Brown Hair Color: The Best Brunette Hair Shades

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

The Duchess Of Cambridge Visits The Netherlands
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Who says brown hair color is boring? A look at this photo gallery of brunette shades shows the rich diversity among brown hues.

You can take any woman with brown hair and do several things with her hair color: darken it a rich espresso brown with subtle caramel highlights, lighten it to a warm brown/blonde combination known as "bronde" or create a gradient layering of ombré coloring keeping the roots dark as the ends gradually shade lighter.

You'll notice all the hair in this gallery are glossy and healthy. You can keep your hair glossy with these few tricks:

  • Condition hair after every shampoo. If you have an oily scalp, condition the ends only.
  • Deep condition hair once a week.
  • Finish your shampoo and condition with a quick shot of cold water in the shower. This locks in shine.
  • Let hair air dry as much as possible to cut down on harsh heat to the hair.
  • Get regular trims. Split ends are not cool.
  • Spray shine serum on hair after it dries.

In this gallery, we'll highlight the most sought-after brown hair colors, starting with the Duchess of Cambridge.

The Duchess of Cambridge has the most sought after haircut and color not just in the UK but throughout the world. Kate's hair color is so popular, Britain's reports that one beauty retailer has seen a dramatic spike in brown hair dye sales since the royal wedding last April. FeelUnique, Europe's biggest online beauty retailer, told the Telegraph that brown hair dye kits are outselling the previously more popular blonde kits at a rate of 2 to one.

Kate's color secret is widely reported to be an organic vegetable-based dye with subtle highlights applied at the Richard Ward Hair and Metrospa in London's Chelsea neighborhood. The UK's Daily Mail also reports that the dye is meant to cover up the occasional gray hairs that Kate has found, to her horror (her friends jokingly call them, "stress highlights.")

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Kate Middleton's Roots During Her Second Pregnancy

Kate Middleton
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During her second pregnancy, Kate was pictured out and about with about a half inch of root growth. Many women stop getting their hair dyed when they know they are pregnant.

But what's interesting about this picture is that you can see Kate's natural hair color, which is a rather common brown. She has some gray hair as well, which should make those of us with gray hair feel better about ourselves, as she's in her early 30s.

Her hair color totally transforms her face, so I think she stands as a great example of what good color (or, in Kate's case, "colour") can do for you. Kate gets an all-over color and likely has balayage highlights.

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Olivia Palermo's Glossy Brown Hair

Olivia Palermo
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Actress Olivia Palermo's hair color is lovely. She takes the best pictures. Here, her glossy hair is flawless. So how to get it?

Stylist Michele Fury factors in Olivia Palermo's natural skin tone and hair pigment to determine what color to give the actress, according to PEOPLE magazine. Fury works in Roy Teeluck's Salon and Teeluck tells PEOPLE the secret to gorgeous brown hair color is a "less is more" approach. He uses the balayage technique in his salon to hand paint brighter shades of color on brown hair. He also recommends not varying too drastically from your natural hair color.

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Mila Kunis' Subtle Highlights

Mila Kunis
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Another famous brunette, Mila Kunis has tried many different hair color variations but this dark rich brown is a favorite. To keep dark brown colored hair from being too boring (all one shade is frequently boring), add in some highlights.

The look of balayage hair color on brunettes such as Kunis looks great. Show off the shape of your haircut with sweeps of caramel color at the point of your layers, suggests colorist Marie Robinson in Allure magazine.

"You would ask the colorist to work with your natural color, and just highlight the mid-length and ends, following the haircut," says Robinson.

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Lily Aldridge's Ombre Hairstyle

Lily Aldridge
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Cosmopolitan Magazine asked recently if the ombré hairstyle trend was "over." I can say without a doubt that it is not. At least not here in NYC, where I see women with ombré hair everywhere.

It's a fantastic option for women with brown hair, like model Lily Aldridge here who is famous more for her ombré hair than for her Victoria's Secret modeling shoots. Here, she sports deep chestnut roots that fade to a tawny medium brown.

The best ombre color is multi-dimensional. Here, Aldridge has several hair colors woven into her naturally brown hair, including blonde, brown and red, according to colorist Tracey Cunningham in Allure magazine. Cunningham says Aldridge's hair color is "by far one of the most requested looks in my salon. There’s just something appealing and easy about those bleached-out ends.”

Ombré color can be time-consuming. You first have to bleach hair, then you can add the gradient blond color. To get this look, InStyle magazine recommends you ask your colorist to add uneven ribbons of a lighter hue to hair. Balayage technique works best because painting on the color will look more natural than the pin-size stripes that come with foils.

Keep in mind that multi-tonal hair doesn't always require a dizzying array of different colors and glazes. Famed colorist Harry Josh gets a variety of tones by processing some pieces of hair longer than others so they turn brighter.

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When to Do Your Own Brown Hair Color

Victoria Beckham
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

If your brown hair is mouse-y, it might be begging to go darker. It's actually less damaging to go from light to dark than it is to go from dark to light, according to colorist Rita Hazan in Marie Claire magazine. So if you want to go super dark like Victoria Beckham here, you can without harming your hair too much.

So should you do it yourself or consult a pro? All-over hair color is actually relatively easy to do with one caveat - if you are going more than a couple shades darker than your natural hair color, consult a pro or risk ending up with an ugly orange tint that you'll have to get fixed. If you are a dark blonde and you want to go dark, consider a demipermanent shade that will wash out after a few weeks. This way you won't have to worry about keeping those roots darkened.

All-over hair color can look luscious on hair that's long and one length. Short hair and hair with lots of layers need highlights to create dimension and to highlight the texture of the cut. You can do you own highlights or consult a pro for them.

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Salma Hayek's Deep Chocolate Brown Hair Color

Salma Hayek
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Actress Salma Hayek is famous for her deep chocolate brown hair color which almost always has copper and caramel highlights.

Colorist Kim Vo tells Harper's Bazaar that he likes for Hayek's hair to be "reverse ombré. Think dark chocolate roots swept into gold tips." Again, the balayage method works best for those gorgeous sun-kissed highlights.

What you don't want is too-light, chunky highlights that can make you look dated, according to colorist Kelly Van Gogh in Harper's.

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Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz
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Penelope Cruz has had many different brunettes shades over the years but this color in particular is very flattering on the former L'Oreal Paris hair dye spokesmodel.

What you will never find Cruz doing again is dying her hair blonde. “I did it once when I was 19, and I lost half of my hair,” Cruz told OK Magazine during the premiere of her 2009 thriller "Broken Embraces," in which she dons a platinum wig.

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Odette (Yustman) Annable's Dark Chestnut Brown Hair

Odette Yustman Annable
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Odette Annable's chestnut brown mane is simply gorgeous here. Note the subtle coloring in her hair, which is much darker at the roots than it is mid-shaft.

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Sofia Vergara's Actually a Natural Blonde

Sofia Vergara
Rob Carr/Getty Images

According to Self magazine, Sofia Vergara's natural hair color is actually much lighter than this sultry espresso brown that she's famous for.

"I’m a natural blonde," Vergara tells the magazine, "But when I started acting, I would go to auditions and they didn’t know where to put me because I was voluptuous and had the accent – but I had blonde hair. It was ignorance: They thought every Latin person looks like Salma Hayek. The moment I dyed my hair dark, it was, ‘Oh, she’s the hot Latin girl.’ I loved it. I’d always felt a little ‘too much’ as a blonde, like a big-mouth version of Pamela Anderson. Being brunette toned me down a bit.”

To get this look, Self Magazine consulted with George Papanikolas, who worked on the Modern Family star’s tresses leading up to the Golden Globes. Papanikolas says in Self thatthe look is fairly easy to duplicate. “If the client doesn’t have any gray, start with a demi-permanent color that has no ammonia and delivers exceptional shine in a medium neutral or golden brown base, with light and medium golden brown lowlights, then gloss all the hair in a dark golden blond."

Vergara is quite hilarious when she talks about her hair color. She told Ellen Degeneres all about coming to Hollywood as a blonde and then turning brunette. Ellen wanted to know, "Now, do you notice who has more fun: blondes or brunettes?"

Without skipping a beat, Vergara said to erupting laughter, "I would say that the girls with the bigger boobs. I've been blonde and I've been brunette, I talk from experience."

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Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez
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A great option for brunettes is to get a great base (Lopez's is light brown here) and add in highlights around the face. To get hair like Lopez's, ask your stylist to gradually lighten the color towards the tips of each layer.

Lopez has had many brunette hair colors over the years. According to her hair colorist Rita Hazan, Lopez is not afraid to take risks when it comes to her hair -- as long as she looks beautiful.

But what makes Lopez beautiful is what her longtime hair stylist Oribe tells InStyle is her "deep inner confidence -- it's almost otherworldly."

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Jessica Alba's Rich Brown Color

Jessica Alba
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I love Jessica Alba's hairstyle here, but she looks just as good in lighter shades of brown.

Alba has transformed her hair from brunette to blonde via the ombre process. Her long-time stylist Rober Ramos of Estilo Salon in Los Angeles helped her get there and the whole tedious process is documented in the Huffington Post.

Alba's pretty famous for her light brown locks, but she's not afraid to take risks either, telling InStyle Magazine that she's do anything to her hair if it's needed for a movie role. She's gone Marilyn blonde, bright red and the deepest shade of brown as a result.

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7 Secrets to Long-Lasting Hair Color

Angelina Jolie
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Colorist to the stars Rita Hazan recently shared with Spa Week Daily her secrets to long-lasting hair color. They include using a deep conditioning treatment once or twice a week, using a clear gloss every couple months to keep hair shiny and taking fish oil to keep hair strong from the inside out. 

Let me add four more secrets to the 3 Hazan shared:

  • Shampoo with a low-detergent formula that's created specifically for colored hair.
  • The sun can actually alter your hair color (it oxidizes the chemicals in hair dye) so when outside in the sun for long periods of time, spray hair with a UV spray for hair, and add double protection by wearing a scarf or a hat.
  • Condition hair after every shampoo.
  • Salt water and chlorine are bad for colored hair. Wear a swim cap when swimming and protect hair by rinsing immediately with fresh water when you exit a pool or ocean.

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Jessica Biel

Jessica Biel
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

The most gorgeous hair should not look as if it's been colored but rather was naturally colored by the sun. You can get multi-tonal color at your own salon with the use of highlights. The best ones don't start at the scalp, according to famed colorist Harry Josh. He told Allure magazine that he likes to weave several intensities of hair color so no one streak is obvious. He also employs a subtle gradation of color that's lightest at the tips. This leaves hair looking as if it was sun-kissed a few months ago and grew out naturally. You'll note many of the hairstyles in this gallery fit that example.

What's best about ombre hairstyles is how low-maintenance they are. They grow out beautifully and look super natural. Since most of the color does not begin at the scalp, new growth doesn't need constant maintenance.

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Hilary Swank's Gorgeous Ombre Locks

Hilary Swank
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

According to colorist Harry Josh who does Hilary Swank's color, "Hilary is all about the less-is-more, low-maintenance school of color." This makes the gradient ombre hair color shown here, a perfect color choice for Swank.

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Jennifer Lawrence's Rich Dark Brown Hair Color

Jennifer Lawrence
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

To get Jennifer Lawrence's rich dark shade, ask for a single-process color in a rich brown shade. For dimension, get a few golden brown highlights weaved into hair.

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Lea Michele

Lea Michele
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This look on actress Lea Michele is wonderful.

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Gisele's Famous Bronde Hair Color

Model Gisele Bundchen
Rob Loud/Getty Images

Gisele started the bronde hair trend many years ago, and it remains a favorite color choice for women wanting to stay brown but with golden blonde highlights. To get Giselle's famous color, her colorist Harry Josh leaves her natural honey brown base in place and simply adds in sunny highlights which he starts half an inch away from her roots. If you don't have Gisele's perfect base, don't worry, you can get one with all-over hair color.

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How to Keep Your Highlights From Getting Brassy

Norah Weinstein
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

This hair color on Norah Weinstein is lovely. But any hair that's dark and highlighted is at risk for brassiness.

So what is brassiness? It's what happens when you lift color from brown hair. Red or copper is the first color spotted and your colorist will need to lift all of the red before depositing the new shade of brown. If the lifter isn't left on long enough, the result will be a brassy color.

If all of this is too complicated to take in, know that you can combat brassy tones with green-brown products such as Artec Color-Depositing shampoo in Coco Bean or Bumble and Bumble's Color Support Conditioner for Cool Brunettes.