Skip to main content

Ask a Hairstylist: The Best Hair Colour Ideas for Dark Brown Hair and Pale Skin

Copper tones are not your friend.
Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair

Welcome to our Hair Consultations column. Tony Chaar is a celebrity hairstylist and the owner of Tony Chaar Salon in Toronto, Canada. To request an online hair consultation, follow the instructions here

Q: Hello, Tony. I want to liven up my hair and my look, but I need some help with figuring out the best colour for me. I have always had dark (brown-black) hair and pale skin. 

From The Styling Edit Archives

Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair

Recently, I got tired of looking like a vampire, and dreamed of being blonde. So I had the whole thing dyed a medium brown and loaded with highlights. 

Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair

I liked the change, but I was not completely satisfied with how orange and bronzey it came out. 

Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair

My hair is naturally thick, wavy/curly, and frizzy. I just want to know my options and what would look best on me. Please help! — Dina 

Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair

A: Dina, thank you for sending in your request for a hair consultation with me. I think that you definitely suit the lighter hair. So I totally agree with you about going lighter. 

But here’s the problem. The tone that you have right now is too red for your skin. 

That is what you’re hating about it. Your skin and hair are fighting, and the hair will always win!

Cool-Toned Brunette

I think that you should stay light, but go to a cooler tone. Your skin suits more of an ashier colour. It’s that copper pigment that has to go.

You would look so natural with an ash brown or dirty blonde as your base:

Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair Elizabeth Olsen
Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair Angelina Jolie
Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair Christina Ricci

Ombré Ends

You could even do a little bit of a JLo look, but on the cool side:

Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair Jennifer Lopez

Correcting Your Base Colour

Fixing your base to get rid of the copper will be quite a bit of work. 

You need to ask your hairdresser to keep your hair at the same level that you have now, but to add a toner at the very end to turn it into an ashier tone. You’re probably a level six or seven right now, and you have to go to a level seven double ash. Your hairstylist will know what that means. 

That will probably hit it on the nail, but if it doesn’t, your hairdresser will have to use another toner on top of the double ash. This is not to darken the colour, though—you need to keep it at a level seven, just turn it towards a cooler tone.

⚠️ If we’re being really technical, I recommend cracking (lightening) your eyebrows as well. Right now, they’re too dark. Your hairdresser will probably have to use a level 8-1 ash plus a 10-volume peroxide for about 10 minutes just to crack them by half a shade. This will help your look to be in sync.


I would steer away from adding highlights right now, because there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to fix your base. It might take two or three visits for your hairdresser to get it right.

But later on, you could add some highlights. They should be warmer, like a golden, sun-kissed look:

Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair Laura Marano
Hair colour ideas for dark brown hair Sutton Foster

Cut and Colour Care

For your cut, ask for soft, long layers, which will work whether you wear it curly or straighten it. You look good with the straight hair. 

But you need to moisturize so that your blow-dry doesn’t frizz up. I recommend using deep conditioning masks on a regular basis:

Briogeo Be Gentle Be Kind Avocado Kiwi Mega Moisture Superfood Mask
Living Proof No Frizz Intense Moisture Mask
Kerastase Discipline Maskeratine

This will help you to be able to wear your hair down and have it look smooth, not frizzy.

If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. See our Disclosure for more information.