A great and easy way to switch up your look is to experiment with your hair color. You don’t have to do anything too crazy, and even the most subtle of changes can make a world of difference – especially if you don’t want to get rid of your natural hair color completely.
Some of the ways in which you can subtly change your hair is to add either highlights or lowlights. These changes are usually pretty low maintenance, and are a quick way to transform your look.
We’ve pulled together some of the most eye-catching and gorgeous highlight and lowlight ideas that are perfect for light brown hair.
Before we get started, however, let’s first look at what highlights and lowlights actually are.
What Are Highlights and Lowlights?
Adding highlights or lowlights to your hair can be a great way to add dimension to your natural hair. Even the simplest of haircuts can look exceptional if the right highlights or lowlights are added.
Highlights are usually at least 2 tones lighter than your natural hair color, and will often bring out your eye color and skin tone. They’re also pretty effective at adding a little body to your hair, and look great whether you’re wearing a sophisticated updo, or letting your tresses hang free.
Highlights that are done throughout your hair are known as full highlights. Highlights that are done around the crown, side, and front of your head are partial highlights.
Lowlights, on the other hand, are normally around 3 tones darker than your natural hair color. These are often added for 3-tone dyeing, and alongside highlights they add a lot of dimension to your hair.
In order for hair colorists to add highlights or lowlights to brown hair, they will often use traditional foil techniques. They can also use the balayage method, in which the dye is applied using special paddles.
In current trends, natural looks and subtle color transitions are all the rage. The idea is to enhance your natural color, whilst complimenting your eye color and skin tone. However, if you want to have a bolder look, don’t be afraid to opt for more contrasting looks.
Without further ado, let’s look at some of the best highlight and lowlight ideas for brown hair.
Opting for barely-there blonde streaks is a great way to achieve a totally chic look, especially if you only want partial highlights. To make the streaks even more subtle, you can even get some lowlights added – which will also help to create dimension.
As each stylist has their own idea of what subtle means, it’s best to bring an inspiration picture with you.
If you’ve not come across the term “bronde” before, this simply refers to a mix of blonde and brunette, and adding the two together in a series of highlights and lowlights will create endless depth.
This is also a great option for those who can’t commit to being either blonde or brunette. If you opt for more golden tones, the hues will perfectly complement each other.
When opting for a shoulder-length lob (long bob) cut with this colorway, you can be guaranteed an effortless beach hairstyle all year round. The sun-kissed light brown hair mixed with the bright blonde streaks give the appearance of darker roots, and deep, chunky waves.
This helps the look look naturally bleached, as if you’ve just stepped off of the beach.
Pairing golden highlights with brown locks is quite literally a match made in heaven. Not only does it create a gorgeous color, but it also gives your hair a beautiful, silky sheen.
This sheen is what gives your hair a “healthy glow”. Pair these colors with a medium-length cut – such as a lob – and it will be easy to maintain.
If you have deep, chocolate-colored hair, you can give it a sleek and shiny appearance by opting for highlights that have a metallic, bronze sheen to them. This looks especially good on longer hair, and any creative updos. or half updos, really show off the different shades.
If you like to keep your brown hair in shoulder-length waves, then it’s easy to make them glow by adding some rich caramel highlights.
Having medium brown hair means that you have a lot of different options when it comes to being creative with your hair color. Why not try combining the balayage look with some chunkier, stand-out streaks to help create an effortless, and pretty style.
Brown hair which has mild and subtle tones of red, paired with golden highlights looks incredible on those with warmer skin tones.
A mix of caramel and ashy tones add a wealth of dimension to your hair, and give the illusion that your hair is thicker and fuller than it seems. Add a few thin, golden highlights and you’ve got yourself a fresh, modern look.
If you want to keep the look even more contemporary, why not opt for a choppy bob, styled in loose curls?
If you live a more laid-back lifestyle, and prefer a more effortless style, why not try this balayage look mixed with babylights.
This look screams beach babe, and the loose waves help emphasize the look.
If you want to keep it more chic, pair toffee brown hair with golden highlights. Not only will it add a beautiful and frizz-free sheen, this medium hair length is easy to maintain.
Sometimes blonde highlights can be too much of a contrast for those that have deep brown tresses. Spice up your brown waves by adding a muted rusty cinnamon shade. This will help add dimension, but the glossy finish will give your hair a healthy, silky sheen that will make your hair the envy of everyone around you.
If you don’t want to add too much to your hair, and you’re after a more natural look, then why not try thin highlights? These blend seamlessly into your hair, and just a shade or two lighter will make all of the difference.
If you’re looking for a warmer toned hair color, why not pair a toasty brown color with some honey-hued highlights.
The different shades running throughout your hair will really give it some texture – as the darker base is contrasted with the lighter, caramel-colored strands throughout.
For a contemporary look, opt for a medium / long bob, and style your hair in loose curls.
This is one of the more popular looks when it comes to adding highlights to light brown hair, and looks great on those with medium / long hair.
What’s great is that this can easily be achieved with your natural hair color, and a few well-placed highlights which will enhance your look. Honey-colored highlights perfectly compliment lighter brown hair shades.
If you’re after a much more dramatic look, why not combine some deep brown lowlights with bright blonde highlights?
If you have longer hair this contrast will definitely make a statement, plus, there is more room to show off the blend of light meeting dark.
If you want to add a richer color to your blonde highlights, why not opt for deep caramel highlights instead? When paired with a warm brown base color, this look looks exceptional on those with warmer skin tones.
Why not try this color on mid-length hair, and style your hair in loose girls to add some depth and volume. Add some more volume to the roots to add to the laid-back look.
If you’re looking to keep your hair as natural as possible, why not consider livening up the color with a pop of honey blonde highlights. If you have an angled haircut – such as bob or lob – make sure the highlights follow these angled lines.
If you have cool toned skin, and your hair has more muted brown tones, why not add ashy blonde tones rather than golden blonde tones? Lighter shades that frame your face will help brighten your appearance.
Although this gives a much softer look, it still adds endless dimension.
If you have fine hair and want to give the appearance of thicker hair, why not opt for a shoulder-length choppy haircut. Adding caramel colored highlights will brighten your face and add a frizz-free shine.
There’s a lot of room for you to play around and experiment to make this style truly your own. Although most people opt for warm, golden hues as they are popular highlight choices, if you have a cooler complexion, a more neutral blonde shade will suit you better.
If you love to style your hair in loose curls but you’re looking for something a little bit different, why not add some lowlights and highlights that enhance your natural color, rather than hiding it.
Adding in lowlights will give your hair a richness which will help to define and accentuate any curls and layers.
Sometimes the most simple looks can be the most difficult to recreate. However, these understated looks sometimes have the biggest wow factor.
As a stylist or colorist, adding subtle, dimensional waves requires a lot of control, as you need to balayage the hair in a way that looks natural but still looks jaw-dropping. The key to this look is the face-framing highlights, and subtle highlights throughout the rest of the look.
Some of the best highlights are the ones that achieve a natural look. Why not enhance your natural hair color by opting for babylights that mimic the highlights you’d get after a few weeks in the sun as a kid. Not only will these babylights brighten your appearance, they’ll also give you a youthful look.
How to Keep Highlights and Balayage Looking Healthy
Whether you opt for all over traditional foil highlights, or more subtle balayage strips, both of these can be damaging if they are not cared for properly. To make your new hairdo look healthy, make sure you use products which have been specifically created to strengthen and protect colored hair.
Try using a hair mask to help protect your lightened hair from damage, such as heat from styling tools, that will cause your hair to become dry or brittle.
To avoid seeing orange, red, or brassy tones in your blonde highlights, try using purple shampoo. These are specifically designed to help neutralize any warm tones, and help keep your highlights or balayage looking bright and bold.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Balayage?
Balayage is a French term that literally means “to sweep”. It is a hair coloring technique used by stylists and colorists all over the world in which the highlights are hand-painted or “swept” onto random sections of the hair.
Lightener or dye is usually painted on, starting around the midsections. The dye becomes denser the closer to the ends of the hair it gets. These highlights are usually a few shades lighter than your natural or base hair color, which helps create natural depth and dimension.
Balayage is often mistaken for a specific hair look, however, it is actually the name of the technique. Unlike traditional highlights there is no need to use foils when using the balayage technique. As the color is brushed on to the surface of the hair, it gives the illusion of a natural sun-kissed look – which is often described as a more natural looking ombre.
Balayage can be applied all throughout your hair, which ultimately lightens the overall appearance. Alternatively, you can get partial, or mini balayage in smaller areas around your face.
What are Babylights?
If you want more subtle looking highlights, opt for babylights instead.
This is a hair coloring process which mimics the natural sun-kissed and dimensional highlights that commonly occur on children’s hair. Babylights are typically used to add a soft glow, and are typically applied near the front of the hair to frame the face.
What is an Ash Hair Color?
Ash is a pigment or character of hair color. Hair colors that are ash have cool undertones to them, especially with hints of blue and green that give the hair a smokey and silvery look. Ash is not typically a vibrant hair color, and rather gives the hair a sleek, icy appearance.
Ash colors tend to compliment those with cool skin tones. As cool skin tones don’t rely on big vibrant colors, the subtlety of ash will flatter and enhance the complexion, rather than wash it out.
You can also use ash to remove any colors from brunette to blonde that have unwanted warmth, which will soften the warmth that naturally occurs in your hair.
So there we have it – the most gorgeous highlight and lowlight ideas for brunettes. We chose a range of different hairstyles for long, medium, and short-length hair, as well as picking colors for both warm and cool toned complexions.
We hope that this list has given you some inspiration to bring with you next time you visit the salon!