hair color trends 2021

2021’s Hottest Hair Color Trends Are Not What You Think

The most in-demand shades of blond, brunette, and red from the industry’s top colorists.

By: Hannah Baxter

Whether it’s a breakup, a job change, or simply continuing to survive a global pandemic, changing up our hair is our preferred way of shaking off the old and embracing the new. Obviously, 2020 has been a year for the record books in terms of our anxiety levels, which is why we’re looking ahead to 2021 with cautious optimism and booking an appointment with our colorist ASAP.

Of course, going months on end without access to our favorite salons has meant that many people have embraced, willingly or not, their natural color (and perhaps even some greys). But with the possibility of the new year comes our willingness to change up our current shade and delve into a whole new look.

If you’re in the same boat but unsure of where to start, don’t worry—we spoke with two leading color experts, Aura Frideman and Tracey Cunningham, to hear their predictions for the hottest hair-color trends for 2021.

But first—what hair-color fluctuations have they seen among their clients and friends throughout 2020? “Given the challenge of getting to the salon amid lockdown, I’m definitely seeing an evolution in my clients’ [questions] surrounding their color requests, largely with highlights,” says Freidman, master colorist at Sally Hershberger salon. “Many are more inclined to go for balayage since it grows out in a way that’s more forgiving, and by weaving in their natural color, the color still looks intact three to four months post-appointment, so I can see them on a quarterly schedule.”

Cunningham, celebrity colorist and owner of Mèche salon in Los Angeles, explains of her clientele, “When people came out of quarantine, they definitely went lighter. I think it was to brighten up their mood. Blond shades give a big confidence boost. Still, there are always the more sensible people that want more subtle, low-maintenance color, especially due to COVID-19, as they are not seeing their colorist as frequently as before. It’s really mixed.”

With all the uncertainty of the next few months still looming, both Friedman and Cunningham are seeing techniques like balayage and ombre surge in popularity—both of which offer a lower-maintenance, subtler grow-out phrase, without that harsh line of demarcation you can see in all-over color. “Ombre will always be a thing,” reveals Cunningham. “It’s what natural hair does. It’s a great way for brunettes to add highlights without looking like a blonde victim.” Friedman adds that “balayage will continue to be popular as it’s easy to maintain and people are trying to streamline their lives. Conversely, there’s people on the other end of the spectrum who want to try unusual, experimental colors on their hair that tend to require more upkeep.”

And while each colorist has seen clients coming in wanting help with their greys, Friedman on the east coast has had more clients wanting to grow out their natural silver hair, while Cunningham on the west coast hasn’t had anyone ready to take that step just yet. “No one is interested in embracing their grey hair color, and I think some of them should,” she says. “I’ve tried to persuade them; however, I haven’t had much luck.”

So for those of us who still want to play with our hair color and try out new shades for the new year, check out both colorists’ predictions for the top trending blond, brunette, and red shades over the next 12 months.





Butter Lemon Blond

Aura Friedman: “For blondes, I think the most popular shades will infuse rich shades of butter, wheat, lemon, and sunshine with ginger, almost strawberry blond, shades woven through to add warmth.”



Opalescent Blond

AF: “On the lighter side, I’m still seeing opalescent blond trending—a bright, icy, and multifaceted shade with notes of peach. This is a really pretty and intricate blond.”


Golden Blond

Tracey Cunningham: “The most popular shade come fall will be golden blond.”




Chocolate Sable Brown

AF: “For brunettes, I’m seeing a lot of chocolate brown mixed with sable brown for a dimensional, cohesive shade that is infused with a top of shine. Ali MacGraw in Love Story is a good example of this rich shade.”


Complementary Brown

TC: “For brunettes, it’s a bit more difficult to pinpoint a specific shade; however, the trend for brunettes will be what’s most complementary to their specific skin tone.”




Rich Copper & Cinnamon

AF: “I think rich orange, copper, and cinnamon will become increasingly popular. I like to keep some of the natural hair color woven into red shades since they tend to fade. For upkeep, I recommend using a color conditioner to preserve the richness of the shade. I avoid using color shampoos as they tend to strip more color than add.”


Dramatic Red

TC: “Redheads will want to match their [hair for their] skin tone; however, I do think a trend will be that clients will want to pop their red a bit more. Again, a bit of drama to shake off 2020.”


Experimental Colors


Pink Is the New Blond

AF: “Colorful hair is definitely still a popular choice, and I find that pink is the shade most commonly requested. Pink is almost the new blond because there are so many different shades that it makes it easy to find one that is flattering on every skin tone. This includes peach as well, which can be crafted with more warmth or cool tones based on desire.”



TC: “Experimental or colorful hair colors are not as popular as they once were; however, when clients do want to go this route, they want peach, which is a big one.

Don’t forget to shop a few of their favorite products for hair-color maintenance:

Sally Hershberger 24K Supreme Stylist Voluminous Dry Shampoo


AF: For those looking for a slight [root] cover-up, the Sally Hershberger 24K Supreme Stylist Voluminous Dry Shampoo adds volume to make greys less visible.”


K18 Leave-in Molecular Repair Hair Mask


AF: “Some clients want corrective color done to strip existing dyed pigment from their strands to reveal their natural, sometimes grey color. As corrective processes can be very stressful on the strands, I always use K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Professional Repair Hair Mist and their Professional Molecular Repair Hair Mask because it provides protection, preserves strength, and rebuilds keratin with each use. While those products are best used at the salon by professionals, the K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask is great for at-home use by all to keep hair healthy while reversing damage.”


Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner


TC: “When inquiring about balayage, ombre, or any chemical service, I recommend my clients get Olaplex No. 1 Bond Multiplier and No. 2 Bond Perfector as a professional-strength in-salon treatment to dramatically improve the hair strength and protect hair from within for immediate results. After any type of hair service, hair is strengthened, healthier, and full of shine.” Editor’s note: While these products are only available at a salon, using an Olaplex conditioner and shampoo will help prolong the health of your hair post-color.