How to Get Subtle Dark Brown Hair with Highlights

June 13, 2023

It’s time to go to the dark side and discover the benefits of those glorious, deep, sophisticated tones that will make your clients think of luxury. These shades bring to mind wood, buttery chocolate or perhaps high-quality coffee. Mmm, sign us up!

Firstly, dark brown hair definitely doesn’t mean dull hair! There are a multitude of sophisticated brunette shades that can be optimized with a few subtle highlights to add dimension and warmth that suits each skin tone and create a perfect brunette balayage. If you or your clients already have naturally dark hair, you may want to add a touch of luxe with some highlights for a personalized refresh. Alternatively, you might want to go a few shades darker for that expensive-looking brunette. If you’re still not sure, don’t worry, we have the answers! Sit back and get ready for some pro tips.

Dark Brown Hair with Highlights: What brunette balayage Is and Why It’s Popular

Dark hair has always been popular, but adding a few strategically placed highlights to make the eyes, skin tone or perhaps lip area really stand out is what makes this look a trending color choice. The darker root area can be low maintenance while the incredible gloss and mix of darker tones is arguably unrivaled. The addition of some subtle highlights brings the look to a new level but ensures that there is dimension throughout the hair. This brings out the natural texture of the hair type and style and can even trick the eye to make fine hair look fuller.

Remember, natural hair tends to have multiple tones so combine darker hair (bases 6 and under) with some lighter pieces that range from 0.5 to 3 shades lighter than the base. For example a Medium Chestnut Iridescent Brown 4.42 base mixed with Medium Iridescent Chestnut Blonde 7.24 toned highlights by Color Excel by Revlonissimo™ Tone on Tone  is a perfect way to make dark brown hair look expensive and youthful.


Choosing the Right Highlights for Each Shade of Dark brunette balayage

As always, consultation is key! Every client is different and the beauty of adding highlights to darker hair is that whatever the color technique choice, the lighter pieces should be placed in a strategic manner to really bring out the best features. Understanding how to choose the right hair color is key to ensuring you personalize the look.

Will you be keeping the natural base or going for a cooler brunette or a warmer base? How much contrast does your client want? Does your client want to have lighter sections around the face? How often will they come back for a color refresh? Do they have gray hair? This knowledge is key to ensuring the color is optimal and the root area can remain (if possible) relatively low maintenance!

Yes, darker hair often means lower maintenance except when the hair is over 50% white. At this point, permanent hair color is the only way to cover it completely. For a selection of warm and cool permanent brown shades that offer the perfect balance between coverage, transparency, and high-dimension color from roots to ends we recommend Revlonissimo Colorsmetique™. However, for those opting to keep their darker roots, adding a few lighter pieces (ideally 1-3 shades lighter) particularly around the face, mids, and ends can transform the hair. This helps blend the hair into something much more sophisticated and results in an expensive looking brunette with that sought after sun-kissed look.

Preparing Your Hair for Highlights: Tips and Considerations

Going lighter when you are used to that super shiny dark hair can be a little scary for some clients, especially if they have never had more golden or lighter highlights. It is essential to ask your clients if they have ever had lighter hair before, if the darker hair they currently have was ever permanently colored, and if this was done professionally. These points are important as they will help you and your clients to have a clear idea of the color and the tone that can be achieved.

If the hair is natural then the options are much more varied and lighter highlights are more achievable. It’s always a good idea to carry out a strand test on the hair and to use the appropriate pre-lightener if required. We recommend the Magnet™ Blondes range, which has various options that beautifully lift the hair. Once a client leaves the salon, it is essential to recommend professional hair care products as home care alongside toners or top-up color options like Nutricolor Filters™ to help keep the hair strong, healthy, and glimmering with that fresh out-of-the-salon shimmer.



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Una publicación compartida por Emily Smith (@emilyatdirectors)

Application Techniques for Dark Brown Hair with Highlights

The best applications for a brunette balayage are the ones that are bespoke for the client’s preference, maintenance requirements, previous color history and personality! Balayage and foilayage are always fantastic coloring techniques to ensure a range of tones throughout the hair. If the hair is already dark, then a few fine-weaved highlights under the part will ensure that the client can get used to the new color choice. You can add to this over time for a subtle look. Techniques that will help retain heat are recommended for darker hair. These help achieve lighter looks, especially that much loved money piece on previously colored or darker hair.

Our new Foilayage technique is perfect to help the lighter highlights stand out while staying low maintenance and avoiding any harsh grow-out lines. Like Balayage, this trend is a freehand painting technique that uses the stylist’s artistic flair to create personalized color. It allows the lighter tones to melt seamlessly from the darker roots. Lighter hair can benefit from a reverse balayage technique to retain the already lightened sections and then darken the roots and some mids and ends. This can be achieved with semi-permanent color such as Color Excel Gloss by Revlonissimo™, ensuring that the client can go back to the lighter side if they wish to try out a new look. It’s also a perfect intermediate look for those with naturally lighter hair. We really love the tones .342 Bronzite, .821 Mushroom and .31 Sand.


As mentioned, dark hair that looks rich will always be trending so don’t forget to recommend different color techniques and tones to your clients with dark brown hair.

Keep up to date with all of the trends and news from Revlon Professional on our educational platform, #AlwaysOn (for clients only) and don’t forget that you can order all your pro products on our online shop, RevlonProshop!


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