If you have naturally dark hair and an itch to try something brighter, you may think that blonde is the only option. While a buttery balayage can give that sun-kissed effect in the summer, come September, it's a warmer, more subtle melted-caramel color that everyone will be asking for.
According to colorist Chad Kenyon, a caramel tone — think pale brown with flecks of gold — is the prettiest middle ground between blonde and chocolate brown. "Caramel tones look amazing on girls with darker hair that want to go lighter without going blonde," explains Kenyon. "The end result is so fun for fall because it's multi-dimensional, and often reads as glossier than an ashy blonde."
Ahead, find your visual guide to melted-caramel highlights, plus pick up pro tips on how to ask for it at your pre-fall appointment.
If you're trying to wean yourself off blonde highlights, ask your colorist for a light brown or dirty brunette. Colorist Lauren Burke
recommends a golden caramel. "You can go super pale with tones of brown, and still get that brightness and dimension that reads more natural on dark hair," she says.
Colorist Kitty Greller calls a light brown with red undertones "gingerbread caramel
," which is what you're seeing with the piece-y babylights here.
For the most low-maintenance entrée into caramel color, keep the palest golden-brown tones focused around the face or at the ends of the hair. "You're looking for a combination of warm brunette shades with pops of light pieces," explains colorist Chelsea Bulte
Another example of that warm gingerbread caramel color on curls — if you look closely, you can see the subtle tones of rust on the ends.
The cool part about caramel highlights is that a soft brown next to a dark brunette base makes your natural color appear shinier. Burke recommends a balayage blending technique for the most seamless shade transition.
If you remember the cold brew hair-color trend
from last fall, this look is strikingly similar in terms of the caramel highlights ribboning down the hair.
Nothing goes better with a melted-caramel lift than a fresh dusting off the ends — since you're in the salon already.