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The "Playground Highlights" Trend Will Rule in 2022

Playground highlights? Chocolate cherry? We asked colorists to break down the hues they're already seeing trending for next year, plus give tips to help you figure out which could be best for you.

If we're talking about hairstyle trends, nothing is ever really out. That being said, there are looks that naturally come and go — especially when it comes to hair color. A new season brings new trends and fresh ways to color and highlight hair, so we asked top colorists to find out what their clients are requesting and what hues they think will continue to be huge in 2022. They aren't psychic (at least we don't think so), but they're listening to their clients' needs — and some of those clients happen to be major trendsetters.


"The new year is the perfect time to experiment with hair color," says Chicago-based colorist Lorena Martinez of Maxine Salon, encouraging anyone considering a new hue to enjoy some creative freedom. "Over the years, we've seen it all and now it's time to give it a modern twist." You can try your hand at refreshing your color at home if you're really confident in your skills, but we wouldn't necessarily recommend it — at least not in all cases. Plus, with all the safety precautions salons have put in place, plenty of people have gotten their dye jobs without incident. If you aren't sure, call up your regular stylist to see what sort of COVID-safe options they're currently offering.


Once you're ready for a hair color change, scroll through these expert-approved trends for some inspiration.


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Golden Caramel Highlights

Golden caramel highlights like Olivia Wilde's instantly brighten up the mood and can be done in two ways: "If your natural base is already a medium brown, all you need to do are babylights," says New York City-based colorist Felicia Dosso of Nunzio Saviano Salon. "Babylights are very finely woven highlights that will add the perfect amount of subtle dimension to your hair."


"Gloss them with a soft golden tone," Dosso adds. "If your natural base is not a medium brown, then you'll need to do a two-step process. The first step would be an all-over single process to create that medium brown, then do babylights on top of that."


Golden Caramel Highlights

This is Jennifer Aniston's all-time signature hair color — and for good reason. "Golden highlights have an illuminating brightness to them that are great for a sun-kissed feel, especially for those with warmer underlying skin tones," says Beverly Hills-based colorist and hairstylist Cherin Choi of Roil Salon. "When the placement is done correctly, the color should always have an easy grow-out transition." On the fence about going for this look? "Check with your colorist or try on a wig [in this color] before making the dive," says Choi. You can also try a temporary color to see if you like it before committing.


Golden Caramel Highlights

"Warmer shades are going to rule 2022," says New York City-based colorist and co-owner of Mark Ryan Salon, Mark DeBolt. Beyoncé was ahead of the game when she wore this hair color back in 2017 (but again, hairstyle trends naturally come and go). "Golden tones complement most skin types and make the hair look more reflective and healthy," DeBolt explains. If you're starting out with darker brown hair like Beyoncé, here's how the process goes: "For brunettes, I would apply subtle, blended highlights all throughout the hair and let them process to only one shade lighter than their natural [hue]. Then, I would apply a gloss to achieve the golden tone and to add shine.”


Chocolate Cherry

Chocolate cherry hair has "very warm highlights where the lightest colors are a variation of reds (rose, red, and coppers), emphasized by a very rich brown as the background color," says Martinez. It's a hue Zendaya wears well, and it can be achieved with highlights or balayage. The deeper base anchors the red, and the contrast makes the hair overall look shinier. "Ask your colorist for a rich brown with ribbons of red to suit your skin tone," Martinez suggests.


Chocolate Cherry

Julianne Moore is known for her iconic red hair, and this darker shade makes for a fresh variation of it. If you're considering this look, Dosso recommends asking your colorist three key questions: "Will it be done with permanent color or semi-permanent? What's the upkeep? Does this color fade?" Having a clear idea and expectations before dyeing your hair can help you make a decision to best fit your lifestyle.


Chocolate Cherry

Here's a slightly brighter version of chocolate cherry hair courtesy of Jourdan Dunn. If you've previously dyed your hair a variation of red at home, this may be a fitting shade to try since "most hair will have a hard time lifting past red, and this gives it a better fighting chance for an achievable look," says Martinez. To maintain the hue, she recommends using a shampoo and conditioner specially formulated for color-treated hair.


Double-Process Color

"Platinum blonde is the most dramatic hair color that one can wear," says DeBolt. Ciara's hair here, like many lighter colors, is done using a double-process method. If you're doing this on naturally dark hair, a lightener is first applied all over and processed to pale yellow. "The second step, hence the term 'double-process,' is to apply a gloss and toner to refine the tone of the raw bleach. This is where the delicate tone is created," DeBolt explains.

Now, you don't need to do a full double-process on your own hair to get the look, you can also achieve this with a wig as Ciara has.


Double-Process Color

If Megan Rapinoe's gonna do anything, it's have a bold hair color. If you're aiming to achieve a purple hue like this and have naturally dark hair, a double-process color would be needed. "Bleach technology has come a long way, and rainbow [or any bright] hair color is not as permanent as people remember — unless you want it to be," says Los Angeles-based colorist, owner, and lead stylist of Hair Los Angeles, Daniel Moon.


"If you're new to creative color, right before getting a big haircut is a great time to test out the shade on your ends. If you don't like it, you can just cut it off!" He adds. "I would also recommend starting with baby pink or electric coral because they wash out quickly and leave a really gorgeous peachy-blonde. It also brings out some really radiant skin tones."


Double-Process Color

Before requesting any double-process hair color at the salon, just keep in mind: "It's a high-maintenance look," warns DeBolt. "You must either have regular touch-up appointments every six weeks or have it done once and then let it grow out for six months." Wise words to heed, especially if you're considering blue hair like Hilary Duff's.


For the double-process method, your hair would need to first be lightened all over with lightener (even if you have naturally light hair, it would just take less time). The second part involves applying a toner/gloss to refine the tone of what your hair will lighten to. "The color after shampooing is called 'raw bleach,' and while that color had a major moment in the '80s, now we apply a sheer, demi-permanent toner/gloss to refine the tone of the blonde," DeBolt explains. The second step would be adding another color. In this case, it's mermaid blue.


Playground Highlights

"The goal of this shade is to recreate your own hair color from when you were a carefree child," says Choi. You know what we're talking about: the color your hair would turn when the sun naturally highlighted your hair. This trend can work for anyone — the intention is to just go lighter, Choi explains. Taylor Swift's hair color here is a great example for blondes: The highlights look natural yet vibrant.


Playground Highlights

Oh, hey there, it's just Jourdan Dunn again proving that she can pull off almost any hair color. These light brown highlights add a subtle uplifting contrast to her darker shade. Prior to your salon visit, consider pre-treating your hair at home for an extra dose of TLC. "Occasionally, someone will tell me that they have done a hair mask before their appointment. It feels like brushing your teeth before you see the dentist," says Choi. Our recommendation? Go for our Best of Beauty-winning Aveda Invati Advanced Intensive Hair & Scalp Masque.


Playground Highlights

Emma Stone is a natural blonde, but she's spent much of her career with different shades of red. If you want to try this trend with red hair, the color she's got here is a great example. "I would do natural highlights blending throughout the crown and tips of the hair, leaving the inside natural and keeping the lightness external," says Choi.


Chunky Ribbons

The year may be 2022 but folks are steadily trying to bring back the 2000s with chunky highlights like Jamie Chung's. This look is all about creating ribbons of color which give off tons of dimension, says Martinez. "The 'money piece' frames the perimeter around the face and looks great styled with a round brush for movement," she says. "This would be created with a traditional balayage where it really showcases each piece rather than the overly saturated 'balayage' that we commonly see."


Chunky Ribbons

Halle Berry brightened up her brunette hair with chunky dark blonde highlights. "Golden tones can be considered cooler and on the right skin tone, it can definitely make the hair stand out for a more interesting color," says Choi. Before visiting the salon, don't forget to gather photos (like this one) for inspo to visually explain to your colorist the look you're going for.


Chunky Ribbons

Kylie Jenner's chunky highlights are even more accentuated when twisted into a half-up, half-down hairstyle. "The benefit here is that you have a splash of color while still maintaining a high-dimensional look," says Martinez. "Curtain bangs or face-framing layers and traditional layered haircuts work well to complement the bold contrast."


Sandy Blonde

"Sometimes blondes get an itch to go a little darker, but being a colorist, I know that most of the time that itch can cause major regret," says Dosso, who suggests a sandy blonde like Elizabeth Olsen's if you want to go a smidge richer with your color. "It feels darker and more dimensional than a super bright blonde, but it's also easy to go back to that super bright when you're ready."


Sandy Blonde

"I'm getting a ton of '60s and '70s reference photos for darker, sandy blondes like Jane Birkin, Sharon Tate, and Farrah Fawcett," says Moon. Amanda Seyfried shows a modern-day version of the color with a subtly layered haircut so the focus is all on the color. "If you have a lighter hair color going to a darker blonde, be sure to fill your blonde with gold so the blonde doesn't go too green or flat," says Moon.


Sandy Blonde

To get a color like Lily-Rose Depp's, Dosso says one would need "a full head of highlights followed by two glosses. The first gloss would be a subtle shadow root or root smudge," she explains. "Then, I would do another soft golden gloss in a lighter tone all over."


Rich Brown

Season after season, dark brown hair continues to trend. If your color is lighter than this rich hue we see on Joan Smalls, Dosso recommends asking yourself, "Will I feel washed out? Do I want my hair to have more dimension in it or do I want one solid color?"

Dosso says she would start with an all-over single-process color. "If the client has a significant amount of gray hair, I would choose to use a permanent color for full gray coverage. If they don't have much gray, or any gray at all, I would use a semi-permanent color."


Rich Brown

Blonde-turned-brunette Hailey Bieber's hair looks shinier than ever thanks to this darker hue. Martinez refers to it as "'glass hair,' which can be achieved from a single-process hair color or gloss," she says. The color change along with the smooth texture emphasizes its impact for an overall classic look.


Rich Brown

Cold brew, dark chocolate… There are plenty of ways to describe rich brown hair like Jessica Alba's. "Being that it's a single-process coloring (meaning no bleach or lightening is involved), it's not damaging to hair," says Dosso. "It's a rich and deep color which makes it super bold and fresh for the new year."


Two-Toned

"Blonde is always iconic," says Moon. "Bright blonde, specifically, creates incredible dimension." Dua Lipa's platinum blonde above is contrasted with darker hair at the roots and underneath the top layer. This two-toned hair creates more interest and isn't as high maintenance since there isn't as much upkeep for root touch-ups.


Two-Toned

"'90s trends are on fire for Gen Z," says DeBolt, referring to peek-a-boo hair color (in other words, lighter-colored pieces under the top layer). Looks like the two-toned style continues to trend every decade as Rihanna rocked this look in 2009, and it's coming back once again. Another idea DeBolt suggests is playing with the contrasting colors with a textured haircut like a mullet. "I would recommend cutting before coloring so the color can enhance the new shape," he notes.


Two-Toned

Billie Eilish's neon green and black hair combo is a head-turner for sure. To get a multi-color like this, Moon says, "First, bleach to a super light blonde, then apply whatever color or colors you want. Gradients are super in-demand right now — when I do that, I typically use my hands to blend two to three colors. This gives the colors a really gorgeous watercolor effect."

At the end of the day, what's most important is healthy hair. "I suggest using the Virtue Restorative Treatment Mask, Virtue Healing Oil, and the Virtue Labs Curl-Defining Whip," says Moon. This not only keeps hair healthy and moisturized but it "also helps clients keep an open mind and allow you to help them try new trends they might not otherwise do. When we can keep the hair healthy, every other aspect of the process goes smoothly."


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Article written by Jihan Forbes and Wndy Sy from Allure

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