#1 Crème Brûlée
The layers of color created by a darker blonde base topped with light blonde highlights in varying sizes trick the eye into seeing a more “solid” mane, says Alexis Van Brandenburg, a colorist at Bangz Salon in Montclair, New Jersey. Even better? When strategically placed around the face, highlights are reflected on the skin for a wrinkle-blurring glow.
GET THE COLOR: Paint the bleach from a hair coloring kit like Clairol Nice’n Easy Balayage for Blondes (Buy from CVS, $16.49) onto two 2-inch sections of hair on each side of the face from roots to ends. Then paint remaining bleach on different half-inch sections of hair throughout the head.
EXTEND THE COLOR: Use a purple conditioner like amika Bust Your Brass Blonde Purple Conditioner (Buy from Sephora, $26) once a week to neutralize brass tones so blonde stays bright.
#2 Ice cream mocha
“Perfect for a shorter cut, caramel-kissed streaks pop against a deep brunette base, giving the hair mega movement to look super full and lush,” says colorist Rick Wellman, who has worked with Tina Fey and Brooke Shields. And the shine created by highlights leaves strands looking extra healthy and shiny.
GET THE COLOR: Look for a highlighting kit that comes with bleach and toner like Madison Reed Light Works Balayage Highlighting Kit in Palmi (Buy at Ulta, $45). Follow the instructions on the box to apply the bleach, then follow up with toner to ensure highlights look blended and natural.
EXTEND COLOR: Apply a clear glaze (like L’Oréal Paris Le Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss in Clear (Buy at Walmart, $9.95)) to hair twice a month. The glaze coats hair strands with colorless, shine-inducing molecules, which sharpen pigments so that the multi-tonal color retains its shine and dimension.
#3 Roasted copper
Rich red shades consist of a kaleidoscope of red, yellow and brown pigments that create the illusion of depth and dimension to even the thinnest hair, says Van Brandenburg. In addition, the lively shade warms the skin and brings out its youthful radiance.
GET THE COLOR: Since roots take longer to absorb color, saturate them first with a copper dye like Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Color in #6.43 Light Natural Auburn (Buy from Walmart, $16.75). Leave for half the treatment time on the box, then apply the rest of the color all over the hair. Let sit for the remaining time.
EXTEND COLOR: Red dyes are made up of larger molecules that can easily slip out of the hair shaft during shampooing, so experts suggest using a red-toned shampoo like Joico Color Infuse Red Shampoo (Buy at Ulta, $23). This method ensures that the color remains vibrant with each wash. Tip: Use lukewarm water when rinsing to prevent pigment fading, as hot water can remove the color further.
#4 Buttered Toffee
A multi-toned brunette shade visually expands the hair, as the darker shade adds depth and the lighter shade creates visual texture, says Tom Smith, International Color Creative Director for evo haircare. The result? Thicker looking locks. Plus, placing highlights throughout the head draws attention away from a thinning hairline or temples.
GET THE COLOR: Look for a two-in-one kit that comes with a base color shade and highlight bleach like L’Oréal Paris Couleur Experte in #6.1 French Eclair (Buy from Walmart, $13.94). First apply the base color all over and let the process. Next, apply the bleach to half-inch sections of hair, starting one inch away from the roots and skipping half an inch in between until the entire head is covered; let treat as needed. This will prevent the need for frequent touch-ups, so you can go six months without highlighting the hair again.
EXTEND COLOR: To prevent highlights from shimmering and hair from becoming straw-like, use an argan oil deep conditioner like Hask Argan Oil Repairing Deep Conditioner (Buy at Ulta, $6.29) once a week. The oil moisturizes the hair and repairs damage caused by bleach.
“The mix of salt-and-pepper strands of cool-toned gray and warm-toned brunette creates a shadow effect that ‘thickens’ hair from all angles,” says Wellman. And the intentional combination keeps incoming gray roots from looking undone and makes the silver strands look modern, not matronly.
GET THE COLOR: Once grays have grown in at least an inch, paint a permanent dye that’s close to your natural, non-gray shade (tip: look at your eyebrows as a guide) on half-inch sections of hair throughout crown, similar to how you would apply highlights. Adding the darker color back into the crown area (where new grays tend to be concentrated) helps unify the two colors and camouflage the harsh demarcation line.
EXTEND COLOR: As gray hair lacks pigment, it easily absorbs impurities from product build-up, pollutants and shower water. To keep color bright and fresh, try a vitamin C-infused treatment like dpHUE Brightening Powder (Buy from dpHue, $32) once a week. It easily removes all color changing compounds.
#6 Golden honey
The chic contouring effect of shimmering golden blonde locks against a darker root color adds dimension, says Smith. Bonus: It makes it easy to color the roots as they grow out or hide incoming gray tones.
GET THE COLOR: First, apply a medium golden blonde color like AGEbeautiful Permanent Liqui-Creme Hair Color in # 8G Medium Golden Blonde (Buy from Sally Beauty Supply, $9.89) all over and let it set. Next, instead of wasting an entire box of color, look for a root touch-up kit in a shade two shades darker than the rest of the hair—like Clairol Permanent Root Touch-Up in # 6.5G Lightest Golden Brown (Buy from Walmart, $17.49) — and apply the formula to roots in one-inch sections. Then brush it through with a wide tooth comb to blend the two shades.
EXTEND COLOR: Twice a month, apply a color-depositing mask like Wella Professional’s Color Fresh Mask in Golden Gloss (Buy at Ulta, $26.50). This will help the hair retain its warmth and vibrancy.
#7 Deep espresso
The depth and weight of a one-dimensional, dark brunette shade visually fills strands all over, says colorist Michael Canalé, who has worked with Jennifer Aniston and Penélope Cruz. The deeper color also “fills in” areas like a wide part or sparse spots.
GET THE COLOR: Choose a dye infused with keratin and amino acids like Revlon ColorSilk Beautiful Color Hair Color in #27 Deep Rich Brown (Buy at Walmart, $8.75). These nutrients help nourish strands and prevent a deeper color from looking dull or inky. When the dye is applied all over, brush through with a comb to distribute evenly; let process according to box instructions.
EXTEND THE COLOR: To ensure deep brunette locks stay dazzling? Treat them with a coffee rinse. Simply pour 2 cups of brewed, then cooled, coffee all over damp hair and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing; repeat twice a month. Coffee’s tannins (which give the brew its deep color) “stain” light hair and any incoming grays, restoring richness back to a darker mane.