While there's an entire wheel of hair color options—dark blonde, strawberry blonde, dark brown, dark red, or even rose gold—there's something classic, rich, and endlessly beautiful about a medium-brown. We have reason to believe brown hair can look good on just about everyone, even famous blondes like Blake Lively or Gwen Stefani (seriously—Google them with darker hair, you won't be disappointed. In fact, you'll probably be inspired to follow their lead).
So, how does one choose the most flattering color? "I would start by deciding if you need to be warm or cool brown depending on what’s going to look best on your skin tone," says celebrity colorist Nikki Lee. We tapped Lee and stylist Millie Morales for their industry expertise and pro tips on going brunette.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling to see 45 of our favorite shades of medium-brown hair, and don't be surprised if you end up calling your colorist after.
- Choosing a shade: Consider your undertones. Usually, warm shades (amber, honey brown, caramel) tend to favor warm undertones while cool shades (chestnut, ash brown, sandy brown) flatter cool; neutral can go either way.
- Maintenance level: Low to medium
- Goes great with: All skin tones
- Similar shades: Illuminated brown, ash brown, auburn
- Price: This can range greatly ($100-$500) and will depend on the salon, coloring technique, and shade. Typically, the greater the difference between your natural color and your desired color, the higher the cost.
Dark Brown With Highlights
Priyanka Chopra Jonas's brunette locks part at the side and tumble in waves just below the shoulder. This layered cut displays a subtle dimension that shows off her highlights and has an enviable texture.
Before trying a look like Chopra Jonas's, ensure the shade will serve to flatter your eyes and skin. "My best advice is to check your eyes and skin color. Pick a shade that will brighten your eyes and even your skin tone," says Morales.
Issa Rae's springy curls positively shimmer here. Her brunette shade shows off with a summery golden-brown balayage.
Be sure to show up at the salon in your usual hairstyle to help your stylist figure out color placement. "If the client likes to wear natural curly hair, a hand-painted technique is a great way to go," says Morales. "When using this technique, you enhance the type of curls that need the spotlight to create a natural look."
Warm Balayage Mix
Jamie Chung is known to be a hair chameleon and looks stunning in any shade, but we must say that this warm balayage mix is one of our favorites. "The great thing about medium brown is that it complements all skin tones," says Lee. The key is to determine your undertones and go cool or warm.
We've always been a fan of Cleo Wade's stunning curls. Her medium-brown locks are woven with a gorgeous caramel bronde shade to lighten up the overall appearance.
According to Lee, the shade isn't "the most high maintenance color. But it will require regular touch-ups, unlike doing just highlights, you can go a bit longer."
Lily Aldridge has been our inspiration for brunette hair since day one. Here, she shows off deeper chocolate locks with just a few highlights on the ends to soften the appearance.
Flaxen Blonde Highlights
While Beyoncé is often rocking honey blonde hues, she'll occasionally vacillate between medium brown and a flaxen blonde shade. For the 2016 Met Ball, she went darker and straighter than usual, with golden highlights and a dramatic eyeshadow.
Ashley Graham has the kind of thick, shiny brown hair that makes us feel guilty about all the bad dye jobs we've inflicted on our own locks. Here, she sports an even-toned medium shade parted to the side with soft waves.
Rich Brown With Blonde Highlights
It's no surprise that there's supermodel in Kaia Gerber's blood, as just about every photo of her feels campaign-worthy. Her long hair somehow always looks windswept and is a rich brown elevated with light, barely-there blonde highlights.
Jourdan Dunn is another celeb who isn't afraid to switch up her look, so her red-carpet style can be a welcome surprise. Here she debuts her long, flowing brunette strands with subtle tawny tones.
Alexa Chung is the queen of shoulder-length cuts and undone waves. We love this dark-chestnut to light-brown ombré, with the ends painted a golden bronde.
Mandy Moore's hair journey has brought her from brown to blonde, to bronde to raven, and now to medium brown with shiny amber highlights throughout.
Classic Dark Brown
Joan Smalls has the bedhead of our dreams. Her carefree, voluminous dark hair has subtle highlights around her face and towards the ends of her locks. The color really brings out her brown eyes.
Chrissy Teigen's gorgeous hair is almost always a soft mix of dark blondes and brunette hues, and we're not mad about it. This warm, golden-brown ombré complements her warm undertones and her sage-colored dress, we might add.
Emma Watson's brunette locks and auburn balayage pair perfectly with her dark brown eyes and nearly neutral lip shade. Whereas a darker hue might appear stark against her fair complexion, this medium brown shade is soft and complementary.
Dark Golden Brown
Mindy Kaling's chocolate locks have a glowing bronde balayage that gives this native Bostonian a west-coast vibe. It also flatters her skin's warm undertones.
Deep Rich Brunette
Ciara never lets us down with her hair, no matter the length or hue. Here, she adorns her side-parted, soft waves with a bit of medium-brown highlights. Not only do they add depth to her strands but they also brighten her complexion.
The romantic, side-swept look is classic Taraji. This ombré goes from chocolate at the roots, to golden brown, and finishes with a sandy blonde (were you able to follow that?).
Sandra Bullock is one of the most beloved brunettes in Hollywood. Here, she has a tawny balayage that runs through her darker mane. To replicate her style's undone finish, apply a texturizing spray.
On the darker end of the spectrum, we have Lea Michele, who offers a ton of subtle dimension using tones from raven to auburn and warm brunette. This look is best achieved by a pro colorist versus attempting a DIY dye job at home.
Zendaya sports a warm, golden brown hue that manages to pack loads of dimension without overtly obvious highlights. We love the echo of color in her eye makeup, as well.
While it's generally safe to color your hair at home, you'd be wise to skip a DIY dye job if you've recently relaxed your hair, as it can cause unnecessary damage.
Auburn on Chocolate
Another master of the ever-changing brunette locks, model Chanel Iman demonstrates a subtle shock of auburn with a chocolate base on this sleek, mid-length hairstyle.
As a fashion model, Bella Hadid has worn every hairstyle and color under the sun. Her natural look is more of a subdued brunette. We love this slicked-back, semi-wet look wavy bob in a soft chestnut hue.
Soft Old Hollywood waves in a medium-brown hue complement Jessica Alba's tan complexion and dark eyes. This is a classic color that wears well all year round.
Dark Roots, Warm Highlights
Laverne Cox is another hair chameleon, known for shifting her look from everything from a blonde chin-length bob to full honey-colored curls and even magenta waves. We adore this sleek low bun with dark roots and warm highlights.
Medium-Brown With Subtle Highlights
On the opposite end, we have ever-consistent Dakota Johnson. She's pretty much always sporting long, piece-y bangs, though her shade of brown varies. Here, she has a medium-brown color with very subtle highlights.
Halle Berry's curls show off well-placed warm highlights that add an extra note of depth and dimension. To keep hair treated healthy and color vibrant between salon visits, Lee recommends utilizing masks and treatments. "Garnier’s Nutrisse Color Revivers ($8) is a great treat for post-colored hair—they instantly restore softness and smoothness to hair while refreshing color."
Brunette Roots, Sun-Washed Ends
We usually picture the third Olsen sister as a blonde, but she's rocked medium-brown hair more than once. This take features solidly brunette roots that fade off to sun-washed blonde ends.
Tessa Thompson is typically on the darker end of the brunette spectrum, but this version with big curls has a slight ombré that gives the look an overall softer effect. Did we mention that it's super low-maintenance, too?
Dark Brown Highlights
We adore the rich brown ribbons of reddish-brown running through Kerry Washington's hair. Since red tends to fade easily, avoid washing your hair at least for a couple of days post-color.
Another take on cooler-toned medium-brown, Selena Gomez's raven roots trickle down to cool chestnut and fade into an ashy bronde at the ends. Her long hair really showcases her depth of color.
Mila Kunis's all-over single shade of medium-brown is the perfect complement to this molded red carpet hairstyle. Just keep in mind that single-process color will require more maintenance than if you were to go the highlighted route.
Golden highlights and loose waves soften the overall vibe of Sofia Vergara's long tresses, giving her a sun-kissed appearance. It's subtle summer hair that translates to effortless beauty.
The trend-averse should look toward Kate Middleton for inspiration. While she is usually the picture of elegance with her signature chestnut locks, here, she opts for a classic medium-toned brown without very obvious highlights. And hey, if it's good enough for royalty...
Cool-Toned Dark Brown
If you're looking for a universally flattering hair shade, look no further than the cool-toned dark brown that Chloe Bailey is sporting on her long locs. The touch of peanut-colored highlights adds extra dimension.
CL, from the K-pop mega group 2NE1, is not afraid to try new hair color trends ‚ but this warm brown shade really checks all the boxes. Adding a kiss of cinnamon-colored highlights helps warm up fair complexions.
Hailey Bieber's almond highlights seem to just melt into her hair—just like milk in coffee. This hue gives a sun-kissed vibe that's perfect for the summer months.
Dark brown hair plus golden peekaboo highlights equal a match made in heaven. It's such a great option for those who don't want to or can't commit to a full dye job.
Aperol Spritz Hair
Some may not know, but Gigi Hadid's natural hair is blonde—which makes her warm brown locks even more impressive. But what we love most about the shade is the orange, Aperol spritz-colored balayage that adds a ton of richness.
Almost Blonde Brown
Eva Mendes's honey-colored highlights borders on blonde, but the darker roots keep the look low maintenance. Big, voluminous waves are the perfect marriage with this warm hue.
Copper Dipped Ends
Kelly Rowland has always sported a dark-brown 'do. With this look, it's like she's dipped her long hair into a vat of copper dye—and the result is a natural look that's easy to grow out.
Rich Hot Chocolate
One way to make brown hair look rich and multi-dimensional is to add warm-toned highlights that are just a shade or two above your natural hair color. America Ferrera's straight and sleek style proves our point 100 percent.
Warm Cinnamon Highlights
Don't you love the subtle stripes of cinnamon-colored highlights that are woven into Willow's locs? We definitely do—and the up-do? Another chef's kiss moment from the rock star.
Deep Mahogany Brown
Normani normally rocks black tresses, but she opted to go a bit lighter (and warmer), which really brings out the richness in her skin tone. The long ponytail also has lighter, auburn highlights, too.
Can you dye your hair brown at home?
Though it might be tempting, exercise caution when attempting an at-home dye job. "Simple root touch-ups are fine to do at home as long as you can match your color correctly," says Lee. "I wouldn’t recommend going more than two shades above/below your natural shade. Leave big color changes to the professionals."
Is medium brown hair cool, warm, or neutral?
It can be all of the above since the shade of medium brown will determine its tone. For example, hues with notes of beige (e.g. mushroom brown) are considered cool, whereas those with flecks of gold (e.g. honey brown) are warm. A neutral brown is one that displays both cool and warm tones, such as bronde.
How can you take your brown hair from warm to neutral?