Candlelit Brunette Is the Hair Color Trend With Staying Power

Candlelit Brunette Is the Hair Color Trend With Staying Power featured image
Edward Berthelot / Getty Images

We love a lit-from-within glow when it comes to our skin (hello, highlighter), but what about our hair? The shade candlelit brunette has been trending for a while, and it’s the perfect approach to adding highlights to brown hair. Many stars have been spotted sporting this shade in the past year, including Hailey Bieber, Ashley Park, Cara Delevinge, Emily Ratajakowski and Kaia Gerber. Most recently, at the 2024 Oscars, Sofia Vergara had a romantic candlelit highlight on her rich brunette hair, a favorite look of hers, notes New York colorist Natalia Rojas. We talked to celebrity colorists to nail down how to achieve the candlelit brunette color and hear their take on why it’s trending.

What is candlelit brunette?

Colorist Jennifer Korab describes the color as “a high gloss, warm, dimensional brunette. It shines with warm tones and reflects in the light, giving the candlelit effect. It intensifies the natural color while maintaining a soft natural look.” Celebrity colorist and L’Oréal Professionnel Global Ambassador Min Kim says candlelit brunette is all about subtle highlights, high shine and dimensional movement.

Essentially, this trend is a luminous take on a classic brunette with highlights. “The goal is to elevate and enhance a brunette shade, with subtle warmth and dimension steering clear of strong ribbons of color,” says director of R+COLOR Education Renée Valerie. “Think of a slight kiss of warmth and lightness towards the mid-lengths and ends like you would receive if illuminated by a candle.” The subtle gold, coppers and hues of red provide a glossy feel to otherwise one-dimensional hair, says Rojas. The end goal is for it to appear as if “hair is glowing under candlelight, making it look super shiny and rich,” explains celebrity colorist and co-founder of IGK Hair Care Chase Kusero.

How to get the candlelit brunette color in the salon

In simple terms, celebrity colorist Rita Hazan says you should ask your colorist for a “dark base with warm highlights that are lighter on the ends.” However, to ensure the shade is just right, it’s always good to bring a bit more background. “For achieving the perfect candlelit brunette look, a thorough consultation is essential,” says Renée Valerie. She recommends discussing terms like diffused, soft, illuminated and rich with your colorist. If you’re working with a good colorist, they’ll tailor the tone to suit your complexion and lifestyle, she notes.

Kim describes the end goal as a “rich, natural brunette hair color with subtle and natural highlights (babylights) to create shine and movement in the hair.” Melissa Dwyer, colorist at FEKKAI, suggests mentioning, “You want your balayage pieces to have more of a lived-in color.” She adds that this will allow your color to grow out more naturally. Celebrity colorist Jacob Schwartz notes that you should have a photo on hand of what you’re looking for.

“We have seen a shift in wanting to go back to more natural-esque colors and shades of those colors, and this falls perfectly in that category,” says celebrity hairstylist Glenn Ellis. Kim agrees that the current buzzwords are “muted, natural, low-maintenance, healthy, shiny, and hydrated hair.” She feels candlelit brunette “is the perfect window shade to compliment this overall aesthetic and is also a great starting point for someone new to color.”

Dwyer says it’s also popular in part due to the minimal upkeep. Ellis notes that many people are looking to spice up their color without a big change, making this the perfect subtle, dimensional look. Seasonality also has something to do with it. As we head into spring, warmer hair colors begin to creep in. “This trend is an easy transition from the darker tones we were seeing in winter,” says Korab.

What is the difference between candlelit hair and traditional highlights?

Highlights have come a long way, with many variations beyond the thick streaks we used to see in the early 2000s. However, if you’re going for a more natural look, candlelit hair definitely has traditional highlights beat. Kusero notes that candlelit hair is “more about giving your whole head a soft, warm glow, unlike regular highlights that create obvious lighter streaks.” He adds that the candlelit highlights blend in smoothly for a more natural look.

“Candlelit highlights provide a subtle, effortless effect, contrasting with the more defined look traditional highlights can create,” explains Renée Valerie. “To me, the candlelit brunette represents a refined, upscale take on your natural brunette shade. Embracing your natural hair is definitely on trend!”

How to maintain the candlelit brunette color

Preserving your hair color investment is key,” says Renée Valerie. At home, be sure to use a shampoo and conditioner designed to both cleanse and extend the life of your color, like R+Co GEMSTONE Color Shampoo + Conditioner ($68) or R+Co BLEU Primary Color Shampoo + Conditioner ($98). Kusero also advises cutting down on heat styling and incorporating a product like IGK’s Mixed Feelings Leave-In Blonde Toning Drops ($29) into your routine. “These drops work to neutralize brassiness, keeping your highlights fresh. You can add them to your favorite styling products or conditioner for customized toning and enhanced color longevity.”

As for in-salon upkeep, Rojas says candlelit brunette needs to be maintained with glosses every few months. Renée Valerie explains that this helps maintain the richness of the brunette color between appointments.

Prep is just as important as what you do after dying your hair. Ahead of coloring your hair, Kim says you should ask your stylist for the L’Oréal Professionnel Metal Detox Treatment. “The pre-treatment spray will be applied prior to your color to prep your hair for the very best result.” Post-highlights Schwartz advises tacking on a good treatment—he recommends epres Bond Repair Treatment ($50)—at the end of the coloring session to help restore any damage from the dye. To maintain your color and keep your hair healthy, Kim recommends L’Oréal Professionnel Metal Detox Shampoo and Mask ($86) and L’Oréal Professionnel Metal Detox Oil ($35).

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