The Best Shade of Brown Hair for Your Skin Tone

Welcome to the dark side. (Bonus: We have chocolate!)

Sometimes underestimated and overlooked, many make the mistake foregoing brown hair altogether and write it off as boring. It is, obviously, anything but that. Sensual and oh-so-versatile, the best shade of brown hair can evoke an aura of approachability or sophistication. Or even downright sultry sex appeal, depending on the iteration you choose.

ash brown hair tight curls
Mousy? Who are you calling mousy? Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Browsing the hair color aisle at the drugstore or flipping through the hair swatches at your go-to salon can offer up a myriad of options, with one sounding even more tempting than the next—and quirkily enough, not unlike a menu at your neighborhood pastry shop. Espresso, chocolate, toffee and caramel are not only ways to indulge in your sweet tooth.

For those still on the fence about coloring their hair (and have a darker base to begin with), trying out a new shade of brown hair is a quick and painless way to amp up your overall look and keep it on-trend.

Not all browns are created equal. All it takes is a check back at the palette Mother Nature gave you, as well as a bit of color wheel knowledge. Below, a fast and furious guide to the best brown hair for every skin tone:

Fair Skin

Golden Brown

Keywords to look for: light golden brown, butterscotch, toffee, honey

Perhaps the blondest of the spectrum, light golden brown to golden brown hair best flatters those with warm undertones and men and women with a tan. This particular light brown shade gives peachy fair-to-medium complexions a warm, youthful, sporty vibe—like you just spent an hour too long in St. Tropez and have the sun-streaks to prove it. It also is the most natural-looking version for blondes, especially via strategically placed highlights.

Cool Ash Brown

Keywords to look for: rich espresso, khaki, beige, neutral brown

The ash brown color range neutralizes the natural pinkish skin of those with cool undertones. Anything with a hint of beige or gray enhances your natural, delicate glow and adds some lush dimension to your mane. Ash tones are also one of the best shades for balayage highlights. The effect is swanky, classy and a tad uptown—cooler browns wash out the fastest due to their blue and green tints, and the upkeep is slightly higher maintenance. Feeling risky? Go for a bronde (brown-blonde) or a subtle ombré, a.k.a. sombré, using ash brown and beige.

Care for your color: Pick up a lower-sulfate wash and care system that’s specifically made for colored hair. Dove Nutritive Solutions Color Care Shampoo and Dove Nutritive Solutions Color Care Conditioner gently cleanse strands and can help retain your new color’s vibrance for up to 8 weeks.

Medium Skin

Reddish Brown

Keywords to look for: Deep auburn, mahogany brown, burgundy

The red base in mahogany and auburn shades offset the green in warmer, olive-skinned ladies, and those on the lightest side of the medium-toned set can even get away with some strawberry-ginger highlights and lowlights. Just like how reddish undereye circles are balanced out with green-tinted concealer, the red in the shades counteract a sallow complexion and give it depth.

True Brown

Keywords to look for: chocolate, walnut, caramel

If you have a yellower undertone (some Asians and Latin Americans are under this bracket), a chocolate-to-dark golden ombré or a caramel balayage is particularly stunning. Favor the shades in the neutral to chocolate “true brown” family. They complement brown, hazel and golden-flecked eyes the best too.

Care for your color: Products with essential oils can also nourish and help give back the shine and body your hair’s proteins might have lost. TIGI Copyright Custom Care Colour Shampoo and Conditioner will keep your color vibrant and nourished.

Dark Skin

Dark Brown

Keywords to look for: chestnut, espresso, dark ash brown

Deep skin colors with a cooler undertone retain that lit-from-within glow but without any yellowish tinge. Rich colors with a slightly cool sheen (hint: without red tones) enhance these complexions best. A rich espresso hue is the darkest shade of coffee brown but is also surprisingly neutral.

Dark Golden Brown

Keywords to look for: amber, raven brown, deep toffee

Yellower dark undertones, whether from mixed-race genes or just a glamorous Ibiza tan, can pull off a medium-to-dark shade of brown. Try adding some amber highlights around the face or a deep toffee wash. Darker burgundies, raven and ruby-browns are also muy caliente against your skin tone, especially when styled with a bouncy blowout or some voluminous waves.

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