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22 Ways to Rock Highlights on Dark Hair

Bookmark this page for your next salon visit.
  • Rachel MacPherson
July 16, 2024

Getting highlights on dark hair is a stellar way to add shine and dimension to your strands, but you’ll need to get the color selection and application right for the best results. While shades like caramel and golden blonde tend to be popular with brunettes, cool-toned, ashy shades look equally as gorgeous and deserve the same attention.

If you’ve never tried dark brown hair with highlights, you can start with a subtle chestnut highlight or soft toffee ombré. Or, go bold with bright blonde highlights for a summery, sun-kissed look. No matter your preference, there’s a way to brighten up your brown hair with highlights—and we’re here to prove it. Ahead, find 22 flattering highlighted brown hair ideas and discover the best at-home coloring kits to use if you’re dyeing your hair at home.

What Color Highlights Are Best for Dark Brown Hair?

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The truth is that highlights are not one-size-fits-all. There are endless shade options, and the best highlights for brown hair depend on your hair color and personal preferences. Remember, it’s your hair, and you can wear it how you want.

There are many fun highlighting techniques and shades to choose from. Keep in mind, however, that highlighting your hair—whether opting for blonde highlights on brown hair or a deeper hue—typically requires bleaching. And the darker your starting shade, the more bleaching sessions it may take for a brighter color like beige blonde or icy blonde highlights. If you’re not willing to commit to multiple rounds of bleach, a subtler hue, like cinnamon, may be ideal.

Can You Highlight Hair at Home with Box Dye?

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Salons were once the only avenue for achieving beautiful highlights, but thankfully, things have changed, and more people are doing their hair at home with stunning results. Now, there are endless color possibilities for eye-catching, flattering, highlighted brown hair—you just need the right hair tools and, of course, an at-home hair color kit.

There are some excellent options to choose from. For instance, the L’Oréal Paris Superior Preference Balayage At-Home Highlighting Kit is an all-in-one set that includes everything you need for a seamless balayage look. You can choose from three natural shade options—light to dark blonde, medium to dark brown, and dark blonde to light brown—for dimensional, expertly blended highlights (without the hefty salon price tag).

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You can also consider lightening your strands with the L'Oréal Paris Colorista At Home Hair Bleach and Lightener for Highlights before adding a toner, permanent or semi-permanent hair color. The kit comes with a three-pronged highlighting comb for precise application, making it ideal for those new to highlighting their hair at home.

22 Examples of Highlights on Dark Hair To Explore

Highlights are a great way to freshen up your hair color while adding depth and dimension to your brunette mane. And there are colors, techniques, and styles that can suit any hair type or aesthetic. If you need some inspiration, keep scrolling—ahead, we’re sharing 23 of our favorite ways to rock brunette hair with highlights.

1. Ombré highlights

Ombré highlights are a great way to brighten up your hair without having to commit to monthly root touch-ups. Since the technique involves placing the color further down from the root, grow-out is a breeze. And, if you’re a seasoned box dye user, you can DIY ombré strands at home the L’Oréal Paris Colorista Bleach in Ombré Bleach. The kit includes an applicator brush to evenly distribute the bleach onto your hair for a high-contrast gradient of dark to light color. For a more seamless look, try the color melt technique to give your roots the most gradual, dark-to-light transition.

2. Sombré

If a traditional ombré is a little too bold for your liking, give sombré highlights a go. It’s a toned-down version of ombré highlights that offers a subtle introduction to highlighting hair. This highlighting technique is also ideal for those who want to add a little color without a lot of foiling or bleach damage. You’ll still get the gorgeous gradient color but a softer overall appearance.

3. Blonde money piece highlights

Go bold with this high-contrast color in the front of your face, otherwise known as a money piece, that embraces the brightness of a blonde hairdo without the commitment of highlighting all of your strands. To make it blend with ease, pick a highlight shade with the same undertones as your base color: ashy blondes look great on those with cool brown hair (like mushroom brown), while warmer hues, like gold and amber, are ideal for those with warm brown hair.

4. Honey blonde highlights

If you want to brighten your mane, consider opting for bright blonde highlights on brown hair. We’re especially fond of how honey-toned highlights help bring out the warmth in dark golden brown hair—it’s effortless, subtle, and endlessly flattering.

5. Golden blonde balayage

Developed by French hair colorists in the '70s, balayage highlights have gained popularity over the decades, especially on social media. The hand-painted technique creates a natural-looking effect and lived-in color that doesn’t require routine touch-ups. To help keep your sunny highlights looking their best, we suggest adding the L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss in Clear to your weekly routine. The in-shower gloss helps revive dull, lackluster color and deeply conditions the hair for a shiny, healthy-looking finish.

6. Ash blonde balayage

Warm blonde balayage on brown hair is beachy and summery—ash blonde is a bit edgier. What begins as a deep brown at the roots gradually shifts to a bright, cool-toned blonde at the tips, which is a clever way of avoiding harsh regrowth lines. To maintain your ashy highlights, add a purple toning shampoo, such as the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Purple Shampoo for Toning Blonde Bleached Hair, to your in-shower lineup. This violet-tinted formula helps neutralize unwanted brassy tones to help keep your color cool and bright.

7. Bronde balayage

“Bronde” is a portmanteau of “brown” and “blonde,” and as the name suggests, this color sits squarely between the two distinct shades. Opting for bronde balayage is a great way to subtly brighten your look without committing to a more high-maintenance blonde shade. For a natural bronde color, choose highlights just one to two shades lighter than your base—you’ll get dimension without any unwanted stark contrast.

8. Caramel highlights

Caramel highlights on dark brown hair make for a sophisticated, luxurious look that we find irresistible. The rich ribbons of color morph together to provide gorgeous dimension and luminosity that can light up to an amber shade during golden hour.

Soft and natural-looking caramel highlights can beautifully complement dark hair, creating a sun-kissed appearance. To achieve this look, try L'Oréal Paris Frost & Design At-Home Hair Coloring For Highlights in Caramel—the decadent hue is perfect for those with medium or dark brown strands.

9. Warm brown highlights

Brown hair can still look vibrant and dimensional with brown highlights. Choosing a brunette shade close to your natural root color will create an illusion of more volume with the dark and highlighted hues radiating in the light. We’re especially fond of how medium brown shades, like chestnut and cinnamon, help liven up chocolate brown hair.

10. Cool brown highlights

Amplify your cool-toned brunette hair with a brown shade a few colors lighter than your natural mane for the subtle definition that highlights do so well. Overall, light brown highlights will still add plenty of dimension to your dark hair without too much contrast, which is especially ideal if you’re going for a subtler hair makeover.

11. Highlights-lowlights blend

Contrary to popular belief, brown hair can totally rock lowlights. Along with highlights, lowlights are a great way to add dimension to dark brown hair. The highlights will help add lightness to your dark brown hair, while the lowlights will create shadows, allowing the lighter ribbons of hair to pop.

Plus, lowlights are a great way to add depth without damaging your hair with bleach. Depending on your chosen colors, this highlighting technique can create a natural blend of colors that’ll grow out beautifully without needing to return to the salon. Simply use a lighter toner on some highlights and a darker one on others. The options are endless.

12. Rainbow highlights

Highlights on brown hair don’t have to be blonde or brown: Adding rainbow colors to your hair as highlights is an equally fun way to change up your look. And, you can DIY it—it’s no more challenging than doing traditional highlights. Bleach your strands with L'Oréal Paris Colorista At Home Hair Bleach & Lightener as though you were adding platinum highlights, and then let the creativity begin. Use the L’Oréal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color to add vivid color to your strands as you see fit. This semi-permanent hair color delivers vibrant results that last about 10 washes—making it a breeze to switch out your highlight color anytime you want.

13. Red highlights

Dark brown hair with red highlights is a great option if you’re looking to experiment with vibrant colors but don’t want to opt for rainbow streaks. And, there are plenty of red hues to choose from, from vivid cherry red to mahogany and copper. All are ultra-flattering on rich, dark brown tresses.

14. Caramel balayage

Caramel balayage is a perfect choice if you love the look of caramel highlights but want a more natural-looking color that seamlessly masks root regrowth. Of course, a stylist can bring you to this golden caramel shade in the salon, but you can also achieve a caramel balayage form of this look at home with the L’Oréal Paris Superior Preference Balayage At-Home Highlighting Kit in Medium to Dark Brown.

15. Ice blonde highlights

For a fresh, fun, youthful look, consider opting for icy pearl blonde highlights. This bright, reflective shade contrasts against deeper brown hues for a bold yet wearable pop of color. This is an especially fitting choice for ashy brunettes who want to brighten their hue sans any hint of warmth.

16. Honey and caramel highlights

Combining honey and caramel shades is a gorgeous, chic way to add warmth and depth to your dark hair. Pops of more decadent caramel offset by brighter honey give the hair a subtle, pretty, and summery lift.

17. Blonde ribbon highlights

Chunky highlights may call to mind unfortunate early aughts hair trends, but this stunning highlighting technique is anything but dated. To achieve the look, ask your stylist for thick, blended ribbon highlights that gradually lighten toward the ends. Done properly, you’ll be left with a glamorous (and decidedly modern) look with tons of eye-catching depth.

18. Copper bronze highlights

Bronze may signify third place in a race, but in our eyes, it’s one of the best colors for highlighting dark hair. The shimmering hue has deep golden undertones reminiscent of fallen leaves in autumn, and adding it to a warm chocolate brown base instantly brightens your overall look.

19. Chocolate brown highlights

If you have dark brown or black hair and want to subtly transform your look, opt for rich chocolate brown highlights. This deep, inviting tone blends seamlessly with dark brown hair, adding richness and dimension without an overtly “light” effect. If you find your highlights start to lose their vibrancy fast, add a toning in-shower gloss, like the L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss in Rich Brunette, to your weekly everything shower routine.

20. Babylights

If you want to try brown hair with blonde highlights but aren’t sure how blonde will look on you, dip your toe in with babylights. These delicate highlights are ultra-fine and are designed to mimic a natural sun-kissed brightness. They’re subtle, understated, and incredibly chic—just be sure to pick a hue with the same undertones as your hair for a seamless, natural-looking end result.

21. Face-framing highlights

Frame your face with strategically placed highlights to accentuate your features and brighten up your look—without having to commit to an all-over highlighting job. These subtle highlights draw attention to your facial structure to help put your best features on full display. You can opt for any color face-framing highlights—opt for coffee-toned highlights if you want a softer effect, or vibrant wheat-toned highlights for a brighter, beachier look.

22. Dark copper highlights

Copper hair has been trending in a big way as of late—but transitioning to such a vibrant shade can feel intimidating. If you want to experiment with a copper hue without dyeing your entire head, consider deep copper highlights. This metallic hue bridges the gap between bronze and red and adds a luxurious, lustrous touch to deep brown strands.

Next Up: A Guide to Balayage Hair Color

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