Fall 2021 Hair Color Trends That'll Have You Sprinting to the Salon

Whether you're thinking of a subtle tweak or drastic change, this season's hair color trends belong on your radar.

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Photo: Getty Images / Dmitry Bayer

Fall is just a few days away, which means sweater weather, a new batch of TV premieres, and pumpkin spice mania are all imminent. And for a lot of people, this time of year also involves a hair color refresh. (After all, the leaves are changing to fiery hues, so doing the same to your strands might feel right.)

This year, a lot of people are taking the transition to fall as an opportunity to return closer to their natural shade, says Reyad Fritas, colorist and owner of Suite Reyad. "The trend is to go closer to the color of your roots," he says. "No one wants the kind of drastic ombré anymore." That said, there are several upcoming bold trends you can try out if you're feeling adventurous — more on that to come.

"Natural" often translates to "lower-maintenance." And a lot of the new hair color trends of 2021 "are very easy to maintain, grow out nicely, and don't require a lot of upkeep," confirms Stephanie Brown, master colorist at IGK Salon Soho. Still, everyone who colors their hair can benefit from taking basic maintenance steps. To avoid discoloration and fading, you should incorporate sulfate-free color-protecting products into your hair care regimen, says Brown."In general, take cooler showers, use fewer hot tools, and protect your hair from the sun as that can oxidize hair color," she advises. (

With that important note out of the way, onto the fun part: choosing a color. If you need some inspiration before your next salon appointment or DIY dying venture, here are the top fall hair colors for 2021.

Warm Chocolate Tones

As the weather gets cooler, hair tones tendto get warmer — and this year is no exception, with rich, chocolate hues taking center during autumn 2021. "A lot of celebrities that were previously caramel blonde are now choosing to go a little darker for fall and embrace warm chocolate tones," says Kiyah Wright, celebrity hairstylist and colorist and spokesperson for Brite Hair.

And while you could totally go full brunette and still be on-trend, a lot of folks will be going for chocolate shades as well as toffee-colored highlights or balayage throughout the hair, shares Brown. (ICYDK, balayage is a method of hand-painting highlights (vs. using foils) to achieve these subtle, almost lived-in-looking highlights.) "It gives brunette hair beautiful dimension. It's soft with a lot of impact," explains Brown. But keeping those salon-worthy results all season long requires just a little bit of maintenance. "With warm tones, it's important to keep the shine going with hydration," says Wright, who suggests incorporating a hair mask such as Brite Ice Cream Hair Masque (Buy It, $7, briteorganix.com) into your regular routine after you use shampoo and conditioner.

Auburn

"Warm, deep red shades that are rich and glossy" are also having a moment, says Mark DeBolt, owner of Mark Ryan Salon, who adds that these colors look particularly "beautiful on peachy-golden skin tones." Case in point: Gigi Hadid, whose new auburn hue at this year's Met Gala is a prime example of this 2021 hair color trend, according to both Wright and DeBolt.

All that being said, this color does come with a disclaimer: Going red can be a bit of a commitment. To go full-on redhead, you'd need to undergo a single process treatment (a technique that provides all-over color) and then commit to getting a hair gloss (a semi-permanent color treatment) every four to six weeksto best maintain your hue,says DeBolt. He also recommends using tinted conditioners such as Christophe Robin Shade Variation Hair Mask in Chic Copper (Buy It, $53, sephora.com)to help keep your color alive.

"For something less high-maintenance, a [natural] brunette could have hand-painted highlights added throughout and then ask to have an auburn gloss applied all over" every four to six weeks, says DeBolt. "This is a great approach because the gloss will [only show up] on the new highlights, but by not changing the background color, the look is lower-maintenance."

Chunky Highlights

Natural-looking highlights replaced the thicker streaks of the '90s and early '00s, but the pendulum is swinging back again. "Chunky, balayage-d or shadow rooted highlights" are one of the top fall hair color trends of 2021, says Brown. (The shadow root technique blends your root color with your highlights for seamless grow-out.) "It's bold but also subtle. The highlights themselves are thick and chunky but the color is natural," he adds.

To tackle two trends at once, consider getting chunky, "hidden" highlights. "Usually this trend has a large chunk(s) of bold, bleached-out hair hidden underneath [the top layers of hair] or just on one side of the head," says Brown. "The highlights are mostly hidden unless you lift up the hair. It's a fun, bold surprise and actually doesn't require a lot of maintenance because it's hidden underneath your part."

Buttery, Golden Blonde

"I've been seeing buttery, golden blonde tones on red carpets with celebrities like Sienna Miller and Ciara at the Met Gala," says Wright, who adds that this color tends to look particularly amazing on darker skin tones. To maintain the color, she advises incorporating a purple conditioning mask, such as Brite No Yellow Hair Mask (Buy It, $5, target.com) into your routine. (See also: Hair Masks That'll Give You the Healthiest Strands of Your Life)

Don't want to dye your whole head? No problem — you can also give this trend a go by opting just for highlights. "Fall always calls for richer, warmer shades of blonde with greater variation," says DeBolt. "This season we're adding ribbons of golden wheat and spun gold."

Jewel Tones

If you love statement colors but are over pastels, you might find this season's hair color trend appealing. "In 2021, our clients are being more expressive with their color, experimenting with [varying] shadesof jewel tones," says DeBolt. Keeping your hair in its healthiest condition is crucial to keeping jewel-toned hair looking "shiny, pigmented, and rich," he says. That's because these shades are especially prone to losing their vibrance from heat, over-washing, etc. Translation: To keep your 'do looking like you just left the salon, be sure to use products such as heat protectant sprays (or just ditch heat styling altogether!) and switch up your shower routine. (BTW, here's how often you should wash your hair in general.)

Bronde

If you can't choose between a light or dark shade, you'll be right on trend with something in the middle. "When most people think of fall, we think warm reds, chocolate, etc.," says Bianca Cox, colorist and owner of Hair Throne Salon. "For this season I see color incorporating those tones but in a lighter and more iridescent way. I have clients who don't necessarily want to feel dark, but they do want to feel less 'summery.'" These people often go with warm shades that are a cross between brunette and blonde, aka "bronde," says Cox. And while, at the end of the day, you should always choose the hue that's best for you, the pros say that bronde tends to complement warm skin tones (think: peachy or golden undertones). (

Bold Money Pieces

Fall 2021 will be the perfect time to cash in on the money piece trend, which describes two contrasting streaks of hair that frame your face. TikTok posts have helped fuel the ongoing trend's popularity, says Brown. "It's cute and fun and grows out well," she shares. While the money piece has been around for some time, the current iteration is more carefree and all about making a statement compared to previous subtler versions that were used primarily to light up the face, she explains. Think: starker contrast or fun pops of color.

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