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Illuminated Brunette: the new trend that's taking over

Sorry blondes, 2019 is the year of the illuminated brunette.

The hottest trend in hair color finds its roots (literally and figuratively) from the tropical land that brought us Alessandra Ambrosio, Adriana Lima, and Gisele Bundchen—you guessed it—Brazil. If you’re looking for a runway-worthy color this year, this brown with its ‘lit from within’ appeal will definitely turn heads.


Look up the illuminated brunette hashtag in its Portuguese equivalent, 
Morenas Iluminadas for a stream of hair inspo (over 200K posts and counting) that proves brunette has never been, nor will ever be, boring.

Have you heard of the illuminated brunette hair trend? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below. 

Want to achieve illuminated brunette without dyeing your hair? Check out our balayage collection, designed to give your hair a sun kissed, lit-from-within look in just minutes. 

Beauty loves Brazil

From the Brazilian wax to the smoothing hair treatment deemed the Brazilian Blowout, and its countless export of Victoria’s Secret leading models and their luscious locks, it’s no secret all things beauty have some link to Brazil and Latin America. It’s no wonder then that the illuminated brunette trend originated in the salons of this South American Country. The French brought us balayage and Hollywood popularized ombre, transcending beyond hair to makeup, home décor and even food. How far will illuminated brunette go? We’re not sure, but the demand for it is only picking up.

Illuminated brunette: breaking down the trend


So, what exactly is illuminated brunette or m
orenas iluminadas? Simply put, it’s a sun-kissed look for brown hair, which makes sense since it originates in a country with some of the world’s best beaches. Illuminated brunette gives the hair a lightened boost without having to go blonde or use harsh highlights.

Pioneered by Sao Paolo hairstylist Joao Bosco, owner of salon Salao 1838, Bosco has been one of the biggest proponents of the trend (just take a look at his Instagram account). Bosco explained the technique in a previous interview with Refinery 29. To achieve the illuminated brunette look, Bosco chooses a brown hue that is just three shades lighter than his client’s natural hair color. Where highlights usually start at the root or mid-length for similar styles like ombre or balayage, Bosco sweeps the lighter color from the from the ends in one-inch strands upwards and teases the hair around the mid-length to prevent any harsh differentiation between the two colors. The final touch is to use a toner that matches the client’s base color to smudge the roots. This technique helps to pull the different colors together for a natural highlighted look that’s distributed throughout the hair. It is all about the smudge, experts say.


Nikki Ferrara, a color expert based in New York City told 
Allure Magazine that one of the best ways to maintain the illuminated brunette look is to get root smudges when you can “to keep depth at the roots.”  

Unlike many other color jobs, Bosco also said in the interview that apart from the beautiful finished look, another reason why this technique is so popular is that it is super low maintenance and grows out nicely (even without routine root smudges), typically lasting six months with no need to touch up or lighten and bleach every few months. In fact, Bosco said some clients who come in asking for the morenas iluminadas only come once a year. A trendy, head-turning hair color that will also save money? Who wouldn’t want that?


Things to consider before getting lit

While most stylists and hair colorists in Brazil wouldn’t bat an eye if you went in asking for the illuminated brunette look, the technique may still be relatively new for their hairstyling counterparts in the US and Canada. Before you rush into a salon, here are a few things to think about:

Choose the right hairstylist

Like any new color job, do your research and ensure the hairstylist you’re going to is experienced with similar techniques such as balayage. Instagram (as always) will essentially be your search engine—any good stylist has an account and will be a good base to find someone who can achieve the look you want.

Book a consultation

Ensure you clearly communicate with your stylists about how light you’d like the color to be—remember Bosco only goes three shades up for that natural illuminated look. Book a consultation with your hairstylist before your color appointment to ensure all your needs are met.

Be sure of the investment

Changing hairstyles is not just an investment money-wise, but a form of self-expression and self-care, don’t jump on trends just because the hashtag is growing and make sure it’s for you before booking your appointment. A few more helpful tips to know before going to the salon can be found on our blogtrust us, these considerations will save you in the long run, no matter what style you’re going after.


Can you get the illuminated brunette look at home?

As this lit look requires sweeping or “painting” the hair and treating different sections, it really is a job for a professional, but if you’re determined to try it on your own keep these tips in mind:

Choose your color wisely

You may have to find a boxed hair dye that is a few shades lighter depending on how dark your hair is.

Paint the hair

Section your hair to allow you to sweep or paint the color evenly, if you’re experienced, follow Bosco’s technique of taking the color up from the ends and treat the mid-length of the hair also.

Don't forget to tone

If you have access to toner, don’t forget that bit of smudging around the roots to complete the look.

How to achieve illuminated brunette without dyeing

Illuminated brunette achieved using Seamless Chestnut Brown Luxy Hair extensions by @hairbyruslan

Not sure if you’re ready to commit to a new color or want to give the illuminated hair trend a trial without the permanency of using dye? Clip in hair extensions are a non-permanent way to can help to match the mood or look you’re feeling at the time, no dyeing required.  Depending on the darkness of your personal and natural brown, you can use our Chocolate Brown Balayage or solid Chestnut Brown clip-in Luxy Hair Extensions to help achieve an Illuminated Brunette look. If you’re on the lighter side try Chestnut Brown Balayage.

If your hair is 20" long, you can also opt for a single 45g Volumizer Weft which allows you to play with color and lighter shades without having to commit to a dye job.

No matter the trend, you need healthy hair

With constant trips to the hair salon, coloring, hot tools and everything we put our hair through, sometimes it just needs a breather. If you’re dying to try out the illuminated brunette look but still have some previous color in your hair, no worries, we don’t think this is a trend that’s going away soon. Knowing when to give your hair a break is an act of patience that will rejuvenate the health of your hair and pay off for your next transformation.

Remember the golden rules for colored hair and be sure to use nourishing treatments as needed and leave-in treatments when styling. Use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner and keep away from extremely hot water temperatures when washing. When you’re good to your hair it’s good to you.

What about short or curly hair?


Illuminated brunette is a versatile hair trend, long locks or short, curly or straight. The look is obviously great for long and mid-length hair that will allow you to play with deep browns, caramels and a mix of warm and cool without being too harsh.

For short styles like stark bobs or long bobs, the illuminated coloring technique helps to soften and highlight layers that frame the face. And as the color grows out nicely, you won’t have to depend on routine trips to the salon or having to color with each stage of growth.

For curly hair, illuminated brunette is a great way to give the hair natural-looking definition and highlights without having to use a lot of dye or bleach. The lit from within look will especially compliment curly hair as it plays with dimensions and texture of color so that no matter what light you’re in, your hair looks fabulous.

Unlike some hair color trends (remember unicorn hair?) that are really reserved for a lucky few with certain hair types, illuminated brunette is something everyone can get into—yes, even blondes who are looking for a change. With its versatility, low-maintenance and natural-looking payoffs it’s certainly a trend that’s gone beyond the beautiful borders of Brazil into your favorite salon and beyond. Remember that brown is in a color family with so many options, with the right stylist and expert on hand, you’ll be sure to find the hues to suit you and frame your lovely face perfectly. Hey, if it’s good for our supermodel faves, it’s good for us—no extreme diets or workouts needed.

Have you heard of the illuminated brunette hair trend? Do you think you'll try it out? Talk to us in the comments below.

Written by: Rosalyn Solomon

Posted by Guest Writer

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