Choosing a Shade of Brown Hair Color
Your hair is a defining feature and one of the first things other people notice about you when you introduce yourself. As such, it makes sense to choose a color that not only matches your style, but accentuates your natural features.
Choosing the right shade of brown hair color will boost your confidence and help you stand out from the crowd for any occasion.
The Different Shades of Brown Hair Color
Brown hair colors are every bit as diverse as blondes and reds. Just like blonde hair can range from ash through to bright strawberry blondes, there are shades of brown hair color representing all sides of the tonal scale.
The main shades you will encounter include:
- Ash brown
- Natural brown
- Golden brown
- Red browns
Reading Dye Codes
When you choose a shade of hair dye, the codes used by manufacturers are able to tell you a lot about the shade:
- The first number is the level (how dark a color is), and it is generally universal across all hair dye brands. A 1.1 in Indola hair dyes is a blue black shade, whereas an 8.1 is a light ash blonde.
- The second number is the primary tone. This varies by manufacturer. For most brands, the number 1 signifies ash, whilst some will use a different number entirely, or a letter. A hair dye with the code 9.3 is a very light golden blonde when using Indola dye, but the same shade in Igora Royal is a 9.5. The best tool here is a color chart for the brand you want to use so that you know exactly what shade you're getting.
- The last number is only present in dyes with a secondary tone. If you're using Indola's 9.13, it's a very light ash blonde with some gold tone to soften the ash. The secondary tone gives color extra dimension.
All this means that you have control over the depth and the exact appearance of tones present with all the possible variations available, and you can even mix shades within the same brand to further customize them to the exact look you want.
Ash brown is the coolest-toned shade of brown hair color. These dyes have a heavy green base pigment to give the hair a color that is almost grayish in appearance and tone out excess warmth. The color tends to look boring and dull on the majority of people and is best used to neutralize harsh copper or red tones in hair that has just been lightened from black to brown.
Even though ash brown doesn't suit most people, there are exceptions. If you have a light complexion, pinkish skin, and blue eyes, you will be able to wear the color without looking drab. Anyone with a warm skin tone and eyes should avoid the shade entirely because the cold and warm contrast between your hair and skin will have you looking like an eyesore.
Natural shades are a neutral tone where coolness and warmth is fairly balanced. With that said, they are still frequently on the cool side, so if you have warmer features, you won't look your best with a natural shade of brown hair color. These shades suit those with cool features best.
If you do want to get away with a natural shade yet have warm features, the best idea is to use a gold natural shade. This is a natural shade that is on the warmer side and will suit your features better due to the added gold tone. Think of it like a halfway point between natural and gold. You will be able to dye your hair this color and look good even if you have warmer skin.
it is not just natural shades that can be blended either. If you find you can almost pull off a color, a blended shade might tip the scale and give you a color that matches your features more accurately yet still appears true to your desired shade.
For those with cooler skin wanting to wear golden browns, be on the look-out for natural gold shades. If golden shades bring out your eyes best but you wanted something redder, compromise by choosing a gold copper shade.
Matching Brown Hair Colors
Warm brown hair colors range from golden brown to red-browns. These shades are built on gold, copper, and red tones to create an abundance of warmth that readily complements people with a warm skin tone and hazel or brown eyes.
When matching warm brown hair colors to your features, it is your eyes that will decide the best shade. A warm skin tone matches any warm shade of brown, but a golden brown will really accentuate hazel eyes and make them appear more vibrant. The idea here is that similar tones enhance each other, and the gold tones in your hair help bring out the gold tones in hazel eyes.
In this same sense, chocolate and caramel browns contain copper tones that will enhance brown eyes by bringing out the copper tones present within. Red browns are an exception because depending on how vibrant the red shade is, you may be able to pull it off even if you have cool skin and green eyes. Nothing makes green eyes stand out more than red hair, just don't go too extreme or the contrast will be overbearing.
Should you wish to dye your hair a bright shade of red brown, you also need to be aware that the level of maintenance is much higher than other brown hair colors. Cherry red and deep scarlet toned brown hair colors will fade rapidly, turning into lackluster shades of auburn. The best way to counter this fading is with color refresher shampoo or temporary rinses. These can be used between dyes to keep vibrant red hair looking its best.
Mahogany and Burgundy Hair
Mahogany and burgundy are fashion shades and a little different to the rest of the brown hair colors you'll encounter. These shades are combinations of cool and warm that lead to a very vibrant and striking result. Mahogany is a combination of red and violet that sits closer to the red side of the fence, whilst burgundy tends to be more violet.
The violet tones of these colors mean that even though a mahogany shade of brown is mostly red, it can often suit someone regardless of whether they have warm or cool toned features. The easiest way to avoid making a mistake is to choose mahogany shades that are less red if you have cool skin, or less violet if you have warm skin. Burgundy shades lie further into the cool tone category and will look best on those with a cool skin tone and green or blue eyes.
If you apply a mahogany or burgundy dye that turns out too red or too violet for your skin tone, it's easy to correct that by applying more complimentary tone. You can do this with a semi-permanent color, temporary rinse, or color refresher shampoo. If the color looks too warm for your features, add soft violet tones to cool it down. Vice versa, if it's too cool, you can add red tones to heat it up a little.
As with other fashion shades, mahogany and burgundy hair require a higher level of maintenance to continue looking good and prevent color fading. You will need to use color refresher shampoo or semi-permanent dye to keep your hair vibrant. If you prefer brown hair colors that don't carry an intensive toning regime, it may be better to give that tube of burgundy hair dye a miss and swap it for a more natural shade instead.
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- Caring for Dyed Hair
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Brown Hair Dye Brands
The brand you choose when you dye your hair is paramount to your success, and the best brown hair colors are achieved through the use of quality dyes. To ensure that your color turns out great, every time you dye it, use salon dyes. These dyes are leagues ahead of the inferior box dyes you find in supermarkets and pharmacies.
There is no real secret to applying a salon dye. The only difference is that the color has to be mixed with developer in a tinting bowl instead of in a bottle, although technically you could use an applicator bottle if you really wanted. The quality of these dyes is much higher, the colors are more vibrant, and they won't fade rapidly like box dyes do.
If you want salon results, you need to use salon dyes. Brands like Igora, De Lorenzo, and Matrix will give you shades of brown hair color that really turn heads your way as well as a range of bright, modern styles.
Do you have a question about brown hair colors? Struggling to choose a color that will suit your features? Leave a comment for tailored advice and share your insight with other readers.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.