Since the dawn of time, brown hair with blonde highlights has been an ever-popular choice for those looking to change up their hair colour. Evolving over the years with more natural techniques like babylights and balayage, brightening highlights are able to adapt to suit just about anyone.
Thinking about booking in at the salon but not sure where to start? Not for long. With such a wide spectrum of hues to choose from – cool ash tones, warm caramels, neutral brondes, there’s a colour out there to suit you. Plus, with our top tips to caring for your colour, the new hair excitement will last long after you’ve left the salon.
Alessandra Ambrosio’s Victoria’s Secret waves
Looking for a way to brighten up your brunette for summer? Channel your inner angel like Alessandra Ambrosio with some sunny blonde and brown highlights for an easy seasonal update.
Editor’s tip: You’re going to be blowing kisses at yourself in every reflective surface with your newly-tinted blonde highlights – so take care of them to make them last!
AnnaLynne McCord’s root smudge
You don’t have to go light all over to get the blonde look. If you’re trying light hair for the first time, you can ask your stylist to pull a darker colour through your roots (a process called gloss smudging) – this will make your blonde and brown highlights transformation less dramatic so it’s not so scary.
Jessica Alba’s butterscotch highlights
If you’re looking for a way to wear blonde highlights on brown hair year-round, look no further than Jessica Alba. Whatever the season, this flattering hair hue will always be on trend.
Highlights for medium/tan skintones
Sophisticated and subtle are the two words that encapsulate Jessica Alba‘s mane. For tanned and medium complexions, it’s best to stick to a variety of rich caramels and maple tones when it comes to brown hair highlights. This will result in a more natural look and really flatter your golden complexion.
Malika Haqq’s copper blonde
Marianna Hewitt’s perfectly positioned highlights
Blogger Marianna Hewitt’s blonde highlights are a perfect example of how important placement is when choosing the kind of highlights you want. By starting further down from the roots, her highlights accentuate her features, bringing out her eyes and cheekbones.
Natalie Portman’s contoured highlights
Ultra-thin babylights give Natalie Portman’s shoulder-length waves a contouring effect, softening her features.
Olivia Palermo’s golden bronde
Olivia Palermo always gets it right with her hair and this flowing golden brown and blonde blend is no exception.
Shay Mitchell’s dark hair with highlights
Give your dark locks a touch of added dimension by adding in some highlights a few shades lighter than your natural hue.
P.S. wear them curly like Shay to really make them shine!
Jessica Biel’s beige blonde
Unsure if you should go for cool or warm highlights? Neutral tones suit the widest range of skintones and Jessica Biel’s beige blonde hue is the perfect middle ground between warm and ashy.
Tyra Banks’ golden curls
Forget what you think you know about highlights – they aren’t just for straight hair. In fact, if you’re looking to add more definition to your curls and give your overall look more dimension, there’s nothing better – just look at Tyra!
Sarah Jessica Parker’s summery waves
Having one block colour all over can make long hair look drab and weighed down, so highlights are a great remedy for this. Adding blonde and brown highlights close to your own hair colour will breathe fresh life back into your hue and add interest through your lengths.
Olivia Wilde’s highlighted bob
Olivia Wilde’s subtle highlights
This makes for great inspiration if you’re feeling cautious about highlights. To nail Olivia Wilde‘s look, keep most of your locks dark, and subtly introduce blonde overlays to the strands framing the face from the brow bone downwards.
Combine this with soft, chin-length layers and it’ll help to masterfully soften any hard angles.
Lily Aldridge’s rich brunette
Lily Aldridge is a brunette through and through but that’s not to say she isn’t partial to some highlights! Her warm blonde highlights add dimension to her glossy brown, making it look even more gorgeous.
Jennifer Lopez’ brown blonde
No one does highlights for brown hair better than Jenny From The Block. But seriously, the reason Jennifer Lopez‘ highlights look so natural is because there are so many subtle shade variations.
It’s worth talking to your hairdresser about balayage to achieve this hybrid brown/blonde look. Because the hair colouring technique involves painting dye on the hair freehand, it’ll allow for more subtle combinations to be worked in.
Jennifer Lopez’ ashy bob
Editor’s tip: One of the hardest things about going blonde is keeping brassy tones away, so we’d recommend adding a purple shampoo to your haircare routine.
Next read: Learn more about how purple shampoos work
Jennifer Garner’s face-framing highlights
Happy with your current hair colour but just looking to change it up a little? You’d be surprised how much difference a few lighter face-framing highlights can make to your overall look. Plus, they don’t take half as much time as a full head!
Caroline Flack’s bronde highlights
Our love for bronde (brown and blonde hair) knows no bounds and Caroline Flack‘s light brown hair with blonde highlights just confirms that.
Jennifer Aniston’s lowlights
A clever combination of light and dark hues, Jennifer Aniston has been rocking this ‘do for as long as we can remember! After all, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
Ciara’s creamy blonde highlights
Ever wondered how Ciara can rock such milky coloured highlights? The trick is in maintaining her dark roots. While the flaxen highlights are worked into the strands closest to her face, instantly brightening up her skin tone, her dark roots provide depth and warmth, anchoring the overall look.
Ciara’s blonde bangs
Fan of fringes? A great way to liven up your bangs is by adding some accented, face-framing highlights like Ciara has here. It will give your whole look a lighter feel and really accentuate your layers.
Jenna Ushkowitz’ peekaboo highlights
Glee star Jenna Ushkowitz’ peekaboo highlights make for great inspiration if you’re feeling cautious with your ‘do. To nail her look, keep the majority of your locks dark brown with blonde highlights subtly introduced around the face.
Emily Blunt’s soft ombre
Anyone with a classic English rose complexion should definitely follow suit, as dense highlights too close to the roots can easily wash out paler skin tones.
Beyoncé’s caramel highlights
Queen Bey is the ultimate poster girl for working brown hair with blonde highlights on darker complexions. By opting for variations of golden-caramel shades, while retaining her natural brunette base, the different tones blend together seamlessly.
Chloë Moretz’ rootsy highlights
Worried about regrowth? Maintaining blonde hair can be expensive if you’re not a natural blondie (sigh!). But just do as Chloë Grace Moretz has done and ask your stylist to leave some of your darker, natural hue untouched at the roots.
This will make it less obvious when your natural hair starts to grow through, meaning you can leave it longer between touch-ups.
Jourdan Dunn’s blonde tips
The British model’s mane is a perfect example of how to cleverly use ash blonde highlights to really elevate a cut. Jourdan‘s angled bob frames her oval face nicely, but it’s her use of caramel-toned tips that we’re really drawn to.
Chrissy Teigen’s sunkissed streaks
Over the years, Chrissy Teigen‘s locks have evolved from deep, sultry mahogany to exotic, sunkissed streaks. The key to her hair success has been maintaining relatively dark roots and lifting them with brighter, sandy-hued highlights.
Hilary Duff’s ’70s balayage
Hilary Duff has been blonde for as long as we can remember but it’s her recent balayage transformation that really caught our eye. Combining soft bardot bangs and chestnut brown roots with ash blonde highlights, this look is ticking all the right boxes.
Hayden Panettiere’s honey-blonde highlights
Come on, is there anything more luscious that a set of warming, honey-blonde highlights? Nope, we don’t think so either.
And it seems Hayden Panettiere agrees, since she has decided to add a load of depth and dimension to her locks with some subtle honey highlights.
Lauren Conrad’s trademark toffee
This season is all about embracing ombre locks, but Lauren Conrad has already been pulling this look off for years! Sporting a soft ombre ‘do, Lauren brightens her famous locks with warm toffee tones at the top lengths of her hair, before gradually brightening the hue through her mid lengths and ends.
The end result is a natural-looking style, that works effortlessly to uplift her features!
Work in 2-3 drops from mid-length to the ends of your hair (either damp or dry), to help keep your highlights looking glossy at all times.
Ashley Benson’s lived-in platinum
Brown hair with blonde highlights is often chosen as a natural-looking style, but who says you can’t also embrace on-trend styles?
If you have a brunette base and want to rock platinum locks, then work your colour higher up and add in a few warmer blonde highlights to give it a more lived-in feel.
Georgia May Jagger’s sandy blonde
She may have a rockstar dad, but British model Georgia May Jagger is a star in her own right with this dirty blonde hue.
Great for those who are worried lighter shades won’t suit them, it’s the perfect middle ground between blonde and soft brown, so it’s an ideal gateway into blonde.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s strawberry blonde
Thanks to famous celeb redheads, strawberry blonde shades have never been so sought after. If you’re scared to commit to a bold, fiery hue, take note of Rosie Huntington-Whitely’s red-blonde highlights for a more subtle take on the trend.
Cheryl’s warm bronde
Yes, we know: Cheryl’s hair is probably more blonde that it is brown. But it’s a great example of fuller coverage honey tone highlights that don’t look streaky.
Another great thing about this look is that because she maintains her natural dark roots, it’ll be very low maintenance when it comes to regrowth.
Still pondering? Read on for more advice on finding your perfect shade of brown hair with blonde highlights, below.
Blonde highlights on brown hair: What to consider
Work with the seasons
Blonde highlights are perfect for exuding that summery, sunshine-filled vibe – and might just be the next best thing to spending a week lounging on a gorgeous beach. To get the best out of your highlights, aim to work with your natural colouring and the light around you.
You can afford to go a little brighter during the summer, as the warm glow of sunshine will complement your lighter tones naturally. But when it gets cooler and you start to lose that sunkissed look (sobs!) go for a more winter-appropriate hue, like ash blonde highlights.
Frame your face
Not all blonde highlights were created equal, and where you place them makes all the difference.
Keep the lightest, widest highlights around the cheekbones and jawline – to help brighten and accentuate your features – and going a touch darker and subtler at the roots and tips to add dimension.
Don’t forget to add a base
To keep your brown hair and blonde highlights are a success, add in a mix of shades for extra depth. The subtle variations in tone will make all the difference to the overall look. Add a base colour – in a shade a level or two darker than your main highlights – to promote structure and dimension.
Consider your skin tone
We often think about how blonde highlights on brown hair can work to enhance our natural hair colours, but don’t forget that it should complement your skin tone, too.
For example, if you have a paler complexion with pink undertones, variations on the ever-fashionable platinum shade should work well; while if you have yellow or more neutral undertones, golden shades can really help add warmth.
If you have medium or olive skin, and your natural base is closer to the brown end of the spectrum, go for richer honey blonde shades, mixed in with more subtle gold streaks (the balayage technique will be your go-to here) for a more exotic, natural-looking effect.