Tortoiseshell Brunette Is the Hair Color All the It Girls Are Wearing

Tortoiseshell Brunette Is the Hair Color All the It Girls Are Wearing featured image
Kevin Mazur / Max Cisotti / Dave Benett / Getty Images

There are many ways to liven up a rich and luscious shade like a dark brunette, but nothing has a hold on our favorite celebs like this season’s hottest hair color trend. Meet tortoiseshell brunette.

Aptly named, experts say that tortoiseshell brunette mimics the tortoiseshell patterns we see in textiles and fashion pieces (yes, just like your favorite pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses). It’s a mixture of caramel and deep chocolate to give hair some added depth. “The pattern should have a slightly random feel that combines areas of visual highs and lows,” says master colorist at Madison Reed Shvonne Perkins.

“[It’s] a ‘mottled’ shade of browns and golds,” adds celebrity colorist Tracey Cunningham. “[It’s] soft hues of caramel and golden honey all woven together.” 

To achieve this rich color combo, Perkins says that colorists will generally start with a deep chocolate for the base and add very light brown or dark blonde highlights. (“Think caramel or iced tea,” she says). It’s pretty customizable, with some colorists placing highlights up to the root for dimension or opting for a more ombré look by placing them at the mid-lengths and ends. As an added touch, she says that it is usually followed with a clear or golden tone gloss to get max shine.

  • Tracey Cunningham is a celebrity colorist based in Los Angeles
  • Shvonne Perkins is a master colorist at Madison Reed

What to Ask Your Colorist

Perkins says to ask your colorist for a deep, golden warm hue that will highlight your hair’s tone. She adds that this trend looks best with deep caramel highlights with high shine.

Cunningham says you can describe it as a “polished, brighter brunette,” and to ask your colorist for ribbons or highlights so that you can see all the rich colors falling together. But for best results, she recommends bringing in a reference photo to make sure your colorist understands exactly what you’re envisioning.

Tortoiseshell Brunette Aftercare

Upkeep is pretty simple. Perkin recommends using a golden-toned gloss, like the Miele Color Reviving Gloss ($25), or a deep mahogany hue, like the Amaretto Color Reviving Gloss ($25), about once a month at home between appointments. To boost your hair’s shine, she likes using the Madison Reed Pro Boost ($20).

Cunningham agrees and likes to send her clients home with the Redken Acidic Color Gloss Activated Glass Gloss Treatment ($38) to extend shine in between appointments and keep color looking fresh. “It works just like a professional glossing treatment, without the need to go back into the salon every time you want a refresh,” she says. “The formula deeply conditions and seals the cuticle and gives a gorgeous, reflective shine to hair.” If you’re wanting to cover any grays, she recommends going in more frequently (about every six to eight weeks) for root maintenance.

To help you out in that department, we rounded up 15 tortoiseshell brunette looks worn by some of our favorite celebs. Be sure to save this for your next hair appointment.

Celebrities rocking toroiseshell brunette

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Caramel Highlights

Perkins says Jessica Alba is a great source of inspo for your tortoiseshell brunette needs. Here, Alba wears light caramel highlights woven throughout. 

Jessica Alba Caramel Highlights
Taylor Hill / Getty Images
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Golden Hues

Another celeb pick from Perkins, Miley Cyrus’s golden hues really lighten her warm chocolate base and give her hair added depth. And can we talk about this rocker blowout? No notes. 

miley cyrys grammys 2024
Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images
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Soft Romantic

Cunningham says that Lily Aldridge is the queen of gorgeous brunette shades, and tortoiseshell accents are no exception. Though these highlights are soft and muted, Cunningham says that even the most subtle shift can make all the difference in giving brunette shades dimension. 

Lily Aldridge soft romantic hair
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Getty Images
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Honey All Over

We follow anything Beyoncé does. But we’re especially loving this deep honey shade to really lighten up a darker base.

Beyonce honey hair
Kevin Mazur / Getty Images
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Subtle Gradient

Sofia Vergara’s brunette roots change just slightly to a bright light blonde by the ends for a softer ombré effect that’s so luxe.

Sofia Vergara subtle radiant hair
Monica Schipper / Getty Images
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Light Accents

Alessandra Ambrosio’s rich brunette shade gets a subtle lift with piecey and light lowlights that frame her face quite nicely. 

Alessandra Ambrosio light accents
Paul Morigi / Getty Images
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Salted Caramel

These light caramel lowlights on Hailey Bieber paired with her wavy hair creates that beachy effortless look that’s perfect for the warmer weather.

Hailey Bieber salted caramel
Kevin Mazur / Getty Images
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Scattered Caramel

Jessica Biel’s caramel highlights have no rhyme or reason in placement, and we’re digging it. The scattered nature lightens up the darker base throughout for a really pretty tortoiseshell brunette mix.

Jessica Biel scattered caramel
Max Cisotti / Dave Benett / Getty Images
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Tortoiseshell Curls 

Tortoiseshell hair really accentuates your natural curls. Just take a cue from Zendaya; her voluminous gradually lighter from the root to the ends for more body and added depth. 

zendaya Tortoiseshell Curls
Daniele Venturelli / WireImage
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Face-Framing Lowlights

Opting for these caramel lowlights can also accentuate face-framing layers you may have. Miranda Kerr’s subtle pieces make for an easy way to give a chocolate brown shade some movement. 

miranda kerr lowlights
Rich Fury / Getty Images
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Caramel Side Bangs

Halle Berry’s natural curls are extra defined with the caramel highlights woven throughout. And as an added bonus, she makes a strong case to bring back the side bang

Halle Berry short curly hair
Arturo Holmes / Getty Images
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Proving that less is more, Olivia Munn opts for caramel babylights at the ends of her wavy hair. The vibrant shade really pops against her dark chocolate base.

olivia munn babylights
Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images
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Auburn Mix

Go for something a bit unexpected and mix shades of auburn with a dark brunette shade to get that tortoiseshell effect. Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s auburn streaks seamlessly blend with her dark chocolate strands.

priyanka chopra jonas auburn
Taylor Hill / Getty Images
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Vanessa Hudgens’s contrast of deep black roots and warm brunette ends make for a bold look with an edge that’s just striking. 

vanessa hudgens two-toned
Daniele Venturelli / Getty Images
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Seamless Ombré

We love a good ombré shade. Gemma Chan’s dark roots gradually lighten in shade to a bright brunette as it reaches the ends. 

gemma chan seamless ombre
Lionel Hahn / Getty Images

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