Shade inspiration ahead.

By Hana Hong
December 16, 2020
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A new year beckons new changes. For you, that could mean organizing your closet, scheduling your big travel plans post-COVID (hey, we can dream), or better yet, switching things up with a brand new hair color. If you’ve already experimented with winter hairstyles and haircuts and want to do something a little more momentous, you’ve come to the right place. According to experts, the hair color trends for 2021 are going one of two ways: either very laid-back or kicked up several octaves.

“The trends right now reflect all that has been happening in our world and our lives," says Julie Cornejo, professional hairstylist in Culver City, Calif. "People are looking to lift up their spirits with a new shade, or make their lives easier with less maintenance.” Whichever direction you’re feeling, we've broken down the biggest hair color trends pros are predicting will boom in the new year. 

1

A colorful dream, pastel balayage is the perfect look for those who want something fun and playful, but don’t want to commit to a full head of bleach. “In order to get the perfect pastel, start with a foundation of beautiful blonde balayage and make sure the ends are light enough to accept the pastel tones,” says George Papanikolas, celebrity colorist and MATRIX brand ambassador. “If your highlights are more caramel-toned, then I would suggest opting for more of a vivid hue to make it more noticeable.”

2

For instant brightness, try the money piece, a face-framing highlight that starts at your root and continues through the ends of your hair. This can easily be done at home with lightener or primary colors for a pop of color. “The money piece is the most wanted look right now in the salon,” says says Luis Rodriguez, professional hairstylist in Center Valley, Pa. “It creates beautiful lightness around the face and it is super easy to create.”

3

According to Wella colorcharm’s 2021 color trend report, chunky highlights are about to make a huge comeback. These highlights, which can be done in bold primary colors or natural hues, are usually 1 to 2 inches wide and meant to create a stark contrast against your natural hair color. “Start by taking a 1- to 2-inch chunk of hair from any area of the head that you want to highlight and bring attention to,” advises DaRico Jackson, professional hairstylist in Los Angeles, Calif. “Gently back comb the hair in the section closest to the scalp, leaving a 1-inch cushion at the base of the section with the ends free. Then, apply a color of your choice and enjoy your nice new chunk!”

4

Neither ash nor gold, sand tropez (also known as winter bronde) is a beautiful blend of both. Mixing highlights and mid-lights creates this multi-dimensional shade of warm sandy and cool beige tones that are perfect for someone who wants to keep a beach vibe year-round, says Karissa Schaudt, colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.

5

According to Schaudt, this stunning shade of red is back by popular demand after making its appearance in The Queen’s Gambit. The sleek and sophisticated color is a true red, meaning it’s deeper than a copper red, but lighter than auburn. “In most cases, you’ll achieve this color in one appointment, but you’ll need to keep up on the maintenance with touch-ups every four to six weeks to avoid fading. I suggest keeping this as a single process as adding highlights would decrease the intensity,” says Schaudt. 

6

This icy shade is achieved by using foilyage or balayage—it keeps minimal dimension at the base with full saturation of blonde through the ends. A toner can help achieve this ash blonde, along with frequent use of blue shampoo at home. According to experts, toning is important to ensure there’s minimal damage by overlapping lightener.

7

Truly the best of both worlds, this look perfectly straddles the line between dirty blonde and brunette. The multi-tonal hair color marries shades of light brown, beige, and gray with an overall ashy tone—just like the colors you'll find on the underside of a mushroom. According to the stylists at Warren Tricomi salons, “it’s the perfect way for bright blondes to darken for the season, or, conversely, for deep brunettes to lighten up a bit without making any full commitments.”

8

Step aside raven black: The new take on super dark tresses has a hint of brown mingled in. This sassy, older sister of bronde, brack, empowers you to go to the dark side without full commitment because of its subtle dimension. The key to this glamorous trend is an almost-black brunette global color with a hint of gold undertones. Warren Tricomi experts suggest adding a gloss to complete the look with a glass-like shine.

9

On the other end of the spectrum, studies are showing that more women are wanting to go back to their natural hues to eliminate complex maintenance and regular trips to the salon. If you’re looking for some easy ways to maintain natural hair at home, check out our experts’ tips for transitioning to natural hair.