How to Select the Most Flattering Hair Color If You Want to Go Dark This Winter

Twenty-twenty has been an interesting year for hair. In many areas of the country, salons have been forced to shut down repeatedly due to a worldwide pandemic, and all of a sudden, things we took for granted (e.g., easy, breezy trims, in-person color consultations, and even an impromptu, drastic color change) are difficult if not impossible altogether. Our hearts are with all of the salons and artists who have had to close up shop, and even though many of us aren't currently able to book an appointment with a stylist or colorist, we still want to stay up-to-date with trends, tips, tricks, and lots of inspiration for when we do have free reign at the salon again.

Interestingly, even though going darker for fall and winter has always been a popular direction (we blame the duskier days and colder temperatures), the lack of access to professional hair artists this year has caused an even steeper climb to the dark side. After all, going darker is pretty much guaranteed to require less maintenance than going lighter, so it's the perfect way to switch up your hair MO if your next salon appointment isn't necessarily set in stone.

"With the COVID-19 pandemic still front and center, most of my clients, whether they're blonde, redhead, or brunette, are looking to simplify their routines and their approach to their hair color," says Kadi Lee, celebrity colorist and co-founder of Venice-based beauty atelier Highbrow Hippe. "That means that many of them have decided to go a bit darker for winter."

Below, we're sharing some of the best celeb-inspired shades of brown hair we currently have tucked into our Saved folder, and we're breaking down everything you need to know about potentially going darker this winter. Keep scrolling! 

Tip #1: Opt for a Pre-Colorizing Treatment

Even though going darker is a popular hair trend for winter, a cold, dry climate doesn't do our strands any favors in the gloss and hydration departments. Therefore, there's some strategy involved if you want to ensure your darker hue looks as rich as possible this season.

"The lack of moisture can definitely impact the vibrancy of hair color," confirms Lee. "Before I take any of my clients drastically darker, a pre-color moisturizing treatment is a must. At Highbrow Hippie, we recently invested in state-of-the-art equipment that helps to both clean the scalp and get maximum moisture into the hair cuticle—these treatments are performed by our junior colorist Ashley Pineda."

Tip #2: Show Your Colorist a Range of Inspiration Photos


(Image credit: @highbrowhippie)

"Once the hair is properly hydrated, make sure you are armed with inspiration photos of color that you like," Lee continues. "Bring a wide range, as the decision your colorist makes will depend on your hair texture, hair health, starting point, and level of commitment desired. In other words, do you want it to last for a few months, or is a more temporary change desired?"

Tip #3: Going Dark Doesn't Have to Be Drastic


(Image credit: @colorbymattrez)

We love the age-old saying "go big, or go home," but when it comes to switching up your hair color—especially if you're dipping your toe into darker waters—the change doesn't have to be monumental. In fact, celebrity colorist and Redken brand ambassador Matt Rez recommends starting small. (Meaning, don't alter your base color yet if you don't really have to!)

"For instance, if you are a light brunette with or without existing highlights and want to go deeper, ask your colorist to gloss you with a deeper shade first," he explains. "If you are blonde with highlights, start incorporating lowlights to add depth and gloss the remaining highlights deeper as well. Don’t opt for big changes right away in case you want to eventually go lighter in the spring and/or are not 100% going to stay dark for a long time. Changing base to a darker color is a commitment, and it will take longer to eventually transition out of."

Tip #4: Zero In on Cool, Dark Tones 


(Image credit: @colorbymattrez)

We never want to make generalizations when it comes to hair color because so much depends on your personal taste, vision, and skin/hair tone. However, Rez does point out that it's usually more strategic to stay on the cooler side of the dark-hair spectrum since those tones naturally look darker. According to Rez, ash tones reflect less light, so they will appear darker than they really are. This is a great way to get a taste for a new, darker hue without fully committing to a darker base. 

"Redken’s Ash Brown color family is perfect for clients who want to go deeper for the winter," he tells us. "You can have your colorist play with the intensity of these glosses depending on how neutral and/or cool you want the final results. This family of colors will also eliminate any unwanted red tones, which can counteract the richness of a darker shade."

Tip #5: Pay Special Attention to Your Skin's Predominant Undertone


(Image credit: @highbrowhippie)

"When a client wants to try a darker hair color, I always choose a shade that's complementary to the complexion’s predominant undertone," Rez explains. "Our skin tone has different undertones: cool, warm, and neutral." (Psst: Read our full guide for determining your skin's undertone here.) 

According to Rez, cool undertones have more red and pink with blueish hints, warm undertones possess yellow, peachy, and/or golden hints, and neutral is more balanced and is a combination of warm and cool. 

Of course, how deep or fair your skin is will also impact how a darker hair color will translate. To avoid choosing a dark hair color that will wash you out or look too harsh, Lee recommends the following protocol for her clients.

"Those who are very fair with rosy/peachy skin should aim for tones that accentuate their glow—avoid undertones that are too ashy or blue based. Olive undertones in the skin do well with a rich, neutral color supported by golden or beige undertones. Clients with darker skin tones have some freedom and flexibility to choose a myriad of undertones, from a deep auburn to a rich honey brown to a blue-based shade of ebony," she says. 

When in doubt, Rez suggests opting for a neutral all-over feel in tone when it comes to hair color. A balance of cool and warm tones paired with a neutral-cool base color will give you the most dimension. 

Tip #6: Create a Maintenance Plan, and Stick to It

Choose a Non-Stripping Shampoo & Conditioner

Mask and Gloss Up

Make Sure You're on the Hair-Oil Bandwagon

Order a Shower Filter, Stat

The Celeb Inspiration

Now that you know all of the best tips and logistics for going darker this fall, keep scrolling for some of the best celeb-approved inspiration. From Melii to Lucy Hale to Zendaya, these are the brown-hair moments we have saved in our camera roll sure to suit every kind of flavor palette. Get ready to screenshot!


(Image credit: Getty Images)


Jourdan Dunn
(Image credit: Getty Images)


Joan Smalls
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Lucy Hale
(Image credit: Getty Images)


Irina Shayk
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Lily Aldridge
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Gemma Chan
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Kerry Washington
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Chrissy Metz
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Chrissy Teigen
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Mandy Moore
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Issa Rae
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Halle Berry
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Shay Mitchell
(Image credit: Getty Images)


Bella Hadid
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.