Grown-Out Hair Color Is All The Rage, But Does It Signal The Death Of Highlights?
Why natural hair color is in the spotlight.
In the past two or so years, you’ve likely learned how to cut your own bangs, that self-care now involves a slew of anxiety-quelling efforts in addition to skin care routines, and the art of the at-home manicure. The shifts within the beauty space are plenty, but a favorite may be the dirty blonde and grown out brunette hair color trend, a lingering result of salon closures across the country.
Even celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Taylor Swift, and Gigi Hadid have seemed to jump on the all-natural hair movement, with variations of rooty blonde, bronde, and highlight-free looks. “After a period where people couldn't access salons as easily, there seems to be an embrace towards natural colors, more neutral, from chocolate browns all the way through to soft champagne blondes,” says Josh Wood, a veteran celebrity colorist who has worked with everyone from David Bowie to Florence Welch. Even a quick scroll through social media proves his point: unless purposefully bold — like the copper red trend — hair colors seem a bit gentler as of late, with fewer buttery blonde looks overall.
This done-meets-undone vibe communicates the same sort of insouciance as no-makeup makeup: there’s effort there, but it’s less all-out revamp and more an accentuation of natural hair color — all the better to appear as if you’re not really trying, which, for better or worse, is the very essence of cool. “It's not about no color at all, but the tones are flatter and more neutral in tonality,” says Wood, who has seen an increase in a worn-in color that comes off as less high-maintenance with his clientele. “We have even been putting in a darker fake root to grunge up the look a bit.”
So, What Do Hair Color Trends Look Like In 2022?
Natural-seeming looks are fantastic, but what does this mean for the future of hair trends past? If this is the year of organic color, does that mean a death knell for highlighted hair? The answer, according to the experts, is no — although there will be some fairly welcome adjustments in both process and outcome.
“I think highlights are going to stay, but they will be subtle, more natural, and blended,” says Rita Hazan, who counts Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé among her clients. “A multi-dimensional look, soft but sophisticated and that can also be low maintenance.” Wood agrees, adding that, “Gone are the stripes of yesteryear, replaced by a subtle effect, almost like the lightning has happened naturally.”
The keyword, it seems is subtle — updates that make any hair color, even natural hues, a bit richer, more capable of catching the light (and eyes!). When executed thoughtfully, highlights can offer an infusion of movement that prevent even seemingly mousey colors from looking dull or dense.
For those who aren’t eager to let it all grow out, achieving the aforementioned balance in your hair color is all about artistry — and balayage. “Many people are noticing that they can achieve a natural, healthy, and expensive-looking hair color through balayage rather than aluminum foiled highlights,” says hairstylist Jenna Perry, go-to colorist for the likes of Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski. “To me, balayage highlights are more aesthetically pleasing than foils.”
She explains that balayage allows for more freeform, individualized color than foils, which center on consistent saturation from roots to ends. “The colorist has more creative control to create ribbons of beautifully painted highlights in very specific areas that can be really soft and diffused or very bright and saturated,” she says. Micro-lights, or diminutively foiled sections, are a tiny take on traditional highlights which, with their small size and strategic placement, can make for a better blend and offer quiet coverage for grays.
Aside from rooty, well-blended highlights, Hazan predicts that brown tones will be all the rage for 2022. “I think brunettes are going to be a strong trend this year,” she says. “Not necessarily your natural color, but a warm rich brown.” For her part, Perry expects that multi-dimensional chocolate browns and beige-y mushroom tones will have a moment in 2022.
“People are going back to the basics,” says Hazan. “We’ve been living over-the-top for so long. Now that people are not going out as much and are mostly staying around close family and friends, they’re realizing that they don’t need a lot of what used to be high-maintenance, but they still need to feel pretty and take care of themselves.”
Perry agrees. “People are seeing celebrities who have had these high-maintenance looks for years going back to their roots.”
No matter your preference, the takeaway is the same: there’s strength in subtlety, and in lower-maintenance looks. So, the next time you find yourself in your stylist’s chair, make sure the conversation centers on renewal rather than reinvention — you may be surprised at just how much your own hair color has to offer, especially with some skillful, salon-grade oomph.