We’ve all likely heard of “dirty blonde” hair — that medium blonde shade peppered with light brown pieces (think: Sarah Jessica Parker and Gigi Hadid). But we bet the shade of “dirty brunette” has not crossed your radar yet. Even as beauty experts, it hadn’t become a mainstay in our color vocabularies until LA-based hair pro and Nine Zero One salon-owner, Riawna Capri, announced she got it on Instagram.
“A dirty brunette is a natural looking hair color that incorporates lighter pieces without compromising a brunette’s brown hair,” explains the Nine Zero One colorist who created it, Lauren Burke. “The tones can range from honey to sand, but the key is to tone down the highlights to darkest blonde, lightest brown. This gives brunettes a very natural feel, emphasizing their skin tones and gorgeous brown hair.”
Basically: it’s the opposite of dirty blonde, in that the base is brunette and the mixed-in pieces are blonde. Is this ground-breaking? No. For years, variations of brunette and blonde have been trending — including bronde, tortoiseshell, and more. But in our opinion, dirty brunette sounds sexy, flattering, and — well — fun!
“Riawna inspired this!” Burke enthuses. “She told me, ‘Nikki [Lee, Riawna’s business partner] is the blonde, and I’m the brunette.’ Taking her personal preference and skin tone into consideration, I toned her down to lightest brown with a hue of warm to neutral. Once we were drying her, the first thing I noticed was how fluid everything worked together. Her lighter pieces illuminated her skin tone, and her dark hair wasn’t compromised at all by trying to be ‘blonde.’ It was a gold mine!”
When we chatted with Capri, she was equally jazzed about the results. “Personally, I’m not really ready to let go of the summer, so toning down my highlights from a sun-kissed beach babe to a dirty brunette is the perfect transition from summer to fall,” she says. “I still have dimension but with a softer hue. When your stylist can create a hair color that compliments your skin tone, that is how you achieve the perfect color for you.”
According to Burke, dirty brunette is a universal shade — meaning it works for those with both cool and warm complexions. “It all depends on the skin tone and existing tone of the hair,” she adds. “If a brunette has fair skin and an ashier natural color, keep her on the neutral side to complement and work with her existing tones. Same goes for warm.”
If you’re interested in trying this fad, Burke has advice for what to ask for when you’re sitting in your colorist’s chair. “Since this was founded on a brunette, I would probably suggest foilyage,” she explains. “Foilyage is a balayage technique, but in a foil. Since we are starting off with a darker level, it’s important to accurately and consistently lift the hair to a ‘yellow’ for the most natural-looking result.” (Note: balayage is a highlighting technique in which color is painted on in a graduated way.)
Once you’ve decided to take this color plunge, make sure you’re armed with the right products to upkeep it. Burke advises to look for formulas with UV and thermal protection, such as Unite 7 Seconds Leave-in Conditioner ($30). “It has added moisturizers and seals the cuticle to keep the hair protected all day,” she notes.
On Instagram, Capri shares how she got those perfectly undone waves, “I used some @IncommonBeauty magic, to create these waves, stay tuned to get yours.” To learn more about Capri’s hot new haircare line, Incommon, as well as her beauty and aesthetics routine, read our exclusive interview with her here!
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