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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: