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Discover the allure of ash brown hair color with expert guidance, plus 23 easy ways to wear this cool-toned brunette.

23 Ash Brown Hair Color Ideas to Cool Down Your Mane

Discover the allure of ash brown hair color with expert guidance, plus 23 easy ways to wear this cool-toned brunette.
23 Ash Brown Hair Color Ideas to Cool Down Your Mane

There’s no shortage of ways to wear brown hair. While warmer shades like gilded beach bum brunette and honey brown have been incredibly popular over the past year, we’re seeing a shift toward cool-toned browns this season. Ash brown hair, in particular, is making a comeback—and it’s a great option for anyone looking to give their classic brunette mane a sultry, smoky edge.

There’s no shortage of ways to wear brown hair. While warmer shades like gilded beach bum brunette and honey brown have been incredibly popular over the past year, we’re seeing a shift toward cool-toned browns this season. Ash brown hair, in particular, is making a comeback—and it’s a great option for anyone looking to give their classic brunette mane a sultry, smoky edge.

We tapped two of the best colorists in the game, Redken brand ambassador Cassondra Kaeding and Redken x Mizani brand ambassador Rachel Redd, to break down everything you need to know about ash brown hair color. We’re also sharing 23 of the hottest (or more, accurately, coolest) ash brown hair colors to inspire your next color change.

Good hair day by @pati.rodrigz

What is an ash brown hair color?

Ash brown hair is typically a light to medium-brown hue with grayish or silverish undertones (hence the moniker “ashy”). The overall effect is a cool-toned, moody brunette with a more matte finish than warmer golden shades. An ashy brown will fit your vibe if you prefer a soft and subtle hair color over one that’s vibrant and bold.

What is the difference between ash brown and dark brown?

Dark brown refers to the tone of the hair, while ash refers to the undertone. Ash brown hair can be either light or dark, though it’s usually on the lighter end of the spectrum. However, the shade is distinct because it has a cooler gray cast instead of the warmer golden tones typically associated with browns.

Does ash brown have red tones?

Since ash brown hair is cool with gray and ash undertones, there typically aren’t any red tones. Redd explains that her clients will request “darker tones without red undertones or warmth” to describe the soft, neutral brunette that is ash brown.

Good hair day by @danielmbeauty

What skin tone suits ash brown hair?

Ashy, grayish browns are particularly flattering on those with cool to neutral undertones. However, that’s not to say you can’t go ash brown if you have warmer skin: We firmly believe that anyone can (and should!) rock any hair color they want. Additionally, the right colorist can customize ash brown hair to complement your skin tone and undertones. If you want to experiment with cooler-toned hair but are wary about washing out your complexion, consider an ash brown balayage or ombré application. These techniques preserve the root color around your face while adding a silvery punch throughout your mid-lengths to ends.

Good hair day by @thesalteblond

How do you get ash brown hair?

Put down the boxed dye: Booking an appointment with an experienced colorist is the best way to make your ash brown hair color dreams a reality. Brands like Redken offer popular ash brown hair dye formulas such as Color Gels Lacquers and Cover Fusion, which provide 100 percent ultra-cool gray coverage. Additionally, their Shades EQ Gloss neutralizes unwanted brass and refreshes previously colored hair.

“My brunette clients are obsessed with keeping their color cool,” Kaeding says. “[Redken’s] Ash Brown shade family makes it easy to find that balance.”

Good hair day by @jackieedoeshair

Does ash brown require bleach?

The process of transitioning to an ashy brown will vary depending on your starting shade. If you have dark brown or black hair, your colorist will likely use bleach to lighten your hair enough so that they can dye your hair ash brown. It’s important to note that bleach will always cause some damage, but your colorist can reduce the risk by using professional formulas and tailoring your service to your hair’s needs. On the other hand, if your strands are blonde or light brown, you may be able to go ash brown without bleach.

Good hair day by @lindsey.marie.olson

Is ash brown good for covering gray hair?

Grays are in the same color family as ashy hair colors, making them one of the top shades for brunettes who want to blend grays seamlessly. The amount of coverage you get ultimately depends on the state of your hair and the kind of dye used. Schedule a consultation with your colorist to learn more about the best technique for gray coverage on your hair type.

How do you care for ash brown hair?

Once you have an ash brown hue that you love, you’ll want to stock your hair care routine with products for color-treated hair. Here’s how:

Pick up a color-safe system.

First, we suggest investing in a color-safe shampoo and conditioner system to prolong the life of your ashy mane. We love the resveratrol-powered L'Oréal Professionnel Vitamino Resveratrol Color Radiance System Shampoo and Conditioner to prevent fading and enhance shine between salon visits.

Tone brass.

Keep your ash brown cool-toned by swapping in brass-neutralizing products once a week. Matrix’s Brass Off Shampoo deposits blue-violet pigments onto hair to offset brassy tones that can peek through lightened hair. Follow it up with the range’s Custom Neutralization Mask for additional toning, plus shine and hydration.

Prioritize repair masks.

If your ash brown transformation involves bleach, consider using a repairing hair mask like Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate 5-Min Liquid Mask as needed. This liquid mask formula quickly melts into hair for unrivaled strength, moisture, detangling, and shine in just five minutes.

Wash less.

Cleansing too often (even with the right shampoo!) can cause your color to fade prematurely. We suggest using a dry shampoo to refresh your roots between washes. Pick up Pureology’s Style + Protect Refresh & Go Dry Shampoo, or find more inspo in our roundup of the 15 Best Hair Refreshers for Dark Hair from L'Oréal’s portfolio of professional brands.

How long does ash brown hair last?

The lifespan of your ash brown hair color depends on which color service you opt for. A permanent hair dye will typically last until it grows out or you decide to switch up your hue. Meanwhile, semi-permanent dyes and hair glosses last around 20 washes—though the exact timeframe will depend on your hair type, condition, and care routine.

Now that you’re up to speed on everything ash brown hair colors, bookmark these Instagram photos to bring to the salon as inspiration.

The 23 Best Ash Brown Hair Color Ideas to Try Now

Good hair day by @live_love_dohair

Ashy Expensive Brunette

The expensive brunette hashtag has over 55 million views on TikTok (and counting). Looking forward, we expect to see this this dimensional, low-maintenance trend continue to rise in popularity. Ask your colorist for an ash brown base with blended, cool highlights to get the look.

Good hair day by @daisyshair

Ash Brown with Light Face-Framing Highlights

Stick to low-maintenance hair by opting for ash brown hair color with lighter ashy highlights placed around the face. Here, @daisyshair toned hair using Redken Shades EQ Matte in 07M Driftwood. The Shades EQ Matte family features four colors with a brown to tan background and a blue-green reflect. Their cool, natural results make these shades ideal for achieving an ashy brown hue.

Good hair day by @_mymyhair

Smoky Ash Brown

This muted ash hue has gray undertones that pair gorgeously with cool, fair-toned skin.

Good hair day by @caidycreate

Smoky Lilac Brown Curls

Play up the cool tones in your smoky ash brown hair color by combining it with subtle lilac highlights. You can experiment with the fashion hue without the commitment by using a temporary color, like Biolage Professional’s Color Balm Lavender Color Depositing Conditioner.

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Ash Brown with Ash Blonde Face Frame

Add vibrancy to brown or black hair colors with ash blonde face-framing highlights. The unexpected pop of blonde brightens your look without requiring a total hair transformation.

Good hair day by @seolahair

Slate-Ash Balayage

Embrace your inner punk rock queen with a slate balayage, which gives off a grungy, lived-in vibe over time.

"I usually lift to a level 9 to get a clean gray,” explains @seolahair, the creator of this look. “That way, it will fade out to a nice ashy blonde color as long as [you use Redken’s] Blondage Shampoo and Conditioner at home."

Good hair day by @hairby_gloria

Mushroom Brown

Mushroom brown first caught everyone’s attention in 2018, and iterations of the grayish-brown hue have grown steadily since. At first glance, the portobello-inspired shade looks like a classic medium brown but displays cooler undertones in direct lighting.

Good hair day by @gretawagner_

Dark Ash Brown Hair

Traditionally, dark brown hair has warmer, reddish, or golden undertones. To go dark without the warmth, opt for extra dark brown ash. This shade is incredibly flattering (but not overpowering) on medium and dark skin tones.

Good hair day by @hairbysarmad

Ash Brown Balayage

This ash brown balayage features smoky highlights and lowlights, plus seamlessly blended roots for a look that won’t require frequent touch-ups.

Good hair day by @hairbytimtoku

Medium Ash Brown Hair

Somewhere between dark and light ash brown hair falls medium ash brown hair, a mid-toned brunette that flatters every skin tone.

Good hair day by @hellocindeee

Ash Brown Hair with Blonde Highlights

Ask your colorist for a few cool-toned, ultra-fine blonde highlights to add depth and movement to your ash brown base. For some extra edge, pair the look with a layered bob haircut.

Good hair day by @houstonhairbycaseyjo

Ash Brown Hair with Extra Chunky Highlights

Chunky highlights are back, but the modern iteration of this 2000s trend is a far cry from what you sported in middle school. The contemporary version of chunky highlights is highly contrasted but ultra-blended for a shimmery, multi-tonal look.

Good hair day by @_domidoeshair

Charcoal Ash Brown

Tonal silver and charcoal highlights over an ash brown base create a grungy, cool-toned color reminiscent of graphite.

Good hair day by @benmartinhair

Dark Chocolate Ash

Intense chocolate hair colors are always in style. When applied and maintained correctly, this shade should be reflective and silky—the equivalent of melted dark chocolate. Although the hue suits a range of skin tones, we love how it creates contrast against fair skin.

Good hair day by @hairbysarmad

Light Ash Brown

For an ash brown shade that’s not quite as dramatic as its darker counterparts (but still impactful), take light brown ash for a spin. It’s a great in-between color for those gradually transitioning from blonde to brunette hair.

Good hair day by @timursta

Glossy Ash Brown

Ashiness is typically associated with a matte finish, but that doesn’t mean you have to play by the rules. Head to the salon for a hair gloss, or use an at-home formula like Pureology Top Coat + Sheer Clear to give hair unrivaled luster.

Good hair day by @jghairartistry

Ash Bronde

Ash bronde is a true stunner for those with medium to dark skin. The brunette shade has influences of cool blonde and emphasizes olive notes in the skin without washing it out.

We love this shade on mid-length and long hair, especially with bronde sections around the face to mimic how long days in the sun might lighten the hair.

Photo credit:@thegoldenponytail

Toffee Ash Blend

Whereas bronde ash is bright and bubbly, toffee is a bit more subdued. The low-key shade is a true ash brown that flatters light and medium skin tones.

Keep your color from feeling too monotone by asking your stylist to add strategic lowlights throughout the hair. These well-placed streaks will add nuance to your new shade.

Good hair day by @lewiscolour

Silver Ash Brown

Silver ash brown has all the depth and intensity of standard chocolate brown but with a cool, smoky finish rather than a warm one. If you’ve been looking to experiment with pastel colors, gray, or metallics, silver ash brown is an excellent choice.

Good hair day by @guillaumenyc

Honey Ash

Merge a medium brown base with silky honey blonde and neutral sandy highlights for a beachy look that doesn't require a ton of upkeep.

Good hair day by @cartercosalon

Mocha Ash

Mocha ash is a classic shade that flatters various complexions with its red and gold notes. It’s a sophisticated, cooled-down take on chestnut strands that can easily transition throughout the seasons.

Pewter Ash

Where silver ash is deep and has a sheen, pewter ash brown is a matte shade that’s all inky gray and brown. While you may find this color takes your stylist several appointments to achieve, the resulting look is multidimensional and beautifully reflective.

Good hair day by @caidycreate

White Ash Blend

Find a sweet spot between brunette and silver hair color with a look that seamlessly blends bright and dark ashy shades. While we wouldn’t recommend white-leaning ash for newbies who aren’t used to caring for very light hair, color veterans should be able to take it in stride.

Next: Our Hair Color Remover Guide can teach you everything you need to know about switching between trending hair colors.

Use our salon locator to book an ash brown hair transformation appointment at a salon near you.

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