hair color ideas 10 Gorgeous Highlight Ideas for Dark Brown Hair

From warm to ash tones, we’re covering the color spectrum.

February 14, 2022
Dark Brown Hair With Highlights


If you think that highlights are only flattering on blondes or those with lighter hair, think again. Highlights on dark brown hair can be a great way to add shine and dimension to your tresses. The key to achieving a gorgeous look with dark hair and highlights comes down to color selection and highlight application. 


If you’re ready to make this change to your hair color, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’re sharing our favorite ideas for dark brown hair with highlights.


What To Know Before Getting Highlights On Dark Brown Hair 

The truth is, highlights are not one-size-fits-all. If you want to lighten your dark brown hair, there are different highlighting techniques and shades to choose from. Keep in mind that highlighting dark brown hair requires bleaching — and the darker your starting shade, the more work it will require to achieve your desired level of highlight. 


Even for the most experienced at-home colorists, it would be wise to visit a professional if you’re thinking of getting highlights. However, if you have light hair and would like a dark base with highlights, you can start your tresses transformation journey with at-home dyes. 


Try the L'Oréal Paris Féria Multi-Faceted Shimmering Permanent Hair Color, L'Oréal Paris Superior Preference Fade-Defying Shine Permanent Hair Color or L'Oréal Paris Créme Permanent Triple Protection Hair Color. All three options offer a wide array of brown hues and will leave you with just-stepped-out-of-the-salon hair. 


With that in mind, here are some of our favorite highlighting ideas for dark brown hair below. 


1. Ombré

When starting with dark hair, ombré highlights are great because, with this style, the roots are darker than the ends. Ombré means “to shadow,” and when it comes to hair, it’s meant to be a gradual gradation from dark at the roots to lighter ends. It looks amazing on brunettes because ombré highlights can give your hair a ton of contrast from root to tip, and you can customize your highlight color to flatter your base hair color. 


Ombré highlights are also popular because they are super-low maintenance and easy to take care of since you’re not dyeing your roots. That means when your highlights start to grow out, you don’t have to touch things up right away. 


2. Sombré

If ombré is a little too bold for you, then give sombré highlights — a more subtle, toned-down version of ombré highlights — a go. You can still get that gradient effect, but with a softer overall appearance. To get these subtle highlights, start by choosing a shade that is a few shades lighter than your current hair color. Remember, the transition should be gradual when opting for this technique.

3. Blonde Highlights

If you’re looking for a bold look with lots of contrast, go for blonde highlights. To make it blend seamlessly, pick a highlight shade with the same undertones as your base color. For example, if you have cool-toned brown hair, opt for blonde highlights with cool, ashy undertones. 

4. Caramel Highlights

For warm-toned highlights, look no further than dark brown hair with caramel highlights. This rich, gilded shade looks particularly flattering against skin with warm undertones. A colorist can help perfectly blend your highlights, but you can also get the look at home with easy cap highlights using the L’Oréal Paris La Petite Frost in Creme Caramel.

5. Bronde

As the name suggests, bronde highlights are a combination of blonde and brown. Technically, bronde hair is equal parts blonde and brown, which results in an overall dirty blonde color that we love for any time of the year. 

Another plus? The bronde look is also customizable to your natural hair and skin undertones. If you have a warm skin tone, opt for bronde highlights with subtle golden, amber and honey undertones. If your skin tone is cooler, pick an icier hue for your highlights. 

To achieve a natural look, stick to a color that’s just one or two shades lighter than your regular hair color. 

6. Light Brown Highlights

Just because you have brown hair doesn’t mean you have to get blonde highlights. Dark brown hair with light brown highlights will still add plenty of dimension to your dark hair without so much contrast. This is ideal if you want a color that’s natural- and subtle-looking.

7. Balayage 

Developed by French hair colorists in the '70s, balayage has gained popularity over the decades. In French, the word balayage means to sweep. As such, balayage highlights are created with a freehand streaking technique for a natural-looking effect. 

The balayage technique is usually applied to a darker base with lighter highlights. The result is typically a little lighter than bronde hair, and it focuses on a more natural progression. If you’re looking for a lived-in look, this is for you.

8. Red Highlights 

Dark brown hair with red highlights is a great option if you’re looking to play with vivid color. There are plenty of ways to achieve red highlights. From cherry red to auburn to mahogany, the options are endless and ultra-flattering.  

9. Highlights And Lowlights 

If you can’t get enough of dimension, make dark brown hair with highlights and lowlights your hair color go-to. The highlights will help add lightness to your dark brown hair while the lowlights will create shadows and even more depth.

10. Cool-Toned Balayage

The cool-toned balayage technique is exactly what it sounds like: a version of balayage that uses cool tones to provide dimension to the hair. After the highlights are placed, the hair is toned once again to create a cool-toned color. Because dark brown hair tends to be on the cooler side, this is an especially fitting choice for brunettes who aren’t looking for a drastic change in their color but still want to get highlights. 

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Written by: Alyssa Kaplan, Photo Credit: Matthew Kelly