Dark Brown Hair with Highlights: How to Perfect the Look
Looking for the lowdown on perfecting dark brown hair with highlights? (And we mean all shades of highlights.) If a multi-tonal mane is your client’s goal, grab a tint brush and get ready for your glow-to guide to getting the most luminous lift. Whether they're craving brown hair with blonde highlights, a chocolate mane with red ribbons or even pink, purple and blue strokes, we’ve got the tips, tricks and formulas you need to transform their look…
How to Highlight Your Dark Brown Hair
When choosing highlights for dark brunette hair, there’s a full spectrum of finishes you can go for – from soft, subtle and natural, to bold, dramatic and contrasting. If natural is the vibe, aim for a lift no more than one or two levels lighter than the base, then finish with a golden brown or ash brown color to create shimmering ribbons. Try permanent Illumina Color to tone subtle highlights, which reveals unseen light reflections in the hair; perfect for a glossy glow that glitters as hair moves.
For more contrast, swap brunette layering for the drama of brown hair with blonde highlights. Try BlondorPlex for up to 9 levels lift, and tone in shades of ash blonde (for cool skin tones) or golden blonde (for warm skin tones). These ‘lights will pop against the dark brown base hair color and give your client a bolder transformation. This is a great way of taking hair from brown to blonde while maintaining a touch of depth.
And, if you want to turn up the drama even more, why not look into blue or red highlights on brown hair? Think, sweeps of bold cobalt or hints of mahogany that bring new dimension to your client’s mane. Even rose tones and vivid violet ribbons appear fresh and flattering on dark hair, proving just how workable and wearable highlights on brown hair can be.
Can You Highlight Black Hair?
Any hair color can be highlighted with our Blondor portfolio of pre-lighteners, including very dark brown or black hair. However, the darker the hair, the longer the lightening process will be, meaning your clients may need to come back for two or three appointments if they want to achieve a significant lift. Start them subtle at first and build the lightness up over a number of sessions, ensuring you use bond-strengthening BlondorPlex to lift while maintaining hair’s integrity. If you’re painting on a brunette balayage, you could also apply our freehand lightener, Blondor Freelights, and add in the WellaPlex No1 Bond Maker for enhanced resilience.
Dark Brown Hair with Highlights – 15 Ideas to Try
Dark Brunette Hair with Subtle Highlights
Image Credit: @xobeautybynicole
Brown on brown highlights are far more striking than you might think, as flawlessly demonstrated by Wella Passionista, Nicole. Using Blondor Freelights + 12%, she lifted sections of her client’s brunette locks, then toned using Color Touch 8/71 + 6/71 + 1.9%. Bonus: this demi-permanent formula fades beautifully, blending in more and more with the base over time, so hair always boasts a soft-focus finish.
Dark Brown Hair with Ash Brown Highlights
Image Credit: @leothehairalchemist
It’s not just blondes who can work ashy hues. If your client is cool-toned, adorn their hair in ash brown highlights that lend delicate dimension to dark brown hair. Subtle, seamless, yet so eye-catching. These radiant ribbons were created using Color Touch, featuring a smoky blend of 9/97 + 9/16 + 7/73. The result? A beautifully blended look that’s cool on every level.
Dark Brown Hair with Blonde Highlights
Image Credit: @_jt_hair_
There’s a difference between wanting to go from brown to blonde hair and craving just a touch of blonde in your locks. If your client is looking for the latter, this is the perfect level of brightness to aim for. Try recreating the look by applying blonde balayage with Blondor Freelights, then toning lifted sections of hair with Shinefinity Color Glaze 09/02, mixed 1:1 with the Brush & Bowl or Bottle Activator. It’s the perfect classic ‘brunette hair with blonde highlights’ look.
Caramel Highlights on Brown Hair
Image Credit: @paintedandbraided
There’s nothing sweeter than caramel highlights, and we’re obsessed with these creamy, sumptuous ribbons, adding piece-y lightness and brightness to a dark brown hair color. Recreate these gorgeous caramel tones with BlondorPlex to lift, Color Touch 4/0 + 5/0 + 1.9% for the base, and 6/73 + 7/71 + 1.9% enrich the lightened sections. The subtle shift in tone allows for the most seamless blending.
Red Highlights on Brown Hair
Image Credit: @j.p.looks
Add radiance to dark brown locks with red hair hues, a la Jojo Lucas in this multi-tonal creation. Each cherry cola ribbon helps to enhance the hair’s texture, while delivering a playful pop of color brunette clients will love. This is a single-step masterpiece that features Magma by Blondor /44, a product that lifts and tones in one for a quick-to-create statement. Remind your clients to then keep their color radiant with the Color Fresh Mask in Red, which deposits a small amount of pigment to make locks look freshly-colored in between appointments. All they have to do is apply it evenly through clean, damp hair, leave it on for 10 minutes, then rinse to reveal their refreshed red.
Dark Brown Hair with Copper Highlights
Image Credit: @twisted_by_ashley
Nothing says ‘eye-catching’ like contrasting copper tones through a dark brown base color. Just look at these wider ribbons, which have been laced through shoulder-length, loosely curled locks. If you’re looking to create the look, try toning lifted sections with Illumina Color 9/43 or Shinefinity in 08/34 Spicy Ginger. These metallic shades look their best when they’re subtly shimmering, so finish with EIMI Glam Mist, misted over the surface of the hair for high shine with a lightweight feel.
Black Hair with Highlights
Image Credit: @jhonyveiga
How dreamy are these delicate highlights scattered through black hair? In a rich, bronde (brown-blonde) hue, they enhance the shape and texture of Jhony Veiga’s client’s curly hair. Try it yourself with Koleston Perfect 12/0; one of the Special Blonde hues, which is designed to lift and tone locks in a single step. Paint it on in chunky highlights through the face frame for a finish that’s oh so striking.
Pink Highlights on Brown Hair
Image Credit: @hairxjojo
How dreamy are these dusky rose ribbons? If you’re not sure whether pink highlights on brown locks will work, take a look at this blush masterpiece – it’s all the incentive you’ll need to make pink hair happen. You can craft this look by painting BlondorPlex through a dark brown base, then toning with Color Touch 9/96 + 10/6 + 44/65 to reveal the rosiest ribbons around.
Blue Highlights on Brown Hair
Image Credit: @miguel_estelrich
Consider us obsessed with these blue highlights on dark brown hair. The depth of the base lets the oceanic hues stand out, so you get a dose of the coolest contrast around. If your clients are feeling the blues, lift their dark locks with BlondorPlex + 9% first, then mix Color Fresh CREATE New Blue with Tomorrow Clear to pastelize, and paint through lifted sections to create beautiful bold highlights. This marine mane is your new muse.
Chili Red Highlights on Brown Hair
Image Credit: @paintedhair
Chunky highlights just got hotter. If you’re looking to add red highlights to brunette hair, take note of these weighty, tumbling ribbons, featuring a whole lot of spice. Here, BlondorPlex + 6% was used to lift slices to a level 5, before Koleston Perfect 5/73 + 4/0 was applied to refine the chocolate brown base. Then, once both formulas had been rinsed out, Patricia Nikole reached for the Color Fresh Mask in Copper Glow, and left it on lifted sections for 10 minutes to create a chili red finish.
Gray Highlights on Dark Hair
Image Credit: @jackmartincolorist
For clients looking to transition to gray hair, highlights might just be the answer. Silvery regrowth is all the more visible on brown locks, and a head full of gray ribbons allows them to embrace their natural roots. The ‘before and after’ shot above is a great example of gray blending. For this look, try lifting hair with BlondorPlex + 6% first, then apply the Liquid Blonde Toner in Pale Silver to keep locks cool and bright. Flawless.
Purple Highlights on Brown Hair
Image Credit: @jhair_stylist
Purple panels, coming through. These violet highlights on black hair prove just how creative you can get with the Special Mix shades in the Koleston Perfect portfolio. Lift locks with BlondorPlex first, then apply 0/65 or, for a deep plum tone, 0/66. You can also play with purple-tinted hues from the Vibrant Reds palette, such as 6/41 or 66/46. Apply in delicate sweeps or be bold like James Earnshaw and paint those bold hues big and beautiful, with chunky face-framing highlights to amp things up.
Brown Hair with Face-Framing Blonde Highlights
Image Credit: @dereqc
To really make blonde highlights pop through dark brown or black hair, consider adding a face frame. These golden face-framing highlights are bringing all the drama, thanks to weighty slices that start just off the root. BlondorPlex was used first to create the lift, while Color Touch 6/75 was applied to tone hair to gilded perfection. If your client prefers cool tones, you could also try this technique with stone blonde or ash blonde highlights.
Dark Brown Hair with Caramel Highlights
Image Credit: @jen.paints
Here’s a little more caramel blonde inspiration, this time with extra contrast. The highlights are on the chunky side with bumped-up lift, so you get plenty of drama and dimension. Give them a go by painting wide slices with Blondor Freelights + 9% first. Then, tone lightened pieces with Color Touch 9/75, and add lowlights using 6/7 + 7/0. The dark chocolate base and caramel highlights are a match made in hair heaven.
Chocolate Brown Highlights on Brunette Hair
Image Credit: @biancahdrs
Milk chocolate brown highlights on dark chocolate brown hair is a look that’s as delicious as it sounds. For this trend, you’re layering brunette hues to create added movement and dimension. Shinefinity is your product of choice, as it also enhances shine to take that dimension higher, so use it to balance the base and brighten BlondorPlex’ed highlights. The shades at play here are 07/75 Raspberry Latte + 06/07 Deep Walnut, which were mixed together to deliver the creamiest milk chocolate glow.
How to Care for Dark Brown Hair with Highlights
Now you’ve achieved the highlights of dreams for your dark-haired clients, the last thing you want is for all your hard work to develop yellow or brassy tones. That’s why it’s important you recommend a nourishing hair care regimen; one that maintains the shade, while keeping colored hair in healthy condition.
1. Use Color-Protecting Hair Care
Over time, even the brightest highlights can start to appear brassy and dull. That’s why it’s important for your clients to use shade-shielding shampoos and conditioners, designed to prevent pigment fading. INVIGO Brilliance Color Protecting Shampoo washes away damaging impurities, while revealing the shine in each strand, so your client’s highlights glow. Recommend they team the shampoo with the Vibrant Color Conditioner; a nourishing treatment that makes their brown hair appear even glossier.
2. Apply a Pigment-Depositing Mask
In between salon appointments, your client may want to top up their tone at home. The Color Fresh Mask makes it easy, refreshing their shade with sheer pigments that correct color in just 10 minutes. Depending on the shade of highlights they’ve chosen, Golden Gloss, Caramel Glaze or Pearl Blonde will revive their hue. All they have to do is comb it through clean, damp hair, allow it to develop, then rinse thoroughly and style as usual.
3. Enhance Gloss with a Shine Spray
No brunette mane should be without a shine spray to amplify glossiness. By misting one through freshly styled locks, you can make any shade of highlights look fresher, brighter and more dimensional. If your client has fine or thin hair, they can try it with EIMI Glam Mist, while if their hair is on the drier side, it will reap all the nourishing rewards of Oil Reflections Luminous Smoothing Oil.
Now you know how to take your clients’ dark brown hair with highlights to the next level, make sure you share your masterpieces with us @WellaHairUSA. We can’t wait to see them.