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How to Make Brown Hair More Vibrant

Warm up your mousy brunette.

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Q: My natural colour is light brown (nearest to a neutral 6). It can seem almost colourless and looks a little dark against my face. I would love a natural-looking result, similar to Millie Mackintosh, who I think has beautiful colour. 

From The Styling Edit Archives

Millie Mackintosh's light brown hair.

The issue with my hair is that it has a lot of red in it. Before last September, I hadn't dyed my hair for years, as hairdressers couldn't ever get it right. For my last visit, my hair ended up completely different to my subtle request—I had bright orange roots and bleach blonde (white) ends! 

As a result, I've just let my hair grow out, as I've been too scared to go to a salon, and am confused by how to achieve my desired colour. I have a few white hairs and just the remains of the (thankfully faded) 8.3. What would be your suggestion for mixing appropriate colours? — Helen

A: Helen, this could actually be a pretty simple process for you! I totally relate to your problem, as my natural colour is a bit flat and mousy, too. 

Here's what I suggest.

Step 1: Neutral Dark Blonde 

Millie Mackintosh's warm hair colour.

To achieve a similar colour to Millie Mackintosh, I want to warm you up a bit—it does wonders for people’s skin! In your case, I see no need to complicate things by mixing colours; I don’t feel you would benefit much from it.

L'Oréal Healthy Look creme Gloss in 7 Dark Blonde Latte

L’Oréal Paris Healthy Look creme Gloss in 7 Dark Blonde Latte or 7 Dark Blonde (also known as Casting creme Gloss in 713 Iced Latte in the UK) has a balance of warm and cool tones. 

This will ensure you don’t go too ashy (which comes out very dull and greyish), or too warm (which normally comes out orangey).

Your pre-lightened ends will also be useful here, as they will give you a little bit of a colour variation, especially as it fades out.

If you're happy with the result, you can stop here, otherwise continue on to the next step...

Step 2: Tone-On-Tone Highlights or Baby Ombré

Olivia Palermo's baby Ombré highlights.

Regarding your concern about your hair being too dark against your face, there is another look you could try, if you wanted to be a little more technical.

Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Creme in 100 Extra-Light Natural Blonde

With an ultra-lightening blonde colour such as Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Creme in 100 Extra-Light Natural Blonde or 100 Chamomile (10 Chamomile in the UK), you could put in some subtle, face-framing highlights. And if you wanted, some baby Ombré ends like Olivia Palermo's. 

This dye won’t give you platinum blonde chunks, but a sunny medium-to-dark blonde to help bring some brightness to your skin tone. I always find that having some lightness around my face really elevates my mood and gives a softer appearance.

Pick a few thin strands around your hairline at the front for face-framing highlights, and just paint on the dye to replicate Olivia's look above. Then follow Luis Pacheco’s instructions in his DIY baby Ombré video; they seriously couldn’t be simpler!

I would do this maybe a couple of days to a week after you have used the L’Oréal colour, because it's an ultra-lightening formula, so it will still be able to break through the dye.

Step 3: Conditioning the Hair 

Aside from the colour, I think another factor that could be contributing to your hair seeming "colourless" is just its general condition.

While I love that the L'Oréal Healthy Look/Casting creme range gets some shine on the hair, I would also get a fresh trim on your ends, and pick up a deep conditioner. Dove do a really nice intensive repair range for a very reasonable price. Even if you don't think your hair needs "intensive repair," it doesn’t hurt to give it a good treatment now and then, just not so often that it becomes oily and weighed-down.

Dove Damage Therapy Intensive Repair Conditioner

Another thing you can do is reduce heat-styling and always finish off washing your hair with a blast of icy cold water to seal the cuticle. Shine is really the key to a Millie Mackintosh look, as well as the styling; blow-dry it in a downward direction with a round brush, and use a heat protectant to prevent damage. 

Just like you should finish washing your hair with a blast of cold water, you should also finish drying it with a blast of cold air, as this will smooth down the cuticle and make it look shinier and sleeker.