Last week, one question reverberated through the COOLS office: What on Earth is ‘warm, light brown’ hair? This concept itself is an oxymoron: It zeroes in on such a particular part of the coloring spectrum, but it’s also really broad. Putting a true definition on this term threw us in an existential loop, so we turned to the professionals.
The Debate on ‘Warm, Light Brown’ Hues
According to a few of our favorite hair stylists, there is no definitive answer (which makes sense). Rather, it’s a broad term that embodies a variety of colors, from chestnut to auburn. To narrow things down, we asked the pros to share the shades we should be looking to.
The Professionals’ Go-To’s
Celebrity hair colorist Christophe Robin says chestnut colors are some of the best examples of ‘warm, light brown’ hues. “Chestnuts that aren’t too red toned and natural browns are so elegant,“ he says. He suggests not going too warm in tone, though, as it can easily veer into redhead territory.
The Multi-Toned Approach
Instead of sticking to one light brown shade, try a gradient of hues. “I love brunettes with a little bit of a lighter hue on the ends like a honey, or sometimes even an auburn,” says celeb hairstylist Scotty Cunha.
Another multi-toned approach to take is using a rich espresso color as a base, then add in some lighter hues, as celebrity hairstylist Jorge Serrano recommends. For this, picture Selena Gomez’s classic color: “Selena Gomez’s rich espresso brunette hair has different tones of amber, gold and auburn hues that shine through when the sun kisses it,” he says.
This hue hits right at the fine line between red and brown, creating an enticing warm hue that celebrity colorist Aura Friedman suggests for fall.
A toasted, golden hue à la Jennifer Garner hits the sweet spot of light and warm. “This style has the perfect amount of golden highlights to warm it up just a little bit,” Serrano says.
Robin says a natural, monotoned brown is “so elegant and very Parisian, just as the mythic little black dress.”
With a hint of red, this color combination is a subtler approach to warmer brown hair, Friedman notes.
Before You Reach For The Hair Dye
Whether you’re grabbing the at-home box dye or heading to your stylist, you should always prep your hair. Jen Atkin, celebrity hair stylist and founder of the cult-favorite hair care brand OUAI, recommends double-checking that your hair is healthy enough to go through the strenuous coloring process.
“Start by getting your hair healthy stat,” Atkin says. “ Decide what cut/color you want, then talk to your hair stylist/colorist three months ahead of time to see what you need to do to get yourself there.”
Atkin suggests using a high quality shampoo and conditioner for your hair type (for dry and damaged hair, she suggests the OUAI Repair Shampoo and Conditioner; for fine to medium hair, the OUAI Clean Shampoo and Conditioner). She also recommends using a weekly mask, like the OUAI Treatment Masque, to strengthen and nourish your hair. “ It literally makes your hair feel like virgin hair again,” she says.
Right before dying your hair, Robin recommends applying a plant oil onto your locks. ”This does not block the color pigments, on the contrary it helps the color get into the hair and gives a more vibrant and shiny result, especially if your hair is prone to brassines,” he says, recommending his own Lavender Oil.
Maintaining Your New Color
Now that you have a full head of brunette hair, maintenance is key. To feel like you’ve just left the salon even weeks after dyeing, here’s some of the stylists’ go-to color-protecting products:
If your hair is feeling dry and lackluster after the dying process, Friedman recommends using this replenishing treatment. From OLAPLEX, it works to strengthen your hair from within for a healthier shine and silky-smooth texture.
Think of this oil as a beauty Swiss army knife: It smoothes frizz, seals split ends, adds a healthy sheen to hair, and guards your strands from any damage. Hand-crafted by Atkin, you can only expect the best ingredients: African Galanga, Ama, and Asian Borage oils unite to bring your colored tresses vibrance and protection from even the hottest of hot tools.
Serrano’s first suggestion is to wash your hair as little as possible. But for those who just can’t hold back, make the switch to a shampoo that’s free of color-dulling sulfates or parabens. This one from Davines will help replenish your color.
Cunha swears by this color-boosting conditioner. “I tell clients to put the color conditioner in dry hair and then rinse it for the max result of color conserving and brightening,” he says, noting that its specialty is rehydrating.
Correct and enhance your new brunette tone with this nourishing hair mask. Robin says this will give your color-treated hair more vibrance, while also adding some warmth to your undertones. The result? A delicious caramelized hue that warms up your style during the colder months.
To cleanse your hair without sacrificing your color, Friedman suggests adding a cleansing milk to your shower regimen. This sulfate-free pick was crafted with the driest, most damaged hair types in mind, and promises to transform dull strands into a luscious, frizz-free head of hair.
If you just dyed your hair, the last thing you want to do is add stress via hot tools. But, if you must grab your curler or straightener, Atkin recommends guarding your strands with this heat protectant, which will help maintain the quality of your hair — and your new pigment.
According to Robin, one of the biggest culprits to hair damage is, no surprise, the sun. Like our skin, hair is extremely prone to UV damage, which is why he recommends using a hair cream with SPF before you head outside. This one protects your strands with SPF 6, but doesn’t weigh things down.
To keep your hair nurtured while adding a luminous gloss, Friedman recommends adding a hair oil into your daily routine. Since pure oils can leave things feeling greasy, she suggests using a lightweight oil-in-cream, which purifies hair and absorbs any unwanted grease. Your hair will be clean and frizz-free.