How to Get Multiple Shades of Brown in Hair

Adding numerous brown shades can add richness to your hair.

Photo: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Your natural color isn’t simply brown -- it’s mahogany, amber, light brown and likely more shades. Since natural hair color has multiple shades, it makes sense that you would dye your hair a few shades of brown at once. Tackling painting several shades of brown on your hair sounds easier said than done, but it can actually be quite simple if you use the right techniques. The result can be a hairstyle with rich, brown tones that enhance your brown hair’s shine.

Lowlights and Highlights

To get multiple shades of brown in your hair a la actresses Leighton Meester or Jessica Biel, you have to select your colors of choice. Instead of thinking lighter shades, consider adding a deeper brown tone, a process known as lowlighting. Adding lowlights to your hair makes your natural brown hair color the highlighting shade. Look for a color that’s just a shade or two darker than your natural hair color. You can pick a highlighting color too, such as one your hair might turn after a beach vacation when the sun lightens your hair.

Foiling for Color

When you’re multitasking shades of brown for your hair, the foiling method will likely work best for you. Although putting lots of foils in your hair may make you feel like you’re tuning in a television, the foils can help you strategically separate your multiple brown shades. To use foils to your advantage, you separate sections of your hair and hold the foil underneath the portion you want to paint. Once you add your brown color, you can fold the foil, which secures it in place. The foils help to prevent your color from seeping to where it shouldn’t, allowing you to apply multiple colors at a time.


If you’re going for the natural look, you’ll want to use a technique called weaving to incorporate different brown tones into your hair. Weaving won’t make you a scarf -- instead, it creates subtle tones in your hair. Using a tail comb, which has a long metal end, you can stick one end of the comb in your hair and use an in-and-out motion to select a section of hair that’s between 2 and 3 inches wide. If you lift the tail comb, the top portion of your hair is the part that you can highlight or lowlight. Keep going around your head, and you’ll have subtly scattered color.

Three Colors

Maybe highlights and lowlights aren’t enough for you -- you can make three colors happen, all in the same color application. While you have to be a little speedy to keep your hair color from processing too fast, you can apply highlights and lowlights using your foils, then paint a base color on the remaining loose portions of your hair. When you go to wash your hair, leave the foils in first to focus on taking off the base color. After that, you can take out the foils and wash off the dye all at the same time.

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