hues you choose (as long as your colorist knows what they’re doing—don’t try this at home). And why pick just one? Here, Ana de Armas blends honey, toffee, bronze, and more, for a totally customizable brunette.
If you’re looking to take a warmer brown hue for a spin, Kate Mara’s gingerbread latte color is all the rage. It totally works against her fair complexion but would also suit those with warmer and darker skin tones.
If you’re trying to take the plunge into darker territory, try a smoky brown hair color like Shay Mitchell’s. With cool, grayish undertones it feels fresh and modern. Work in a small amount of hair oil to strands to get high-octane shine.
It doesn’t have to be sunny out for you to lighten things up. If your brown hue is feeling lifeless, do like JLo and brighten it with sunny, golden highlights that’ll almost put you in the blonde category.
Take a page out of Indya Moore’s hair book and work with your natural texture when deciding on a cut and style. Her curly shag is tantalizing and lends natural movement and depth to her allover dark brown color.
Light Brown Braids
Eva Marcille makes a statement with extra-long box braids in a warm, light-brown hue—but she doesn’t stop there. She adds her own personal spin by styling with some colorful accessories. Talk about putting the “fun” in “funky.”
Honey Brown With Lowlights
Josephine Skriver wants us to say “yes” to sunny, honey highlights with darker brown lowlights. As for her pink eyeshadow, it really makes her blue eyes pop.
We love purple hair and reddish tints—but Katy Perry’s a saturated, eggplant-hued brown hair color takes the cake. It might be unexpected, but styled into smooth, retro waves, the look is surprisingly classic.
Brown hair is versatile—whether you love your natural hair color or not, it’s usually fairly easy to try out a somewhat lighter or darker look. Keep your roots intentionally dark (or smudged) and subtly lighten things up around your face and ends for an effortlessly chic, low-maintenance dye job like Gemma Chan.
Halle Berry’s dark, saturated hair gets extra dimension with tinted, subtle highlights and stunning beach-wave styling. Don’t forget to consider your hair color when deciding on your makeup. “Brown hair naturally has warm undertones. I personally like to accentuate that warmth with makeup. I love rich, golden eyeshadow palettes, that can be amped up with a smoky eye for night,” Dosso tells us.
Here, Demi Lovato flips the ombré look on its head (literally) with a reverse version featuring gorgeous brown hues. The honey-chestnut roots blend into the rich, dark ends perfectly.
Whether your highlights are natural or not, we love the contrast Aubrey Plaza’s rich, dark brown hair color with splashes of lighter, warm hues throughout. It makes it look like you just spent a summer on the beach.
Jazzy Jones is an Earth-toned goddess with her brown hair, makeup, and outfit. Not only does this color palette complement her skin’s olive undertones but it also makes her brown eyes really stand out.
How can you blend gray hair with brown hair?
The darker your hair, the trickier it is to blend grays but balayage is a good option. If you let your gray hair grow in, it can serve as natural highlights. However, if you prefer to cover your grays, semi-permanent color is a solid and low-maintenance way to do so.
Can you use purple shampoo with brown hair?
You can, but results will vary depending on what shade(s) of brunette you sport. For example, light brown color and blonde highlights can benefit since purple shampoo will remove brassiness. However, it won’t be as helpful for dark brown hair or red-orange tones. For that, try a blue shampoo.
How can you lighten dark brown hair naturally?
While there are natural ways to lighten brown hair, many—though not all—require a lighter base color. White vinegar, however, has been shown to be effective when used correctly and with caution on darker colored tresses.