Stunning Examples of Brunette Highlights

There's no doubt that dark brown hair is gorgeous, but if you're looking to add a bit of dimension to your strands or simply want to switch up your hair color, you may be wondering what your options are when it comes to highlights for dark brown hair. Luckily, there is no shortage of stunning looks, from brown ombré hair to balayage brown hair. So, whether you want to spice up your look with shades of auburn or blonde, we've consulted the experts to give you examples of highlight ideas for dark brunettes.

Ahead, find 50 ideas for highlights on dark brown hair for a mane makeover.

Fast Facts

Choosing a Shade: When choosing a highlight shade for dark brown hair, its best to start within one or two shades of your base color. That said, your stylist can work with you to achieve lighter and brighter highlights overtime.

Maintenance Level: The maintenance level of highlights on dark brown hair can vary based on the highlights you decide to get. If you ask your colorist for the balayage technique, you'll find the maintenance is low. If you want all-over highlights, the maintenance will be high. Keep in mind that the lighter you go, the more maintenance your hair will require.

Goes Great With: Neutral shades like blonde or warm shades like bronze or copper are great for emphasizing lighter strands.

Similar Shades: Dirty brunette and bronde.

Price: Depending on the type of highlights you plan to get and the salon you go to, you can expect it to cost anywhere from $75 to $350.

Caramel Balayage


To add a bit of warmth and lightness to a dark chocolate brown base, Stephanie Brown, NYC-based hair colorist of IGK Salons recommends adding in caramel pops of color for a look that's subtle, pretty, and summery. "It's a great way to add dimension without going blonde," she says.

Ask your hairdresser to carefully place balayage caramel pieces through the front of your hair to frame the face.

Dark Blonde Balayage

If you're a fan of dark brown hair with highlights but aren't quite prepared for a stark contrast in shades, this dark blonde balayage look may be just what you need. And since the color won't go all the way up to your roots, you won't have to worry about a harsh line of demarcation as your hair grows.

Ash Brown Highlights


Prefer to keep things cool? If you have dark brown hair with cool undertones, you'll find that ash brown highlights are a subtle, complementary option. Ask your colorist to focus on face-framing strands which will help brighten your complexion.

Dark Auburn Balayage


Envious of your redhead friends? To add a touch of their gorgeous natural color to your own mane, look no further than dark auburn balayage. "Brunettes usually hate having red in their hair, but for the few not scared this is a really pretty and subtle way to try it, and it’ll grow out very nicely," Brown explains.

Chocolate Balayage

To stay in the brunette family but still add some subtle dimension to your mane, consider giving chocolate balayage a try. This rich shade of brown will add instant warmth to your strands while the balayage technique will have your friends guessing if your hair is naturally so perfectly two-toned.

Rooted Highlight


For those who want an all-over lighter mane, ask your colorist for an off the root or rooted highlight. "This is a subtle highlight to give you an overall lighter look with a small root of your natural dark brown color," Brown explains. "You can either have a highlight very close to the root or highlight that goes to the root then deepen the root with a gloss."

Face-Framing Highlights


If you'd like to stick with low maintenance highlights for dark brown hair, face-framing strands are a great option. As you can probably guess, this involves lightening the hair that frames your face, which will instantly brighten your complexion without the upkeep that comes with an all-over highlight.

Espresso Highlights

Don't want to stray far from your dark brown roots (literally)? To simply add dimension to your dark base, pair it with equally dark—but ever so slightly lighter—espresso highlights. This combo is sure to leave people guessing if it's your natural hue.

Beige Gold Highlights


On the note of subtle highlights, you don't have to stick to notes of brunette for a seamless look. Beige gold highlights, especially when applied using the balayage technique like here, can let you walk the fine line between brown and blonde.

"A lot of brunettes say they want ashy highlights, but I think they are just scared of brassy highlights," Brown says. "I find that most of my clients that want ashy actually want this tone." To create the look, she explains to lift the highlights to a yellow to pale yellow and tone with a neutral gloss.

Chocolate Highlights


If you liked the chocolate balayage we talked about earlier but would prefer root-to-tip dimension, look no further than chocolate foil highlights. This option will look particularly stunning on those with a warm-toned dark brown base, as well as those who have olive skin tones.

Chestnut Money Piece

Want your lights for dark brown hair to be front and center? We're just slightly obsessed with this chestnut money piece. This is another low maintenance highlights option since your brightened strands will be focused on your fringe while the rest of your hair is left natural and dark.

Cool Beige Highlights


For those who like the idea of beige gold highlights but want a color that's slightly cooler in tone, cool beige highlights are the way to go. This sandy blonde shade borders on a light brown making it a beautiful option for brightening up dark brown hair.

Ashy Ombré


This subtle ombré situation from Johnny Ramirez, celeb colorist and owner of the buzz-worthy Beverly Hills hair studio, Ramirez Tran Salon, is the perfect example of cool-toned highlights, for brunettes who "don’t like any kind of warm tones," as Ramirez puts it.

Mahogany Face-Frame

For those who don't shy away from brown hair with red highlights, you'll find this mahogany face-frame to be a subtler take on the trend. The reddish-brown shade provides the perfect amount of contrast against Zendaya's dark brown, curly locks.

Sandy Balayage


Take cues from the beach and ask your colorist for sandy balayage. The hand- placed highlights will let you play with a brighter blonde at your ends and around your face while your mid-lengths have ashy light brown highlights throughout for a seamless transition of shades.

Golden Highlights


Anh Co Tran is an expert celebrity colorist and the other half of Ramirez Tran Salon. We like this wavy brunette lob that's dispersed throughout with hazy golden highlights.

Mahogany Ombré

Ombré hair is one of the best options when it comes to dark brown hair with highlights, as there's no need to worry about a harsh line forming as your roots grow out. Consider playing with tones of red by having your dark brunette base fade to a pretty mahogany brown at your ends.

Beachy Hair


Ramirez's specialty? Creating "lived in" and beach-y hair color, like this dark brown to ash blonde example. We like how her textured layers show off the highlights and add a bit more dimension.

Golden Copper Balayage


Subtle pops of golden copper balayage looks great on very dark brown hair, according to Brown. Just ask your colorist to keep your highlights to a minimum, rather than a full head. "You don’t want to do too many because you don’t want it to look red or brassy," Brown explains. "When it’s just a few subtle pieces it’s very pretty."

Golden Ends

During the summer months, you may notice that your ends become naturally lighter than the rest of your hair. This is what golden ends on dark brown hair attempts to mimic. We particularly love this combo on textured, naturally curly hair as it creates even more dimension throughout.

Golden Ombré Balayage


For an edgier look, try recreating this melded color, which looks especially stunning on textured hair. Complete the look with natural, curly texture. Personally, we like SEEN's Curly Creme ($27).

Chestnut Balayage


Chestnut is one of our favorite brown hues for adding dimension to a dark brown base as it adds just the right amount of lightness and warmth. The reddish-brown shade looks beautiful when painted seamlessly throughout the hair with chestnut balayage highlights.

Light Golden Ombré

Want to embrace a blonder mane but don't want to deal with the upkeep that comes with a full head of blonde highlights? Take cues from this light golden ombré look, which features a dark brown root that flawlessly blends to a light golden blonde from the mid-lengths to ends.

Cool Ash Blonde Ombré


Kim Wasabi is an expert colorist and owner of Excellent Hair Salon & Spa. She calls this color "brown beige and ice gold." What starts out as dark brunette at the roots slowly transitions to a cool ash blonde at the ends.

Light Blonde Balayage Ombré


To test the waters if blondes have more fun, consider this bold light blonde balayage ombré look. "You need to be careful of this because you want it to look like beach hair," Brown says. Have your colorist frame the face with pale blonde pieces, then carefully place pale blonde all over for piecey dimension. "Make sure there is a smooth transition from dark to light!"

Honey Ombré

For a blonder head of hair that's full of warmth, honey ombré highlights will be your best friend. Jennifer Hudson wears this rooted ombré look beautifully, creating loose curls throughout her hair that show off the seamless transition of shades.

Gold Color Melt


Wasabi is also responsible for this cool gold color meld, which looks incredibly shiny and glossy, especially when paired with big barrel curls. It's making us want to reach for our GHD Curve 1.25 Inch Soft Curl Iron ($199).

Rooted Blonde Highlights


If you want to give blonde hair a try, rooted blonde highlights are the way to go. "I like this look because it gives dark brunettes a way to be blonde without the crazy maintenance if it was a highlight to the root," Brown says. "It will still be some maintenance but it grows out nicely where you don’t have to come back as soon," she adds.

Chestnut Ombré

Needless to say, this inspiration picture of Rihanna is enough to convince us to book an appointment at the salon ASAP. The transition from dark to a light, warm chestnut looks particularly stunning against deep skin tones.

Auburn Color Melt


Wasabi also created this auburn color melt, which we love, since dark brunette is usually highlighted with gold tones. Even though this deep red is more typical of Autumn, we think the glossy red highlights work perfectly for summer, too.

Chocolate Chunks


Chunky looks are in! Yup, as much as we love a seamlessly blended mane, there's something to be said about popping chunks of dimension. "This is balayage or ombréd pieces of a warm brown to richen up brunettes," Brown explains. "It’s really beautiful. Just take large sections and balayage with color, like three levels lighter with 30 volume."

Light Chestnut Chunks

Speaking of chunky looks, if you want something with a bit more contrast, we love light chestnut chunks on dark brown hair. Ask your colorist to focus them at the front of your face.

Subtle Brown Highlights


Alysa Pace is a hairstylist and colorist at Bomane Salon in Beverly Hills. She created this dark brunette color with subtle light brown highlights. The color and cut are perfectly '70s-esque.

Rooted Bronde Highlights


What happens when you're torn between staying brunette or going blonde? We'd like to think this rooted bronde highlighted look is the result. Equal parts blonde and brunette, it's the perfect balance of tones with a dark root that makes touch-ups easy.

Light Brown Balayage


To embrace your brunette base, consider adding just that right amount of definition with some light brown balayage. The subtle contrast is perfect for those who want to test the waters of highlights for dark brown hair.

Rich Brunette Highlights


For those who want to add a lot of warmth into their hair, stick to rich shades of brunette. The varying shades of brown will give your dark brown hair new life.

Rooted Ice Blonde

Ready to go blonde? If you don't want to shy away from a lighter mane, make sure to go for a rooted look. This rooted ice blonde color is sure to create some serious, envy-worthy contrast.

If you want a bright blonde look that's low maintenance, ask your colorist for a shadow root.

Caramel Face-Frame


We also like this style from Lee. Instead of highlights interspersed without, the blonde highlights are concentrated at the ends and the front.

Chestnut Face-Frame


A subtle, chestnut face-frame is a great way to ease nervous brunettes into highlights, according to Brown. "Just pop in some subtle pieces around the hairline. It gets you used to feeling lighter without being lighter all over."

Subtle Ombré

On the note of subtle color, subtle ombré is another great option for dark brunettes who want to test the waters of lighter hair. Thanks to the transition from dark roots to lighter ends, you won't have to worry about the constant upkeep, either.

Reddish Blonde Highlights


Matt Rez is a colorist at MÈCHE Beverly Hills. He specializes in balayage, which is a coloring technique that creates gradual-looking color. We love this super dimensional dark brunette color with varying shades of blonde.

Cool Brunette Highlights


If you're afraid of your highlights turning brassy, consider asking your colorist for cool brunette highlights. Ashy in tone, you won't have to worry about any orange tones popping through.

Dirty Brunette


Dirty blonde, step aside—your brunette counterpart is coming through. Dirty brunette is an ashy balayage ombré. "Be careful when doing ashy colors, there is a fine line between ashy and gray," Brown warns. "The lighter you go the more careful you have to be, but it’s a really pretty beach vibe."

Light Brown Ombré

To stick with a classic and foolproof option, head to the salon for a light brown ombré look. You can't go wrong with this seamless transition of brown shades!

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