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Love your dark brown hair but want to add some shine and dimension to your locks? Consider adding highlights to your mane. Highlights can help your hair look like it’s been naturally lightened by the sun—and as it turns out, these lightened strands aren’t reserved for those with blonde hair or lighter shades of brown. Dark-haired brunettes can get in on the fun, too! With highlights artfully placed throughout your tresses, you’ll never again have to be worried that your dark brown hair looks boring. If you’re ready to make this change to your hair color, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’re sharing our favorite highlighting techniques for dark brown hair, plus, a simple hair care routine for maintaining your newly highlighted hair.
Chances are, there are more highlighting techniques than you’ve ever even realized! If you want to lighten up your dark brown hair, there are a few different routes you can take to help gain some dimension. 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 experienced at-home colorists, it would be wise to visit a professional if you’re trying out a new highlighting technique for the first time. With that in mind, here are our favorite highlighting techniques for dark brown hair:
If you want to incorporate a tinge of gold or blonde into your hair, think about opting for ombré highlights. Ombré means ‘to shadow,’ and when it comes to hair its meant to be a gradual gradation from dark at the roots to lighter ends. Also, it looks amazing on brunettes! Why? Well, ombré highlights can give your hair a ton of contrast from root to tip. What’s more, you can choose from and showcase a variety of different colors and shades. If you want to experiment with a color other than blonde, you can get ombré highlights in pink, blue, teal, or virtually any color of the rainbow. The opportunities are endless!
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. If you’re starting with a dark base color (like dark brown), ombré is a technique you’ll likely want to visit a professional for. Not only will they be able to help minimize damage from bleaching, but you can seek out someone who is especially skilled at creating a gradual, well-blended ombré.
Is ombré a little too bold for your tastes? Then opt for a softer option. You can still get that gradation effect, but with a softer overall tone. We’re talking about sombré highlights (aka soft ombré). Sombré is an all-over lightening technique that is great for those who aren’t looking for their highlights to produce the stark contrast that ombré provides. To get these highlights, start by choosing a shade that is a few shades lighter than your current hair color. You can choose how light you want to go but remember: The transition should be gradual. Since the goal of any good sombré is to achieve a soft gradation of hues, you’d be wise to visit a professional colorist for this highlighting technique too. This is especially true for dark brunettes, because, as we mentioned earlier, it will require some bleaching of the hair.
Like the name suggests, bronde highlights are a combination of blonde and brown. Technically, the bronde look is equal parts blonde and brown, which results in an overall extra dirty, blonde look that we love for any time of the year. While the bronde look is best achieved on those with a starting base hair color that’s lighter brunette, it still works for those who have darker brown locks—the process will just take a bit longer.
Another plus to the bronde look is that it’s also totally customizable to your natural hair and skin undertones: if you’ve got a warm skin tone, opt for golden, amber, and honey-toned bronde highlights. Contrastingly, if your skin tone is cooler, pick an icier hue for your highlights. For bronde highlights, stick to just one or two shades lighter than your regular hair color. Your highlights should be expertly placed around your face and other areas that would be naturally lightened by the sun to give you a natural look. This hair color trend is not one for the DIY colorist, however, so if you’re looking to test out the bronde highlight look, you’d best book an appointment with a colorist at your favorite salon.
Just like the two aforementioned highlighting techniques, bronde requires very little maintenance (lazy girls, rejoice!). And as if you needed another reason to try bronde highlights, they can also add texture to your natural brown hue thanks to being woven throughout your hair.
Developed by French hair colorists in the ‘70s, balayage has slowly 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 that suits hair of all lengths, whether you have short hair, medium hair, or long hair. Most often, the balayage technique is applied to a darker base with lighter highlights. The result is typically a little lighter than bronde, and it focuses on a more natural progression compared to other highlighting techniques. Again, these highlights are supposed to make your hair look like it’s been basking in the sunlight for hours. Balayage highlights are also chunkier than bronde highlights and grow out more naturally. As for the color variation, the highlights should differ up to two or three shades from your root to the tip. Although this highlighting technique isn’t as dramatic as an ombré or changing your hair color altogether, it’s also best left to a professional colorist who is experienced with freehand coloring.
Want to take balayage highlights up a notch? Sounds like flamboyage highlights are for you! Flamboyage literally means flamboyant balayage, and with these highlights your hair is gradually lightened from about halfway through your length to the tips of your hair. These differ from balayage highlights because the ends are lighter than your roots by about four shades. Again, the progression of these highlights is very natural-looking, and again, you’ll want to book an appointment in the salon if this is your highlight technique of choice.
If you keep up with the world of ever-changing hair color trends, you may have heard of cool-toned balayage recently (or seen it in your social media feeds). The cool-toned balayage technique is exactly what it sounds like: a version of balayage that uses cool tones to provide an ever-so-subtle dimension to the hair. After the highlights are placed, hair is toned once again to create an even more natural look. This is an especially good choice for brunettes who aren’t looking for a drastic change in their color but still want to get highlights. Even though its super subtle, cool-toned balayage highlights are best performed by a professional because the technique involves strategic placement of lighter strands. Also, it requires a second round of all-over toning, so if this is the brown-haired highlight look for you, go ahead and call your colorist.
Colored your hair? It’s time to switch up your hair care routine to help keep your color looking gorgeous! Consult the following tips for taking care of color-treated hair:
Swap out your regular shampoo and conditioner for ones that are formulated for color-treated hair. Reach for the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Repair & Defend Shampoo and the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Repair & Defend Conditioner the next time you go to wash your strands.
Once or twice a week, use a hair mask for color-treated hair in place of the above conditioner. Try the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Repair Remedy Balm. After washing with your shampoo, slather on the hair mask and leave it on for three to five minutes, then rinse. If sheet masks are more your style, try the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Intense Repair Hair Sheet Mask or the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Deep Moisture Hair Sheet Mask.
Highlighted, dark brown hair looks amazing with a little wave or curl to it but laying off of hot tools can help preserve your color. That means you may not want to pick up your curling wand quite so much. Instead of giving your hair texture via heat styling, try air-drying your strands every once and a while and using air dry products to achieve a beautiful hairstyle. If wavy tresses are your desired end result, post-shampoo and conditioner, when your hair is still damp, spritz on a bit of the L’Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle AIR DRY IT Wave Swept Spray and you’re good to go!
We get it, sometimes you’ve just got to use a blow-dryer or flat iron. Not to worry, just be sure to protect your colored strands with a heat protectant, like the L'Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle SLEEK IT Iron Straight Heatspray. To use, spray onto clean, damp hair section by section then style as usual.
Just in case you’re hooked on lighter hair after getting highlights, let us point you in the direction of our article on How to Go From Brown Hair to Blonde Hair the Right Way.