As the weather starts to heat up, the search for the best summer hair colors is on. After years of box dye and overgrown roots, we can finally safely return to the hands of our hairdressers for a much needed refresh. Over the past several months, the overarching trend seemed to be low-maintenance shades with minimal salon upkeep—but much like summer makeup and summer nails this year, the season’s coolest hair color trend is whatever makes you feel like the best version of yourself.
“People are ready to get out and show off and live their best lives, and I’m seeing that with color,” says Tracey Cunningham, a celebrity colorist and the author of True Color. “Some are going super blonde, and others are sticking to a beautiful balayage or ombré that makes them look and feel their best.” She says a big trend in her salon has been clients going lighter and brighter. (It is summer, after all.) “Highlights are back in. Every time I’m in the salon, I see hair getting blonder, blonder, blonder—whether their natural tone is a brunette, redhead, or darker blonde.” On the other hand, shades of red, copper, and strawberry are still going strong, as are amped-up shades of whatever nature gave you.
No matter what your vibe is, we rounded up the coolest summer hair color ideas to try, from bold Technicolor to low-key natural and everything in between. We even threw in a few DIY options, in case you’ve yet to return to the salon. (Just be sure to read our guide on how to color your hair at home first.) Read on for 39 hair colors to try this summer, and get ready to book an appointment.
If you want to add a little bit of dimension without making a major change, Cunningham says you can’t go wrong with a classic ombré. “It’s a great way to color brunette hair, because you can tailor it to exactly what each client loves,” she says. “It’s the best way to keep a brunette true to their hair color without going blonde.” She recommends carefully choosing a colorist who can show you examples of their ombré work. “Then pick a photo you love so you and your colorist are both on the same page.”
Another fun way to brighten up darker blondes or brunettes is with some subtle swirls of highlights. “It’s tastefully natural, with minimal highlights, creating a perfect summer glow,” says Karissa Schaudt, a colorist at Chicago’s Maxine Salon. She says this shade is ideal for low-maintenance clients, since there’s no obvious grow-out. “Ask for a two-dimensional color,” says Schaudt. “Keep the base color close to your natural, while adding the babylights through the hairline, mids, and ends.”
We predict last fall’s peach hair trend will get another boost in popularity this summer after Blackpink’s Jennie revealed she tried the cute hair color herself. “Peach is also so pretty on so many different skin tones,” says Mark DeBolt, celebrity colorist and co-owner of New York’s Mark Ryan Salon. “Because it’s such a warm color, it makes skin and eyes glow and makes your hair look so healthy.” DeBolt’s number one tip if you want to try this shade yourself? Bring in pictures. It’s the best way to make sure you and your colorist are on the same page, since peach can mean a range of shades.
“Peach is created by mixing a ton of gold with a dab of orange and a drop of pink,” he says. “If you do a simple Pinterest search for peach hair, you will find some delicate and natural examples, looking closer to strawberry blond. On the other extreme, I have seen neon versions of peach too.” Also take into account that you may need to lighten or highlight your hair to get your desired shade. “Think of peach glosses as a watercolor,” he says. “If you don’t have any lightness in your hair, you will not see the resulting tone.”
“Soft Blonde, like I did for Anya Taylor-Joy, is great for summer and works so well for people with light skin tones,” says Cunningham. “It’s so blonde that it’s almost platinum, but still feels very warm and looks amazingly healthy.” To get the shade, she says to ask for a warm platinum blonde, and be sure to specify that you don’t want to look washed out. She also recommends using a bond-building treatment mask like Olaplex Bond Intense Moisture Mask at least once a week to keep your hair healthy and strong after lightening it.
If you have tighter curls, it can be scary to go lighter, but Jamila Powell, owner of Miami’s curl-centric Maggie Rose salon says not to worry. “These highlights take your hair up a notch and, since they don’t require foils, cause minimal damage,” she says. “This style works best for those with curls who want a sun-kissed look for the summer months. Ask your stylist to hand-paint the curls throughout your hair in order to achieve this look.”
Looking to refresh your red? Try a bright, sunny shade for summery vibes. “This color works great on faded red hair that needs a breath of new life in it,” says celebrity colorist Jeremy Tardo. For a similar shade, he suggests asking your stylist for a light auburn hue with peachy tones.
Going lighter isn’t the only way to embrace the warmer months. “Brunette color appears more vibrant when a little darker than your usual comfort zone,” says Rex Jimieson, colorist at Maxine Salon. To get Dua Lipa’s rich espresso shade, he says, ask for a single-process deep brown color, with a cool ash tone. “While this color may appear black in photos, in real life you will lose the underglow if you choose an actual black dye.”
This sun-kissed color—dubbed Riviera brunette by colorist Paul Bingham—is so soft and pretty. It’s meant to keep the deepness of classic brunette, but with some strategically placed balayage to mimic hair lightened by the sun and salt. Ask your stylist to keep depth at the roots, with some sun-kissed mid-lengths for a similar look.
Pearly Gold Balayage
“This look is effortless and screams summer,” says Jimieson. He says the golden blonde shade is perfect for people with natural medium or light hair who want something bright and low-maintenance. “Ask for classic balayage highlights, slightly off the root, minimal toning,” says Jimieson.
According to Lorena M. Valdes, a colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, copper coin is “the perfect way to incorporate shades of copper and caramel to create a natural dimensional look.” It’s rooted in a brown base, so it looks really natural, as if you were blessed with copper strands—which also makes it a great way to transition to red without going full-on fire engine. “I highly recommend this shade for brunettes that love seeing warmth in their hair,” says Valdes. “From chestnut to caramels and coppers, it works so well, and most don’t depend on a gloss since color can be used to highlight. I would recommend a multicolor highlight to get different ribbons of colors from roots to ends for longevity and softer grow-out. It can also be done with balayage for thicker ribbons of color.”
Sometimes it’s best to stick with what you know, and you can never go wrong with highlighted hair for summer. Cunningham loves the trend and just did this full head on Khloé Kardashian. “We were only doing lowlights and glosses during the pandemic, so it was really fun to lighten her up a bit. Ask your colorist for at a full head of highlights, or at least a half, to make them really noticeable,” she says. “Highlights look amazing on straight hair, curly hair, and textured hair. They are really versatile.”
Chunky highlights had a major moment last summer, but according to Cunningham, this year is all about the babylight. “Just as with some of other ’90s trends coming back, I’m seeing more people ask for thin, baby-like highlights, almost like they were pulled through a cap the way they were done years ago,” she says. It’s a super-versatile look that works with pretty much any color out there, from baby blonde to deep chocolate. “Tell your colorist you want very thin, cap-like highlights,” she says. As always, bring a few example pictures to be sure you’re on the same page.
“While very dark, this hair color is actually the darkest shade of brown with a very cool, ashy undertone, giving the appearance of black to the untrained eye,” says celebrity colorist Tom Smith, creative director of Evo Hair. “This stops the shade looking too harsh or draining but retains the striking, inky appearance of the hair. Off-black is a current celebrity favorite, recently seen on Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo, Megan Fox, and Maya Jama.” To get the shade, Smith says, ask your stylist for the deepest shade of brown without veering into true black, with cool ash tones.
“Strategic placement of lighter brown bits in dark hair can give you a whole new vibe this summer,” says Tardo. “This look works beautifully on brunettes who enjoy face-framing highlights. The pieces can be done smaller or larger depending on style preference.” He says to ask your colorist for a strong panel of lighter brown right around your face. Be sure to specify whether you want them warm or cool toned, as your colorist can use a toner to make sure the color doesn’t fade too brassy.
If you have curls, consider going a little brighter this summer to make your texture really pop. Schaudt loves this unique golden hue and says to ask for a full balayage. “Keep the pieces on the chunky side so they don’t get lost in the curls.”
“This look is edgy and bold, perfect for a seasonal change,” says Schaudt, who recommends pairing bright blonde with a shorter cut. She says to ask for a bleach and tone, but to specify to keep the tone golden. “This isn’t ashy blonde for a reason; it’s supposed to be summery and warm.”
Last year’s face-framing highlights aren’t going anywhere; they are just getting a little softer. This trend still has tons of brightness around the face, but it’s not quite as stark a contrast. Schaudt says to ask your colorist to foil your hairline for that blonde intensity around your face, and have them balayage the rest, keeping a little bit of contrast.
If you’re interested in going lighter but are hesitant to make major changes, caramel latte hair is the solution. “It sits right in a sweet middle spot,” says Dereq Clark, Wella Professionals brand ambassador. “If you are a person who is a bit wary or apprehensive about hair color, I think that caramel latte would be a great starting point, because it’s not too light and it’s not too dark. That shade may make you feel a little bit more comfortable when approaching color for the first time.”
If you’ve adapted a lower-maintenance attitude during the pandemic, this shade is for you. “There is something so beautiful and casual about a lived-in blonde,” says DeBolt. “The shadow at the root makes the color feel natural and childlike. The golden plays of light throughout the hair adds a skin-brightening glow with beachy pops of brightness throughout the ends.” He says to plan to head to the salon every three months or so for refreshes.
If you don’t want to bleach, going darker for summer can be just as impactful, especially if you want to shake it up. Schaudt likes this pretty maple shade, with its rich and luxurious tone. Since it is a one-dimensional color, she suggests asking for demi- or semi-permanent dye. “It will give the hair a very translucent shine.”
“This look is fun and head-turning without being too drastic of a change from deeper tones,” says Dark and Lovely celebrity stylist Derick Monroe. If you’re going to go lighter, Monroe stresses the importance of keeping your hair healthy enough to handle color. “The last thing you want to do is a chemical process on already damaged hair,” he says. “A pro tip is to have a maintenance program to keep your hair healthy, shiny, and moisturized. That could be as simple as a deep-conditioning treatment at home.”
Old Hollywood Blonde
The newest take on bright blonde is a little warmer than the true platinum blonde hair colors that have been dominating for the past few years. “Love this look—it’s so raw and youthful,” says DeBolt. “The hair has more of a champagne tone, which feels very Old Hollywood. This look works best on finer hair types and collarbone-skimming lengths and shorter.” He recommends bringing photos of the exact shade you want and being very clear that you don’t want any gray or silver tones. “This look is all about balanced warmth—think butter or champagne.”
If you have naturally dark hair, Jimieson says a shade like this is a perfect choice for the summer because the warm tones won’t fade in the sun. “Shift your base a shade or two lighter with bright buttery gold highlights,” he says. “The contrast and dimension keep this look warm without being brassy.”
“Hair frosting is a free-hand method to paint highlights on the surface of the hair,” says Bianca Hillier, a celebrity hair colorist and Olaplex ambassador. “They’re intentionally placed and have a natural grow-out, perfect for those who only get their hair maintained a few times a year.” The super-natural look is achieved because the highlights are painted directly on the hair, not on a foil, like you may be used to. Not only does this give you a less precise look, but the lack of foil keeps the color on top of the hair, instead of moving all the way through it, explains Hillier. “A foil conducts heat, and frosting doesn’t instigate any heat and allows the chemicals to act at the formulated pace,” she says. “These frosted bits feel more sheer and ribbon-like opposed to a foil—dense and tinsel-like.
Jimieson loves this bold take on a trendy hair color. “It’s vibrant and edgy without going super light or super dark, and it’s great for someone who wants to be noticed and wear a signature hair color that is bold and bright.” He says to ask for permanent dye since red notoriously fades very quickly, and to add a colored glaze on top for even more longevity.
To get curls to really pop, add a variation of warm shades on roots and ends. To get a similar look at home, Monroe recommends Dark & Lovely Fade Resist in Chestnut Brown at the roots and Honey Blonde on ends. Since both colors are on the warm side, the result doesn’t look fake, just super dimensional and pretty.
“A nod to the ’90s, this bright blonde is achieved with lots of highlights and is left ‘untoned’ to give a slightly raw, bleached look,” says Smith. “Thanks to modern hair care, this color can be achieved while keeping the hair in tip-top condition, which is important to keep this looking like an intentional fashion choice. Ask your stylist for a full head of perfectly lifted blonde highlights, left bright enough to be untoned or toned with a clear, diluted toner.” In order to keep hair strong and healthy, Smith recommends regularly using a treatment like K18 or Evo’s Mane Attention Protein Mask.
Take a cue from the weather and go slightly warmer for the sunny months ahead. “Any shade of copper-toned hair is a go,” says Powell. “This look is perfect for the warmer months. You can ask your stylist for lighter ends and a slightly darker base to create a seamless blend.”
DeBolt loves this shade on Zendaya. “This look is so youthful and, combined with her natural texture, looks so modern,” he says. “This look is perfect for someone who wants to highlight their hair one time per year or never feel like they have outgrowth.” To get the look, DeBolt says to ask for barely there hand-painted highlights.
If the past year has left you feeling blah, punch it up with the boldest take on red. “This color is eye-catching in the best way. It’s for the person who knows they’ve got it and doesn’t mind being seen,” says Powell. “The brightness of the color means that it could take a session or two to achieve, so make sure you tell your stylist that you are looking for something bright and bold.”
If you want to add some dimension to your curls without an extreme change, go for bright highlights. “This color works best for those with thicker dark hair,” says Tardo. “The lighter ribbons of color give separation to highlight beautiful natural textures.” He says to ask for subtle ash bronde highlights, or use Clairol’s Natural Instincts 7A Dark Cool Blonde to tone any existing highlights.
Vacation glow hair is all about giving your hair a pretty, sun-kissed vibe, even if you haven’t been able to make it to the beach yet. According to Nicole Tabloff, a colorist at Chicago’s Maxine Salon who coined the term, it consists of subtle highlights and a warm gloss that adds tons of dimension and shine—and makes you look like you’ve spent a week at the beach. “Subtle, light-reflecting highlights one or two levels lighter than your base are the perfect way to add new life to your existing signature shade,” says Tabloff. “Ask your colorist for an express balayage, where they will strategically paint only a few balayage pieces to frame your face and a sprinkle in your parting depending on your haircut.” After the balayage, your colorist should apply a warm gloss a few shades lighter than your base. This will make the highlights really pop and will give your hair that warm, beachy feeling. This works on most hair colors, but the effect is most noticeable on darker blondes and brunettes.
“I love seeing a monotone, luxe shade of glossy, rich black,” says DeBolt. “This looks is dramatic! And perfect to enhance a strong shape. Solid-color looks add strength to strong shapes. Think crisp, one-length haircuts, shaggy fringe, curtain bangs. It’s all about the finish and the cut, and the color adds such drama. Ask for natural black—not blue.”
“This is perfect for the person who wants change but doesn’t want to go too far out of their comfort zone,” says Monroe. Keep your hair darker at the roots and add a little lightness to the ends for some dimension that isn’t overwhelming.
Nectar blonde is a dreamy, creamy shade that strikes the perfect balance between brightness and believability. It has all the boldness of platinum but is updated with softer, warmer tones, making it way easier to pull off—and maintain. “Nectar blonde looks luxurious, golden and warm,” says Smith. “The key here is to lighten the hair’s base color to a dark golden blonde, adding warm vanilla cream highlights through the layers and to the face frame area.”
To get the shade, Smith suggests asking for your beige or golden-blonde base, with hand-painted highlights that are a little chunkier than you might typically go for. “This color works best for those with medium to fair natural hair, as very dark bases tend to have more orange undertones to fight against,” he says. “Don’t use a purple shampoo with this color. Instead, enhance warmth and richness using products with beige and golden tones, such as Evo Fabuloso Beige.”
Priyanka Chopra switched up her already rich brown hair with a more dimensional chocolate shade. The look came courtesy of Sharon Dorram, master colorist at Sally Hershberger Salon. Going darker for summer is cool and unexpected, but the warm undertones still give it a sunny feel.
Louis Vuitton Brown
According to Smith, Louis Vuitton brown is the latest evolution of the expensive-brunette trend loved by celebs like Karlie Kloss and Hailey Bieber. “Think of the color of the aged leather of a Louis Vuitton handbag,” he says. “A gorgeous rich tan, not too pale, but not heavy or dark either. This shade suits a variety of skin tones due to its medium depth and should be worn with healthy flowing hair that shines to best show the shade off.” To get the shade, ask your colorist for a medium-light brown shade with a warm golden toffee tone.
This elevated shade of blonde is a favorite of Wella Professionals brand ambassador Briana Cisneros. Because of its soft and natural color, Cisneros says vanilla blonde hair “compliments most complexions across the board.” She adds that “it’s a soft, neutral, creamy hue, so there is a slight bit of warmth. I’d say if you are really into the super-ashy tones that reflect silver, this might not be the choice for you. So many of us are welcoming some warmer gold tones into our lives, because for so long blonde just couldn’t be icy enough, and it really is making a huge shift to the other end of the spectrum.” To get the look, be sure to bring in some photos of the exact shade you’re looking for, and ask your stylist for a “neutral, creamy, natural-looking blonde.” To achieve that pearly look, ask your stylist to top it off with the Wella Professionals Shinefinity Hair Glaze in the shade Toffee Milk.
Strawberry Auburn is another cool way to ease into the red trend. “The look uses auburn to create a rich feel, while the strawberry highlights have more copper to brighten up the look,” says Valdes. “This shade works for anyone interested in playing with warmer colors without fully committing to a fully saturated look,” she says. “Since it utilizes different techniques that give the illusion of a fully saturated color, it gives a softer grow-out.”
Those techniques include a subtle auburn highlight that goes from roots to end in a foil, and some balayage pieces that are soft at the root and thicker toward the end. Not only does this give you a more natural effect, but it also has a less obvious grow-out so you can spend less time in the salon. She recommends asking a high-low balayage with a red gloss for a similar look. “Highlights are fantastic too but will need to be touched up sooner,” she adds.
Originally published on Glamour.com