How to Choose the Best Highlights for Dark Brown Hair

By Lora Keleher , last updated January 29, 2012

Figuring out how to choose the best highlights for dark brown hair is much more complicated than simply grabbing a box of hair dye off the shelves at your drugstore; you've got to first consider which colors look best on you. Choosing the best highlights for dark brown hair requires that you have an understanding of your natural skin tone, and which colors compliment it. Although your best friend may look fantastic with golden highlights in her hair, you may look better with ash-blonde streaks. Instead of dying into the latest trend, pick a color that brings out your natural beauty, and your locks will inspire even your most stylish friends.

Skin Tone

First, you need to figure out if you have a warm or cool skin tone. Individuals with dark brown hair can have either type of skin tone, although it’s more likely that yours will be cool. People with warm skin tones look best with highlight colors such as golden blonde, strawberry blonde, or light coppery brown, while people with cool skin tones look best with light ash brown, ash blonde, or even platinum highlights. One of the easiest ways to determine your skin tone is to look at the veins in your wrist or forearm. If you have blue veins, you likely have cool undertones, but if they appear bluish green, then you likely have warm undertones. Another simple way to identify your skin tone is by observing your natural hair and eye color. You probably have skin with warm undertones if you naturally have gold or red highlights in your hair, especially when the sun catches your locks, and hazel eyes with golden flecks, or golden brown, light blue, or light green eyes. You likely have skin with cool undertones if you have deep brown hair with bluish highlights, or dark brown hair with ashy highlights, and hazel eyes with blue flecks or dark brown, dark blue, or dark green eyes.

You can also identify your skin tone by sifting through your wardrobe. People with warm undertones tend to look best in jewel tones and colors like amethyst, forest green, and navy, while individuals with cool undertones end to look best in russet, yellow, and olive. If you’re looking for face-framing highlights, it’s important to choose a color that compliments your skin, but if you’re seeking a dramatic look, carefully placed highlights that go against your natural skin tone can have this effect without making you look flushed or washed out.


After you’ve identified your skin tone and which colors complement, you’ll want to consider the look you’re trying to achieve. You can obtain a dramatic look by adding highlights that are several shades lighter than your dark brown hair, or that defy your natural skin tone. If you have cool undertones, you might decide on honey colored or platinum highlights, whereas if you have warm undertones, you could select golden honey blonde or copper highlights. If you’re trying to achieve a more organic look, you should select highlights within three shades of your natural hair color, such as chestnut or burgundy highlights if you have warm undertones, and copper or medium ash-brown highlights if your skin has cooler undertones.

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