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Dirty Brunette Is the Fall-Forward Hair Color We Need

There’s nothing like a brand new color trend to shock us out of the end-of-summer haze. From golden bronde to expensive brunette, years past have never failed to give us gorgeous fall shades to cure our back-to-work blues. So what’s this year’s post-vacation shade? Say hello to dirty brunette. A welcome update on the classic dirty blonde look, this low key color already has a tight grip on the beauty industry permeating social media and the celebrity scene.

To find out more about this autumn-centric hue, we sat down with two top-tier colorists: Michelle Zeller and Lauren Cooper. Zeller is the stylist, colorist, and all-around expert behind Mane Ivy, a premier hair education and inspiration space. Cooper is the creative director and co-owner of the so-chic Etcher Salon. Read on to see what these two industry-leading women have to say about the trend!

About the Experts

Michelle Zeller is a hairstylist and educator teaching stylists to work smarter, not harder.

Lauren Cooper is the co-owner of Etcher Salon and a hair educator.

Let’s Break It Down: What Is Dirty Brunette?

“We know the common saying of dirty blonde, but think that in the world of brunettes,” Zeller explains. “It’s neither warm nor cool, but a neutral tone with subtle variations of highs and lows that are formulated to complement your skin and hair,” she continues. Subtlety and blended tones are the key to this color.

“Dirty brunette is the colour trend of enhancing a brunette base with subtle highlights of golden and beige blonde tones,” Cooper adds. “Think of it as a kind of tortoiseshell effect, where you can see multi-tonal flashes of lightness in a brown base, usually placed with a balayage technique to mimic the effect of sun -kissed hair,” she continues.

This Color Is Truly Low-Maintenance

High upkeep colors are almost a thing of the past—natural-looking hues are becoming more and more in demand. Dirty brunette is in that vein. “By keeping your natural dark base, there will be no obvious regrowth line that appears at the root,” Cooper explains. “The upkeep of this colour would look like a trip to the salon every six months to have a few extra balayage pieces added to where the new regrowth has come through, with a visit at the three month point for a gloss toner and a haircut to keep those ends healthy.”

Zeller echos that schedule. “I would say because this is perfectly balanced with more of your natural tones and a lived in color, you could go at least three to six months.” We love to hear it.

Skin Undertones and Base Hair Color Matter

When it comes to getting the exact blend of dirty brunette for you, your skin undertone plays a major role. “I always go off of my clients vein color on their wrist to determine their complementary tones,” Zeller explains, “If they have blue/purple veins, that means they have cool tone skin, so I will use 70% warm tones with 30% cool tones.” She notes that those with green veins have warmer skin tones. “I would use 70% cool tones and 30% warm tones. Using this equation creates a neutral balancing tone that complements the skin,” Zeller describes.

Base hair color should definitely be taken into account as well. “Ask your hairdresser to analyse your natural base colour and use it as a starting point to add to,” Cooper suggests. “Brunettes with hints of warmth in their hair and skin undertone will want to look at enhancing their natural base with gold and champagne tones, whilst brunettes with a cooler undertone will want to look to add more neutral beiges and smoky caramels,” she adds.

Inspo Pics Are Key

Looking to swap your summer shade for this cool pre-fall color? “Ask your favourite hairstylist for a colour that will enhance your natural brunette, focussing more on the mid lengths and ends,” Cooper recommends. Let them know you’re going for something that is subtle, low-maintenance, and full of dimension—but nothing over-highlighted.

“I would recommend a few inspiration pics to show your stylist so they have a clear idea of what you are looking for,” Zeller says. Inspo pics will help your stylist achieve the desired result. “My favourite reference for these types of colours is Hailey Bieber, she has absolutely nailed the dirty brunette hair color with soft variation that looks healthy and glossy,” Cooper says.

Moisture-Centric Products Are a Must

Upkeep on color-treated tresses is so important. To keep that dirty brunette looking salon-fresh, Zeller recommends a moisture-based salon shampoo and conditioner. “One of my favorites is Shu Uemura Urban Moisture,” she says. Another tip? “Following up with a daily cream or oil to hydrate the hair like Virtue Healing Oil” will keep your strands healthy and your color vibrant.

Cooper suggests using a color-save product. “Because these types of colours are so low-maintenance with salon visits, it’s important to use the right hair care at home to maintain the colour,” she explains. A color-locking shampoo and conditioner will help maintain your shade as the months go by. “Evo Hair have an incredible product called Fabuloso Pro, which is a customised conditioner that can be crafted and personalised to match the exact shade of tone in your hair.”

Not sure if dirty brunette is right for you? Maybe California brunette is more your speed? Learn more about the brunette hair color trend HERE!

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