What once was a salon process mastered by a few elite stylists has now trickled down to the mainstream, giving everyone a chance to try out this hot trend. Ombré—which means “shadow” or “to shade” in French—employs keeping one’s roots intact while gradually lightening the hair ends, i.e. hair that’s “shaded” from dark to light. Of the many variations of this theme, both runway, and real way, brown ombré hair appears to be the most popular version due to its subtlety and more natural-looking effect.
Versatility aside, there are certain brown ombré hair colors that flatter one skin tone over the other, just as it is with regular one-shade colors. It can even be a two-concept decision since both you and your stylist have to take your base color into account as well when choosing your highlights. A good rule of thumb: Don’t veer too far from your base color. Some experts suggest only going two shades lighter, but we’re all about stretching it to three or even four, as long as you cover your seams.
To inspire you to try out ombre tones on your own hair, we’re sharing a list of some of our favorite brown to blonde ombre tones as well as those that flatter your skin tone:
Cool Brown Ombre Looks to Try
1. Bronze Ombré
Looking for a natural looking ombré color? Try a bronze ombre color. Rich, dark browns that add depth and volume to your locks is a great way to try the popular hair trend without going too crazy. This color flatters light to olive skin tones.
2. Caramel Ombré
These caramel tones give the appearance that you’ve been hitting the beach every day and that your natural brown hair has been kissed by the sun. It’s another natural looking ombre that includes subtle, but noticeable change. This look works on all skin tones.
3. Light Ends
We love how brown hair with blonde tips can highlight the tones and contrasts in your hair. Work with your colorist to figure out the right tone of blonde to pair with your brown hair.
4. Red Ombré
We just love how this combination creates such a multifaceted look. This ombré works on any skin tone.
5. Honey Ombré
This light brown and blonde ombre is a mix of beautiful hues. The lighter the skin, the lighter you can go with the undertones.
6. Ash Blonde Ombré
Brighten your skin with a lighter blonde ombré that frames your face. We suggest sandy light brown or a golden ombré, which will add texture to this gorgeous look.
7. Natural Ombré
The natural ombré is a smooth seamless transition from a natural medium brown to a tad bit lighter brown. This look works for all skin tones.
8. Dark Hair on Blonde Ombré
Try to highlight your dark brown mane with some blonde ombré tips. This color is a showstopper and will definitely get you lots of attention. A lighter skin tone works well with this hue and it looks best on fine to medium straight hair.
9. Dark Brown Ombré Tips
We love this sexy color for darker complexions. This is much easier to maintain than most ombre styles, which means fewer visits to the salon for touch-ups.
10. Blue Ombre
Or maybe you want to up your ombre game a notch with some color! We love it! Try out one of our favorite tones of the season, a deep blue hue.
11. Rooty Ombre
Wear your roots with confidence by opting for a much lighter ombre tone. This contrast allows your roots to show in a very cool and on-trend way.
12. Subtle Ends
Rock the ombre for brown hair look ever so subtly with dyed ends. We especially adore this look on shorter hair.
13. Reverse Ombre
Blending brown hair with red ombre and orange tones give off one of our favorite on-trend looks at the moment. Be prepared to turn heads with these flattering duo!
The Most Flattering Ombre Hair for Brown Hair for Your Skintone
Those with light skin with warm or yellow undertones, like some fairer Asians or those of Latin American descent, should begin with a dark golden brown base. This shade looks wonderful when lightened into a butterscotch, honey blonde or bronde shade, as these light tones enliven the pigments in your complexion.
Brunettes with pink- or peach-toned skin have blue to neutral undertones. This makes them a match for cooler shades such as ash brown and espresso hues, which are striking on their complexions and counteract any redness in their complexions. If you fall under this category, ask your stylist for an ombré that fades up into the khaki, beige-blonde, ash blonde or flaxen category—you’ll pull it off.
Keep your blonde ends looking fresh and bright with a purple shampoo, like Bed Head by TIGI Dumb Blonde Purple Toning Shampoo, that has violet toner to help stave away brassiness.
MEDIUM SKIN TONES
Some Asians and Latin Americans fall under this category as well, and a reddish-brown or deep auburn base is usually their best bet to start. Look into getting a mahogany-to-ginger ombré if you want to play with the redder families, or a chestnut base that lightens up to a rich golden toffee, dirty blonde or sandy blonde is also fetching and very surfer-girl chic.
It’s all about the caramels, baby. You’re best off jumping off from a walnut or chocolate base and lightening it to some cool café au lait brondes and cooler caramels. Champagne blonde ends also look really pretty on medium skin tones as they pick up on your skin’s blue pigments.
Before washing, coat hair evenly with a pre-poo tonic, such as Nexxus Color Assure Pre-Wash Primer. It helps repel water and lock in the vibrancy of those reddish pigments.
DARK SKIN TONES
A rich, deep toffee or a true raven brown base will merge seamlessly with amber golds and beach blondes—just be mindful of the intensity, as blonde might look too jarring when not blended well with your base. Ruby-browns and burgundies can lighten up to scarlet or strawberry blonde as well without looking cliché.
Dark skin with a cool undertone usually starts from an espresso, dark ash brown or coffee shade and level up to toffee or beige blonde. This brings out the natural flecks in your dark eyes without leaving a sallow or ashy tint around your complexion. Getting a brown ombré on dark hair also gives your locks some dimension and depth.
Dark hair that’s been progressively lightened may show signs of damage, especially at the ends. A color-safe, lower-sulfate system that also controls frizz can keep strands looking healthy and smooth.
The Sombré, or the Subtle Brown Hair Ombré
Fast forward to 2015, where, after having played out the brown hair ombré look for good three-odd years, the industry dialed things back in favor of a more natural look. Suddenly, sombré was a thing: This “subtle ombré,” as the name implied, was a quieter, smudgier version of its predecessor—no garish color contrasts, only a softer, quieter, more self-possessed and elegant-looking hue that, oh hey, shifted in color depending on which way the sunlight touched your locks.
1. A wünderkind color
As far as transitional hues go, the sombré knocked it out of the park. First off, it mimicked that cozy, slightly imprecise (and thus, super sexy) color job we all got after emerging from winter hibernation: weeks overdue for a touchup, but with highlights or a balayage that was still pretty on-point. Second, it highlighted areas that were totally flattering on our faces, something the first generation brown hair ombré looks didn’t technically consider. Suddenly we looked more streamlined, contoured and… multi-dimensional, but—MOST IMPORTANTLY!—like we didn’t try to at all.
2. Why this nuance matters
The sombré’s appeal doesn’t end in its subtlety; it’s also a pretty economical color choice and one that can help keep your hair from the damages of overbleaching. Being a more natural look, it does away with dyeing hair more than two to three shades lighter than your base, and only in certain strategic areas (TBD by your expert stylist, of course). This lower-contrast look means that you’re also allowed more time between touchups, a small favor we can all appreciate.
3. Trendy yet tasteful
The sombré has been seen on many a celebrity these days, but it’s a look that’s highly democratic and equally at home with a more understated audience as well as your friendly neighborhood blogger superstar. The widespread appeal of the subtle brown hair ombré—we love the ash bronde version, by the way—is something that we don’t see fading away, or at least until people get tired of the low-key glam movement. Which is, we hope, not anytime in the near future.
Ombre Brown Hair Maintenance Products
To maintain your ombré hair, you’ll have to use a color-safe shampoo and conditioner. Try Nexxus Color Assure Rebalancing Shampoo and Nexxus Color Assure Restoring Conditioner whose formula works to help prevent your color from fading while also nourishing your hair.
If you find that your hair is especially dry after you get brown hair ombre, you may also need to incorporate a hair mask into your hair care regimen like the Suave Professionals Coconut Milk Infusion Intense Moisture Mask.