- Smoky brunette is a new hair-color trend.
- The subtle shade typically features an ashy brown color.
- The hue looks best on cool skin tones, but can be completely customized.
If you've been itching to make a beauty change for spring but you're not sure where to start, updating your hair color is always a fun choice. However, if you're looking to shy away from a bigger transformation, like with platinum-blond or the ever-popular red, opting for something subtle is a better bet. For darker hair specifically, we've been seeing understated colors like "'90s natural" and chocolate brown picking up popularity, and there's a new shade on the horizon that's been grabbing everyone's attention: smoky brunette.
The cool-toned hue gives off an edgy, mysterious vibe and is the perfect choice for anyone looking to do a minimal switch up with big, noticeable results. Ahead, we asked Stephanie Brown, master colorist at IGK Salon in New York City, and Jamie Mazzei, creative director for NuBest Salon & Spa in Manhasset, NY, to answer all of our questions about the smoky-brunette-hair-color trend.
What Is the Smoky-Brunette Hair Color?
Smoky brunette is a color between blond and brown, typically falling on the darker side. Unlike "bronde" hair color, though, which typically features warm tones, smoky brunette is a shade of ash, which has cool undertones. The trend works best on someone who has a medium-brown, light-brown, or dark-blond-natural base color, and according to Mazzei, looks the most flattering on skin tones with cool undertones. However, if you have warm undertones, the color can still be customized, which makes it a good option for any skin tone.
How to Ask For Smoky Brunette at the Salon
First and foremost, you should always show up at the salon with inspiration photos in hand. "Find a picture that has the tone you want and a picture of the placement you like — two of each should be enough," says Brown. "I find that ashy for some people isn't the same for others, but a picture is the easiest way to show what you like and don't like."
The main thing you want to tell your colorist is that you're looking to achieve a neutral ashy brown color. From there, they can inform you on how best to attain the look. The smoky brunette shade can be achieved in a number of different ways, depending on your current base and whether or not you have highlights. Whether your stylist chooses to add in cool-toned highlights, tone highlights you already have, do a color melt, or give your entire head one all-over hue, the end result will be a subtle change with a big impact — the perfect shade of dimensional, ashy brown.
As for how often you'll need to get your color touched up professionally, salon visits will be key to maintaining the right shade. "You'll want to get your color retouched at the salon every six to eight weeks or so," Mazzei says. "This will vary depending on if you had a permanent color or demi-permanent color, because demi-permanent needs to be touched up less often than permanent." Brown also adds that you can always wait longer in between full-color appointments and come in for glosses, which will help keep everything looking fresh.
How to Maintain Smoky-Brunette Hair Color at Home
If you like to use hot tools like a blow dryer or curling iron to style your hair, it's important to use a heat protectant each time. Our current favorite is the Drybar Hot Toddy Heat Protectant Mist ($29).
Historically, cooler ash tones are often challenging to keep in the hair because they wash out quickly, so both Brown and Mazzei recommend using a color-safe shampoo and conditioner. Additionally, Mazzei recommends using a color-depositing shampoo and conditioner like the Celeb Luxury Gem Lites Colorwash in Brown Tahitian Pearl ($35) and the Celeb Luxury Gem Lites Colorditioner ($35). "Both of these products deposit a semipermanent dye while you shampoo and condition your hair, which will keep the cool tones of your smoky-brunette hair fresh until your next salon visit," Mazzei says.
Brown also suggests washing hair with cool water rather than hot water, which should help lengthen the life of your color. She says that doing an at-home gloss like the dpHUE Color Boosting Gloss + Deep Conditioning Treatment in Cool Medium Brown ($37) is another way to keep your color looking fresh in between salon appointments.
If you think smoky brunette could be the perfect shade to help you switch things up this season, keep scrolling for inspiration to bring with you to your next professional appointment.