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How to Find the Best Brown Hair Color for Your Skin Tone (and Undertone)

See what brunette fun is all about.
  • Beauty Magazine
May 21, 2024

Brown hair is among the most loved hair colors, and it’s not hard to guess why. The vast range of brunette hues—from cool-toned toffee to warm chocolate cherry brown—means that there’s a brunette hair color to flatter virtually everybody. On the other hand, finding the right hue from the endless amount of brown hair color ideas floating around the internet can feel a bit intimidating, especially if you’re new to coloring your hair.

Whether you’ve been thinking about changing your current color or simply want to enhance your born-with-it brown, you’ll want to start by considering your skin tone and undertone. Ahead, we’ll share how to classify your complexion and share tips on finding the best brown hair color for your skin. Keep reading to find your (mane) match.

What Are the Different Skin Tones and Undertones?

With any hair color, you’ll get the most flattering results if you choose a hue that complements your skin tone and undertone.

Skin tone refers to the depth of your skin’s pigmentation, which can be broadly categorized as fair, medium, or dark. Undertone, on the other hand, is the subtle hue underneath the surface of your skin that affects its overall appearance. Undertones are categorized as warm, cool, or neutral and can influence how colors look on your skin. While your skin tone may change due to factors like sun exposure or skin care routines, your undertone generally remains consistent throughout your life.

How To Identify Your Skin Tone

Identifying your skin tone involves assessing the surface color of your skin. Fair skin tones are the lightest, while dark tones are the deepest. Medium skin can fall anywhere between fair and dark, and is often described as “tan.”

To determine your skin tone, study your skin in both natural and artificial light since different types of light can make skin appear slightly different in color. If you need some extra help, tools like L'Oréal’s Virtual Foundation Matcher can be useful for getting a more accurate assessment of your skin tone.

When choosing hair color, it's essential to consider your skin tone, since different shades of brown hair complement different skin tones. Your best brown hair color should illuminate your complexion—not overpower it.

How To Determine Your Undertone

Before picking out your hair color, you’ll also want to identify your undertones. Cool undertones typically exhibit hints of pink or blue and give the skin a rosy appearance. Warm undertones feature hues of yellow, peach, or olive, imparting a natural-looking glow. Finally, there are neutral undertones, which typically display a mix of both warm and cool tones.

To figure out your undertone, try looking at the color of the veins on the inside of your wrist under natural light. Blue or purple-tinted veins typically indicate cool undertones, while a green tint suggests warm undertones. (Again, if neither of these seems right, chances are good you lean neutral). It can also help to think about what kind of jewelry complements your skin best: gold tends to flatter warm undertones, while silver suits cool undertones.

How To Choose the Right Brown Hair Color for Your Skin Tone

Once you’ve identified your skin tone and undertone, the next step is to sort through all your brown hair color ideas and choose the shade that’s right for you.

For the most flattering look, you’ll want to pick a shade of brown hair that has the same undertone as your skin. Cool shades like mushroom brown complement cool skin well, while golden brown hair and other warm shades are ideal for those with warmer complexions.

Fortunately, there are more than enough brown hair color ideas to inspire you. Ahead, we’re sharing some of our favorite hues for different skin tones and undertones.

Cool-Toned Brown Hair Colors

If you have cool undertones, brown shades like chestnut, dark chocolate, mushroom brown, and dark auburn will look fabulous with your skin tone.

A medium brown hair color like L’Oréal Paris Excellence Creme Crème Permanent Triple Hair Color in Light Ash Brown is perfect for those with fair-to-medium skin and cool undertones. If you have darker cool-toned skin, consider a deep espresso shade, such as L’Oréal Paris Superior Preference Fade-Defying Shine Permanent Hair Color in Cool Darkest Brown. The rich, cool-toned hue will give your look depth and dimension without clashing with your skin’s undertones. L’Oréal Paris Excellence Creme Crème Permanent Triple Hair Color in Dark Ash Brown is another great option—the deep brunette hue is flattering on a wide range of skin tones.

Keep in mind that if attaining your desired hue requires lightening your mane, you may experience brassiness as your color fades. A blue-pigmented shampoo can help neutralize unwanted warmth and keep your color cool and pure.

Warm-Toned Brown Hair Colors

If you have warm undertones, rich shades like amber, caramel, or golden brown can work magic for your complexion.

To avoid overpowering fair skin, we suggest opting for a light or medium brown hair color, such as honey brown. Try L’Oréal Paris Superior Preference Fade-Defying Shine Permanent Hair Color in Lightest Golden Brown—the shade’s underlying golden tones will accentuate your skin’s natural warmth. Medium skin, meanwhile, tones stun in rich, dimensional shades like chestnut or bronze (L’Oréal Paris Superior Preference Fade-Defying Shine Permanent Hair Color in Medium Chestnut Brown is a great pick). If you have deep skin, you’ll want to opt for a warm shade with plenty of richness. We love L’Oréal Paris Superior Preference Fade-Defying Shine Permanent Hair Color in Dark Soft Mahogany Brown, which has the subtlest hint of red tones woven throughout a deep, chocolatey brown base.

Neutral-Toned Brown Hair Colors

Those with neutral undertones can easily pull off any shade of brown hairSince undertones aren’t a factor here, we recommend making your decision based on how light (or dark) you want your brunette hair color to be.

For a gorgeous light brown hue that’s not too warm or too cool, try the L’Oréal Paris Féria Multi-Faceted Shimmering Hair Color in Downtown Brown. The high-lift shade sits right on the cusp of blonde and brown, making it ideal for fairer complexions or those looking to lighten up their locks for the warmer months. If you’re looking to experiment with something a bit deeper, meanwhile, we suggest L’Oréal Paris Excellence Creme Universal Nudes in Natural Brown or Natural Dark Brown—both loostunning on fair, medium, and deep complexions alike.

If you decide you want to spice up your color, you can also opt for highlights, lowlights, balayage, or even babylights. With a neutral base, the opportunities to experiment are vast.

Haircare Aftercare: How to Maintain Your New Hair Color

To keep your brown hair color looking vibrant, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. First, swap out your shampoo and conditioner for a color-safe system like L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Moisture Shampoo and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Moisture Conditioner. The moisturizing duo cleanses without stripping, adds shine, and helps keep color pure for up to four weeks.

You may also want to consider using a deep conditioning treatment once a week to help keep your locks feeling hydrated and healthy. We recommend L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Damage Erasing Balm Rinse-Out Mask, which helps repair up to one year of damage to hair’s smoothness in a single use.

Typically, touch-ups every 4 to 6 weeks can help keep your brown hair color looking fresh and vibrant, especially if you're covering grays or lightening your natural shade. But if you want to restore your hue between touch-ups, consider picking up a hair gloss like L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss. The in-shower glossing system enhances hair color and tone, leaving it shiny and conditioned. Opt for the clear gloss to add shine, or pick one of the tinted options for a fresh hint of color that lasts up to 10 days.

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