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20 Fabulous Ideas for Dark Brown Hair With Highlights

Beautiful, dark brown hair can be stunningly beautiful, shiny and rich. Although dark brown has a ton of depth on its own, adding a pop of color with subtle or even bold highlights can turn your one dimensional brunette hair into a multi-dimensional masterpiece. Check out these fabulous ideas for dark brown hair with highlights and get color inspired!

#1 Half up Blonde Up

Written by Sarah Nitz

Textured blonde highlights in rich dark brown hair help to give this look an extra kick.

Dark Haircolor with Blonde Highlights

Style by Connie Masullo, Unique Hair Design

Dark Haircolor with Blonde Highlights Back

Style by Connie Masullo, Unique Hair Design

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Light to medium skin tones that look great in warmer colors rock these blonde highlights, while hair that is long and thick is the best base to create this style.

Tip:

Want to achieve this fun texture? Dust off your crimping iron! Use it on completely dry hair in the root and midshaft area. Be sure to not crimp down all the way as you just want to give the hair some soft texture.

#2 Ruby Ends

Written by Sarah Nitz

Rich ruby red ends brighten up this dark look, taking it to an entirely different level.

Dark Haircolor with Red Ends

Style by Sean Rocco Salon, Charlotte, NC

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Dark to medium skin tones that look fabulous in reds, violets, and plums wear this color fabulously. Hair that is healthy and beyond your shoulders provides the length needed to achieve this color effect.

Tip:

Bringing pictures for your stylist is a great way to make sure that you are both on the same page with your color. This helps them to choose the right color and style for you.

#3 Red Glow

Written by Sarah Nitz

Adding soft red ombre’ highlights through the ends of your hair is a more subtle way to add a interest and pop of color to your dark brown hair.

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Light to medium skin tones that tend to gravitate towards wearing warm reds, oranges and greens wear this color well. Hair that is starting at a dark brown with healthy ends takes lightening and coloring red best.

Tip:

Keeping red bright can sometimes be a challenge. Washing your hair less and using a dry shampoo in between helps. There are also great color enhancing conditioners like Pravana’s Color Enhancers.

#4 A Little Goes a Long Way

Written by Sarah Nitz

Added caramel highlights gives this sharp cut a little extra definition and texture.

Dark Haircolor with Caramel Highlights

Style by Katie Kacere, Makeup by Kristian Bailey, Sheer Professionals, Wooster, OH

Dark Haircolor with Caramel Highlights Side

Style by Katie Kacere, Makeup by Kristian Bailey, Sheer Professionals, Wooster, OH

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Light to medium skin tones that look great in plum, navy and emerald greens look amazing wearing this color too. Hair that is straight in texture and naturally medium to dark brown is the best base for this color and cut.

Tip:

Keeping a small amount of brown to lay over your new highlights keeps upkeep a breeze. Ask your stylist if this will work with your next color.

#5 Peek-a-Blue

Written by Sarah Nitz

Bright blue highlights peaking out of dark brown hair is both eye catching and intriguing.

Dark Haircolor with Bright Blue Highlights

Style by Kit Carlson, Makeup by Caroline Lease, Yellow Strawberry Salons, Sarasota, FL

Dark Haircolor with Bright Blue Highlights Side

Style by Kit Carlson, Makeup by Caroline Lease, Yellow Strawberry Salons, Sarasota, FL

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Light, cool skin tones look best with this bright blue pop of color. Hair that is starting at a natural dark brown and straight makes styling this haircut easiest.

Tip:

Getting a bright blue involves a lot of lightening of your hair. If you want to skip the lightening, ask your stylist about extensions. There are lots of options for more permanent or clip-in extensions and the bonus is that you could have an array of different colors on hand!

#6 Creative Caramels

Written by Sarah Nitz

Different shades of caramels woven through dark brown hair gives you not only a lighter look, but a bolder one too!

Dark Haircolor with Different Shades of Caramel

Style by Sandra Bello, Makeup by Caroline Lease, Yellow Strawberry Salons, Sarasota, FL

Dark Haircolor with Different Shades of Caramel Side

Style by Sandra Bello, Makeup by Caroline Lease, Yellow Strawberry Salons, Sarasota, FL

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Light to medium skin tones that look great in warm browns, reds and oranges wear this color well. Hair that is starting at a dark chocolate brown is a great base for this warm highlighted look.

Tip:

Lightening dark hair can sometimes leave it dry. Ask your stylist for a recommendation for a deep conditioner to use weekly. My favorite is Pravana’s 60 Sec treatment.

#7 Slight Lighting

Written by Sarah Nitz

You don’t always have to go big with highlights to make a difference in your color. Adding babylights of a soft light brown gives major impact.

Dark Haircolor with Soft Brown Highlights

Style by Megan Arbuckle, Makeup by Lindsay Dissett, Yellow Strawberry Salons, Sarasota, FL

Dark Haircolor with Soft Brown Highlights Side

Style by Megan Arbuckle, Makeup by Lindsay Dissett, Yellow Strawberry Salons, Sarasota, FL

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Light to medium skin tones that look great in reds (of course!), oranges and greens look fabulous in this soft color. Hair that is dark brown naturally or colored is a perfect starting point to achieving this look.

Tip:

Going slow when changing your hair color is a good idea. This could very well be a starting point in your journey to being a lighter shade. Talk to your stylist about all the beautiful colors you can create in between your lightening sessions.

#8 Head Over Heels For Hidden Highlights

Written by Carly Bowers

These highlights are hidden, but gently pop through to add the perfect touch of dimension.

Dark Brown Hair With Highlights

Style by Nina John, Elon Salon, Marietta, GA

Hidden Highlights on Dark Brown Hair

Style by Nina John, Elon Salon, Marietta, GA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

This look is absolutely magical if you have a warm brown color all over and want to add a bit of a lighter, warm toned brown. An added bonus — this look is incredibly low maintenance! If you have cool toned skin and need to add a little brightness around your face, this look is for you. A short, layered haircut like the one shown here is absolutely divine for this color combo. It will show off those peek-a-boo highlights perfectly. If you like the style shown here, grab your medium-sized round brush and smooth out your locks while blow drying.

Tip:

This look is especially great if you are a dark haired beauty and are looking to go lighter over time. A few peek-a-boo highlights are a great way to start adding lightness without overdoing it all at once.

#9 Totally On Top

Written by Carly Bowers

Add some caramel to the top of your dark brown hair to bring brightness around your face.

Caramel Highlights on Dark Brown Hair

Style by Nina John, Elon Salon, Marietta, GA

Caramel Highlights on Dark Brown Hair Back View

Style by Nina John, Elon Salon, Marietta, GA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Here’s a look that’s a bit bold without stepping too far into the really “out there” color category. Although the highlight pattern shown here is bold and daring, the dimension added is in the brunette family, so it works well and isn’t too constrast-y! Depending on the current health and color of your hair, this color could be a bit difficult to achieve. Be sure to consult your stylist on what is possible for your specific hair. If you like the style shown here, use your medium-sized round brush to smooth your hair while blow drying.

Tip:

A look like this will be especially great on short hair. The color blocking will look more dramatic and bold! The color right around your face will also frame it well.

#10 Ombré Perfection

Written by Carly Bowers

One of the biggest trends as of late is the low maintenance and stunningly natural ombré! It allows for plenty of dimension and doesn’t force you to be a slave to your roots. Perfection!

Ombre Highlights on Dark Brown Hair

Style by Michelle Plummer, Kathy Adams Salon, Buford, GA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

As I mentioned above, this style is absolute perfection for someone who wants to add lightness around their face, but doesn’t necessarily want to be a slave to their roots every six to eight weeks. A gradual, natural looking ombré which goes from dark to honey toned ends is the perfect complement to any skin tone. Multi tonal colors such as this one span virtually the whole color scale, so they bring brightness and sheen and mesh well with all complexions. If you like the look shown here, use your 1¼-inch curling iron. Short-haired beauties, fear not! This look works well for short hair also.

Tip:

If you have dark hair that you have been coloring dark, keep in mind that getting your ends as light as you want them could be a bit of a process. Lifting old color out of hair is a slow process that must be done gradually to protect the integrity of your hair.

#11 Simply Seamless

Written by Carly Bowers

Here’s an even softer and more subtle take on the ombré…talk about natural and blended!

Subtle Ombre Style for Dark Hair

Style by Katie Sisco, Kathy Adams Salon, Buford, GA

Subtle Ombre Style for Dark Hair Side View

Style by Katie Sisco, Kathy Adams Salon, Buford, GA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

This is a great “transitional phase” option if you are hoping to eventually add a good amount of lightness to your dark brown hair, but don’t want to do it all at once. Start by gradually adding in some lighter pieces, but keeping them very natural and blended. The warm caramel tones shown above are a perfect complement to dark brown hair. Long, medium or short hair of any texture will be an ideal canvas for this look. If you like the look shown here, use your 1¼-inch curling iron to curl hair in sections.

Tip:

Keeping the tone of your hair looking great is always important. Be sure you’re using a color protecting shampoo and conditioner, and a hair mask if needed!

#12 Completely Crimson

Written by Carly Bowers

Adding some warm, copper and red tones to dark brown hair can create the perfect bit of contrast and dimension to an otherwise flat and drab brown.

Copper and Red Tones on Dark Brown Hair

Style by Kathy McCaffrey, Kathy Adams Salon, Buford, GA

Copper and Red Tones on Dark Brown Hair Front View

Style by Kathy McCaffrey, Kathy Adams Salon, Buford, GA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Adding red and copper tones to your dark brown hair can turn it into an auburn masterpiece! If you have natural, never been colored hair, this look will be much easier for your stylist to create. It is possible to create on previously colored hair, it may just take multiple processes, so be patient with your stylist! If you have blue or green eyes these tones will create a stunning contrast and really make them pop. The look shown here was created using a curling iron.

Tip:

Reds and coppers are really tough to maintain, so be sure you’re aware of the maintenance required before you commit to these colors. They fade quickly so frequent salon visits will be necessary.

#13 Caramel Crush

Written by Carly Bowers

By adding in some bold, warm toned highlights, this dark brown color comes to life with plenty of dimension and sheen!

Bold Warm Toned Highlights on Dark Brown Hair

Style by Heather Young, John Roberts Salon & Spa, Cleveland, OH

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

This stunning mix of dark brown and honey tones is truly one of the most versatile options out there. It has depth and can work for those with a cooler skin tone, as well as those with a warm skin tone. The look shown here is also very low maintenance. By keeping the highlights only a few levels lighter than the all over dark brown color AND by keeping them away from the roots, this style will let you avoid being a slave to your roots! Long or short hair can easily pull this look off. If you like the look seen here, use your large barrel curling iron to curl sections of hair.

Tip:

Some face framing layers or a side swept bang would be a great way to showcase this color even more!

#14 Ravishing in Red

Written by Carly Bowers

Adding red can be stunning and quite complementary to brunette hair. Keep in mind though, the maintenance is major, so red isn’t for everyone!

Red Highlights on Brunette Hair

Style by Terry, Barbaria Salon, Foster City, CA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

If you have a medium complexion with warm or cool tones, this look could be right for you! Keep in mind that red color is NOT low maintenance. To keep this red looking vibrant you will need to make frequent visits to the salon. Red fades quickly and can become a completely different color in a matter of weeks. However, there are plenty of ways to prevent your color from fading, so be sure to talk to your stylist about how to keep your red looking ravishing! Depending on your current hair color, getting to a bright red like this could be a slow process and if not done by a professional and could be very damaging. If you like the look seen here, use a round brush to smooth out your hair while blow drying. Add a bit of shine spray or serum to the ends for extra sheen.

Tip:

If you aren’t ready to fully take the plunge into some red pops here and there, try a few extensions first! Clip in extensions are a fun way to experiment with color without having to fully commit to it.

#15 The Face Framing Feature

Written by Carly Bowers

I am absolutely crazy about this style. It’s subtle, but can make your whole look seem much brighter!

Dark Brown Hair with Face Framing Highlights

Style by Liza, Barbaria Salon, Foster City, CA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

As I mentioned above, this look is perfection for those who want to tweak their style just a bit, but don’t want to add a huge maintenance routine into their life. The soft, warm tones around the face are sure to complement nearly any skin tone, and they will definitely make light eyes pop a bit more. You may even find that you are able to wear less bronzer and blush because these stunning highlights will add so much warmth to your look! A long or short style will work for this one. If you like the look seen here, use a flat paddle brush to blow dry your hair and then use your flat iron to get it even smoother and straighter.

Tip:

Here’s another look that’s perfect if you’re looking to eventually get to lighter hair. By adding just a few highlights at a time, you will protect your hair and be able to keep it healthy while reaching your color goals!

#16 Completely Copper

Written by Carly Bowers

This deep coppery-red tone adds so much interest and dimension to dark hair!

Deep Red Highlights on Dark Hair

Style by Medeline, Barbaria Salon, Foster City, CA

Deep Red Highlights on Dark Hair Front View

Style by Medeline, Barbaria Salon, Foster City, CA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Deep warmth is defined here with these stunning pops of copper and red. As I have mentioned before about both copper and red colors, they fade very quickly and can require a lot of maintenance. Be sure to consult your stylist on what the upkeep will be before you commit to going more red. Nevertheless, red can really spice up an otherwise drab looking brown! It will add spice and edginess to your color, which is always a plus. Healthy hair is key here. If your hair is over-processed and damaged, the red will likely look washed out and not as bright. If you like the look seen here, use a medium-sized round brush to smooth out your locks while blow drying.

Ti:

If you have long hair, it might be fun to do a red toned ombré! Keeping the red just at the ends is a fun alternative to what is shown here.

#17 Totally Two Toned

Written by Carly Bowers

Here’s a more dramatic look for those who really want to make a statement.

Dramatic Highlights on Dark Brown Hair Color

Style by Peles Salon & Day Spa, Johnstown, PA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

This style is perfectly suited for brunettes who want to make a statement and add a bit of drama to their hair! If you have a darker, warmer complexion, give this look a try. If your skin tone is too cool, these highlights may make you appear “washed out”. These highlights draw attention to bangs and the layers around your face. If you like the look shown here, use a one-inch curling iron to curl sections of hair, then use a teasing comb to add volume at the roots.

Tip:

This style will likely be a bit high maintenance as the dramatic highlights will grow in and cause visible roots. Be sure to discuss the maintenance schedule with your stylist before you color your hair!

#18 Absolutely Auburn

Written by Carly Bowers

Here is another reddish-toned brunette that we are totally swooning over!

Red Tones on Dark Hair Color

Style by Sandy Hoyt, John Roberts Salon & Spa, Cleveland, OH

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

These über warm tones bring the perfect pop of color to a dark brunette. They are especially stunning on a short haired gal like the one pictured above. Once again, do keep in mind that red is a particularly high maintenance color and it tends to fade quicker than other colors. Green or blue eyes will really pop next to this red. If you like the look shown here, use a round brush to smooth out your hair while you blow dry, then apply a texture cream to the ends.

Tip:

If you have red in your hair, it’s always a good idea to stock up on a shampoo that’s specifically designed for keeping red color looking fresh and bright. Tressa makes a great one.

#19 Red Hot in Red

Written by Carly Bowers

Here is another red and dark brown combo that’s both eye catching AND low maintenance!

Red and Dark Brown Hair Color

Style by Lauren McDonald, Kathy Adams Salon, Buford, GA

Red and Dark Brown Hair Color Side View

Style by Lauren McDonald, Kathy Adams Salon, Buford, GA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

Here’s a way to add in plenty of color and not have to be a slave to your roots. However, keep in mind that red does tend to fade. These highlights are placed strategically so that they aren’t right on your part, but hidden a bit below it, thus creating no visible regrowth when your natural color starts to grow in. These auburn highlights will flatter those with a warmer skin tone. If you like the look shown here, use your round brush while blow drying to get plenty of volume at the roots and smoothness on the rest of your hair!

Tip:

A cool feature of a color job like this is that when you switch your part, the color will look different! Depending on where your hairstylist places the pops of red, they will likely change their boldness depending on where you part your hair. Parted on the right they may be front and center, while parted on the left, they could be hidden and less obvious.

#20 Eye Popping Purple

Written by Carly Bowers

If you’re not opposed to a bright, vibrant pop of color on your brown hair, this look is perfect for you!

Dark Haircolor with Bright Pop of Color

Style by Lacey Singleton, Upscale Hair Salon, Savannah, GA

Best Skin Tone and Hair Type:

A bright, bold pop of color can make your dark hair edgier and funkier. It’s a great way to set yourself apart from others and stand out! Depending on your skin tone and the color of your brunette hair, a variety of bright colors could work for you. If you like the look shown here, ask your stylist to keep the color only in the front around your face. Smooth your hair with a round brush and flat iron to get the hairstyle pictured above.

Tip:

Once again, bright colors such as this are very quick to fade. Within a couple washes you will likely notice the color already looking less bright. Be sure to talk to your stylist about how often you will have to visit the salon to maintain a look like this.

Subtle or bright, bold highlights on dark brown hair are a fun way to change up your style a bit. Whether it be a small change or a drastic re-vamp, be sure to consult your stylist and take their personal opinion into consideration. They likely have a lot of experience and know what’s best for you and your hair. Happy highlighting!