Grounding, Highlight Contouring, and Every Other Hair Color Trend to Try This Fall

Rich, autumnal hues to fall in love with.


If you think about it, fall is the best time of year for hair. Winter means stuffing it up into caps and wind-deflecting hoods, spring's wind gusts seem to have a personal vendetta against good hair days, and summer... well, summer is pure survival mode. That leaves fall, the single most glorious time of year. Minimal risk of sweat, frizz, or friction makes fall the perfect season for some serious hair color experimentation. If there's been one common thread in 2021's hair and makeup trends in general, it's an emphasis on expression and customization—and that extends to this season's hair color trends, too.

While the still-novel feeling of being out in the world influenced the bright color trends we saw this summer, something major seems to have shifted for fall. More-is-more hair routines have largely been replaced by streamlined, highly effective ones. It's evident with the rise of multifunctional products, bold but natural(ish) colors, and accessories that can change an entire aesthetic with just a few clips that versatility is here to stay. "I think we are all hoping to close the chapter on last year and explore and experience new things—aren't we?!" muses Sunnie Brook, celebrity stylist and Biolage Global Ambassador. "But the pursuit of healthy hair and consumers' desire to maintain a minimal but intentional routine is still very strong."

'Grounding' Is The Easiest Way To Fall-ify Your Current Color

In any given season, if you need to know the most major hair color that's about to be everywhere, you can usually just turn to Gigi Hadid. That was certainly true this summer when her copper-colored hair, delightfully dubbed "Aperol Spritz hair", kicked off a wave of spectacular celebrity reds—Ciara, SZR, and Busy Phillips among them. But while many of those shades veered towards summery pink, fall's red shades are all about both depth and warmth.

"Try going into a deeper, rich shade," Brook says. "I call it 'grounding' your color, or bringing it down to earth." Grounding can be anything from transforming a bright red into a medium brunette with cinnamon tones or returning to a more natural shade of blonde, but the warmth is key for this season. "It’s warm and familiar," Cynthia Alvarez, celebrity stylist and Biolage Curl Specialist, says of fall. "A plethora of bold reds, yellows, oranges, and browns."

A rich gloss is an easy way to get a fresh wash of color and tone at home in a way that works with your hair as-is, too. But as lovely as the autumnal earth tones are, the experts agree that bold experimental colors and fun techniques are here to stay, too. "I also think we’re gonna see a lot of block color placement rather than ombre or highlights," Sienree Du, celebrity hairstylist for Mane Addicts, explains. "Like a chunk of popping from the nape area, or chunky face-framing stripes." She says it's just making up for lost time after last fall—it's time to get creative.

Midnight Black Adds Instant Drama

Glossy, enveloping black has always been a favorite cold-weather shade, but 2021's version is all about added warmth and dimension for a color you can really sink into. “This season, we are going to see inky black with a shiny, warm glaze," claims Richy Kandasamy, Colorist and R+Co Collective Member. "We are also going to see a lot of natural, warm-infused red undertones that give a multi-tonal look and added dimension to black hair color.”

That dimension, in particular, is the key to a truly captivating shade of black. In many cases, when attempting to go for an all-over black dye, the hair color's rich depth can often read as flat next to the face—and can lead to the dreaded "washed-out" effect. But Kandasamy's recommendation of anchoring the shade with a wash of red-tinted warmth eliminates that risk.

If committing to a true midnight black feels a little intense, the easiest way to approximate the bold look while still staying firmly in fall-friendly territory is opting for an espresso bean shade of deep, deep brown. Those subtle warm tones Kandasamy mentioned are built right into the color by design, making it a one-and-done choice to capture all of black's intensity and shine.

Need Some Radiance? Go For Gold

During fall, golden hour at dusk takes on a cinematic feel. Against the orange, red, and brown leaves, the fading light illuminates everything with a hit of warmth for a sunlit spotlight—and that effect goes double for gold-tinted hair. "I'm loving hair that has kisses of gold flecks in it that catch the light or those deep tones that enrich a shade to feel more luxe," Brook says. While blonde typically has a reputation of being rather high-maintenance, there are plenty of techniques that allow you to get in on the gold-tinted fun without committing to five hours (and hundreds of dollars) in the salon chair every other month.

One such style, highly recommended by Kandasamy, is what the celebrity stylist calls a subtle golden face-framing. “This is all about the technique and placement of subtle golden hues around the face," he explains. "For those embracing your natural regrowth, this can add a seamless, sun-kissed contour placement.”

Think of it as a blonde outline for your hair, with color emphasis placed on where hair and layers naturally curve around your face and down your back. Keeping a bit of gold in place through the colder months also makes it a bit easier to transition back to significantly lighter colors come spring and summer, too.

When In Doubt, Just Add Accessories

Du can pin the recent resurgence of all things hair accessories to the cyclical nature of trends in general. "I think that's why the '90s are back with butterfly clips, DIY beaded hair accessories, and zig-zag headbands," she explains. Fortunately, fall's best accessories are as functional as they are stylish. For example, Brooks names headbands as the sneaky secret weapon for in- between color appointments. "They are also a great way to camouflage grown out roots or give your hair the look of more volume or height without the effort," she says, emphasizing the difference hair accessories can make to your overall look without much effort. "They are such an accessible way to upgrade your look if you're bored or want to have that extra special feeling without doing a big makeover."

The only challenge is deciding what exactly to accessorize with. For fall, earth tones and natural-finish metals are always a solid choice. While summer was all about leaning into colorful maximalism, its autumn counterpart borrows from a defining look of the '90s and '00s: preppy. Think vintage Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs, the original Gossip Girl, and anything with a plaid pattern. Hunter green, maroon, gold, mustard, and sienna are all solid color choices for things like headbands, hair ribbons, clips, barrettes, and wraps. Texture-wise, go for lush to counteract the harsh weather—shiny, saddle brown leather, velvet, and silky satin.

If you lean towards an edgier look, any dark-colored leather, studded, metal- tinged, or vinyl adds a touch of rock to any hairstyle. For the nature-lovers, wood headbands, painted beads, and dried autumnal flowers are an easy choice to extend the cottagecore look for yet another season.

Trends aside, Alvarez advocates for hair accessories that underscore your unique aesthetic and signature style. "Hair accessories are jewelry for your hair! And everyone loves an adornment or two to complete their look. Accessories help get your message across."

Product Picks

Mocha Mane

Jennifer Behr

Cricket Co.

Whether you're contemplating a serious change or just considering a color tweak, something about fall always brings about change. Brook agrees, too. "Sometimes that means a fresh new cut that takes off a few inches or a color that resets the tone and radiance of your hair texture," she says. "Whatever it is and however you choose to express it, it's about making that little (or big) shift in your beauty routine that aligns with who you are as you grow and change with the seasons."

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