Caramel Highlights Are Trending—Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Caramel Highlights Are Trending—Here’s Everything You Need to Know featured image
Frazer Harrison / Thos Robinson / Getty Images

Summer 2024 is upon us. Our advice to you (and ourselves)? Lean into everything the season has to offer. In addition to making time for longer, more leisurely days, scheduling out your weekends, and adding to your warm-weather wardrobe, you may also want to pop into the salon for a summer-ready hair color. As much as we love vibrant mermaidy reds and bright blondes, there’s something to be said about sun-kissed brunette manes. The trick to achieving the warm, effortlessly chic look? Book an appointment for caramel highlights, one of TikTok’s most beloved hair colors. Before doing so, though, keep reading to learn everything there is to know about the popular hair color, including who it looks best on and the many ways it can be tailored to fit your hair goals.

Featured Experts

  • Jerome Lordet, a celebrity hairstylist and founder of Jerome Lordet Salon
  • Sharon Dorram, a celebrity colorist and owner of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger Salon

What should I ask for if I want caramel highlights?

You know the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words?” It couldn’t be more true than when attempting to recreate a trendy hair color, as there are so many different interpretations of just about every shade to exist. When it comes to caramel highlights, they can be applied seamlessly to blend into your natural hair color or to stand out for a more high-contrast end look. They can also take on different tones.

“Caramel can range from redder to blonder, so decide where you want your hair to fall on that spectrum, and tell your stylist what the ideal color is, and how light the lightest point of your highlights should be,” says celebrity hairstylist Jerome Lordet of Jerome Lordet Salon. Still, he recommends bringing pictures along for reference. “Depending on the base color, the shade of caramel you want or will suit you best may be different from someone else’s, so the more reference photos and clear communication you have with your stylist, the happier you will be,” he explains.

What hair colors can get caramel highlights?

Caramel highlights work best on brunette hair colors. “Caramel hair color looks best on a light brown to medium or dark brown base,” says celebrity colorist Sharon Dorram, owner of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger Salon. “Dark blondes tend to be too fair to pull off caramel hair color well. It is important to have depth, so a medium to light brown base works best.”

In terms of tones, Lordet says caramel highlights look best on warm brunette manes. “If your hair is too dark, or too cool-toned, they won’t blend in seamlessly like they will with warm, medium-to-darker toned browns,” he says. 

Basically, you want to find the sweet spot of both the color and tone of your hair. “Caramel highlights can work on light brown hair but the contrast won’t be as noticeable; depending on the shade you and your stylist choose, caramel tones on lighter brown shades can land you a soft, coppery color,” Lordet adds. Of course, there are so many ways to rock caramel highlights, so before writing off the trend, be sure to keep reading for over a dozen examples of the gorgeous hair color. It might just become your new summer go-to.

Do caramel highlights make you look younger?

Since caramel highlights are an offshoot of blonde, they’re thought to lend to a more youthful-looking appearance. At the end of the day, though, it’s all in the eye of the beholder, or the wearer, and how you feel looking at your reflection. 

“Some people believe lighter hair always makes you look younger, but this depends on each person and their current hair color,” Lordet says. “Weaving in new tones of blonde as someone goes gray, sometimes called herringbone highlights, can be a natural way to cover some grays and keep a more youthful hair color and overall appearance. Depending on your natural hair color as you gray, caramel color pieces can help to create this blending effect or cover some grays more naturally.”

Now, explore 17 gorgeous examples of caramel highlights. Take note of which stand out to you and bring them as examples to your next hair appointment. 

Caramel Highlight Inspiration

1 / 17

Allover Caremel

Jessica Alba’s artfully applied caramel highlights make for an allover glowing ‘do. “These caramel highlights are blended beautifully to make her look sunny and natural; they suit her coloring well,” Lordet says. 

Jessica Alba poses in burgundy blazer
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
2 / 17

Chocolate Caramel Ombre

If you have a darker brown base and want to let it peek through to your final color, Dorram suggests opting for a rich chocolate caramel ombre hair color like Jessica Biel’s. “In this look, chocolate hues at the root blend into lighter caramel at the mid-lengths and ends, creating a rich and decadent ombre,” she says. “This is a great choice for anyone who wants to play around with lightening up their hair without a big commitment.”

Jessica Biel poses on red carpet with side-swept hair
Michael Buckner/Getty Images
3 / 17

Caramel Baylage

Jennifer Lopez is a long-time fan of caramel highlights. “It’s been her signature hair color for many years now—the highlights are well placed and varied through her long hair; again the color suits her skin tone very well,” Lordet says. To achieve a similar look, you’ll want to ask for a balayage application with a natural root that makes for seamless grow-out and less maintenance overall. 

Jennifer Lopez poses in gold dress
Presley Ann/Stringer/ Getty Images
4 / 17

Sun-Kissed Caramel Highlights

Model Hannah Davis showcases a sun-kissed caramel highlight that looks so good, it looks like she was born with it. “This sun-kissed look blends naturally to frame the face while adding dimension and warmth,” Dorram says. “This look imitates the natural lightening effect you will see when the strands are exposed to the sun.”

Photo of model Hannah Davis with brown hair with gold highlights
Desiree Navarro/WireImage/ Getty Images
5 / 17

Golden Caramel Highlights

All in all, Jasmine Tookes’ golden caramel highlights are quite subtle. But they’re so well placed and blended, they make her face look illuminated in golden light. “These more subtle, slightly chunky highlights compliment her darker hair nicely,” Lordet says. “She is still a brunette versus leaning blonde or bronze-coppery.”

Photo of Jasmine Tookes touching hair
Thos Robinson/Getty Images
6 / 17

Subtle Caramel Babylights

Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s hair color here is further proof that caramel highlights can be incredibly subtle and still make a notable impact. “These subtle, blended babylights create dimension for a fuller, more vibrant look,” Dorram says. “The tones complement the richness of her dark hair.”

Photo of priyanka chopra jonas in beige dress
Steve Granitz/WireImage/ Getty Images
7 / 17

Caramel Coils

Curly and coily hair looks especially vibrant with caramel highlights, as it makes the texture look perfectly backlit. Just look at Cleo Wade’s caramel coils. “Subtle ombre highlights add interest to her shorter curls,” Lordet points out.

Cleo Wade outdoors wearing a crop top and skirt and curly hair
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
8 / 17

Golden Caramel Brown

Gisele Bundchen has been a source of golden hair goals for literal decades. Here, you can see how caramel highlights lend to her iconic golden mane. “This is an effortless, natural-looking blend of lighter blonde tones and the warmer bronde hues, blended with caramel highlights to underscore Gisele’s skin tone,” Dorram says. “The contrasting colors bring out her radiant complexion and enhance her facial features.”

Gisele Bundchen with eavy blonde hair posing in front of blue background
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
9 / 17

Subtle Caramel Highlights

Hailey Bieber’s 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party bob is another example of subtle yet striking caramel highlights. “This is a super subtle way of adding some depth to her brunette by bringing in barely-there caramel tones,” Lordet says.

Hailey Bieber with short wavy hair wearing a black dress
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/ Getty Images
10 / 17

Curly Caramel Highlights

Looking for a bit more caramel? Taraji P. Henson shows us what the tone can do for a curly updo with natural dark roots. “This look showcases the vibrant hues and contrasts that illuminate her complexion with the contrasting colors,” Dorram says.

Taraji P. Henson with short curly hair and wearing a full-length blue dress posing on red carpet
Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage/ Getty Images
11 / 17

Caramel Copper Highlights

If your goal is to achieve natural-looking caramel highlights, bring in this photo of Hailee Steinfeld. “A subtle mix of red, blonde and brunette-leaning tones of caramel blend seamlessly to create her overall color,” Lordet says.

Hailee Steinfeld with long caramel-colored, wavy hair
John Shearer/WireImage/ Getty Images
12 / 17

Blended Caramel

Cara Delevingne’s caramel highlights take on a slightly ashier undertone. “I adore this look that seamlessly blends from root to bottom,” Dorram says. “It’s traditional and timeless.” It also works well for summer and beyond thanks to its more neutral appearance. 

Cara Delevingne poses in black strapless dress with long, wavy light brown hair
Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images
13 / 17

Warm Caramel Highlights

EmRata’s warm coppery brunette mane is so well-blended, you might not think it even features highlights—but it does. “Emily has done lots of variations on dark brunette with caramel, ranging from lighter towards the ends to this all-over reddish-orange warmth,” Lordet says.

Emily Ratajkowski in black two-piece outfit poses in front of a pink background
Taylor Hill/Getty Images
14 / 17

Caramel Toffee

Here’s another caramel hair color that looks more all-over than your typical highlights. If you look closely, though, you’ll notice ribbons of lighter color woven through Gigi Hadid’s strands. “Caramel and toffee tones blend seamlessly to create a beautifully warm, light brunette shade with a little bit of depth,” Dorram says.

Gigi Hadid wearing a white shirt and white blazer with toffee-colored long hair
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic/ Getty Images
15 / 17

Rich Caramel Blonde

While caramel highlights work best on brown hair colors, Dorram says some blondes can pull it off. Case in point: Blake Lively. “Subtle caramel hues added into blonde hair create a warm, golden effect that’s both sophisticated and very wearable,” Dorram says. “The soft blending of colors makes this look low-maintenance and easy to grow out.”

Blake Lively with long blonde hair wearing a black dress
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/ Getty Images
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Espresso Caramel Balayage

If you prefer darker hair colors or you’re already imagining how you’ll want to take your caramel tones from the end of summer into fall, check out this espresso caramel balayage on Kaia Gerber. “Dark brown espresso shades look beautiful when blended with caramel to create a soft balayage,” Dorram says. “This is another versatile and low-maintenance look.”

Kaia Gerber with side-parted caramel brown hair and wearing a black turtleneck sheer dress
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
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Caramel with Cool Undertones

Last but not least, we have Halle Berry’s cool-toned mane with caramel highlights. “By applying caramel highlights, it offsets the coolness to prevent the color from appearing overly dark and one-dimensional,” Dorram says. “It also accentuates her complexion by adding warmth and balance.”

Close up of Halle Berry with a cheek-length bob and micro bangs
Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images

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