Hair Highlighting Tips
To boost your hair color, try highlights or lowlights
for a natural-looking change of pace.
Remember when you had the spare time to lounge on the beach, spraying
lemon juice from a mist bottle into your hair to create natural
If you’re like most women, those days are gone. But while
your schedule is incredibly hectic, you can still get the look
without basking in the sun (which, as we all know, is bad for
Ride the wave of light with highlights or lowlights—two
techniques to create stripes of contrast throughout your hair.
They can be subtle (reddish tones on brown hair) or dramatic (blonde
highlights on brunette hair). You can have thick chunks of color,
which continue to be popular, or a carefully selected number of
thin highlighted strands for a more restrained look.
Highlights are easier to maintain than all-over, or single-process,
color. They require minimal maintenance (every eight to 16 weeks),
which can be desirable for women who have trouble booking long
salon appointments due to time constraints.
By definition, highlights lighten and brighten your hair. Lowlights,
by contrast, darken and deepen hair color. Many salons are using
multi-tonal color, not limiting their palette to a single color
when highlighting or lowlighting. Blending colors provides a more
Of course, other stylists use today’s technology to create
much bolder statements. Joico, a Darien, Connecticut-based professional
product line, teaches stylists how to create color creations like
the “UV”—an abbreviation for ultraviolet light.
The UV color concept features four super-dramatic highlighting
colors, with vibrant shades of lavender and purple. It sounds
extreme—and it definitely is daring—but it’s
also a gorgeous mélange of strong shadows that blend fluidly
For more mainstream highlighting, the process is relatively simple:
Hair is sectioned by an experienced stylist, who applies color
from the roots down to the selected strands. While there are many
application techniques, many stylists rely on foils, folding color-treated
strands into foil sheets to prevent dye from spreading. The stylist
sets the timer for a designated period (depending on your natural
color and the shades chosen for highlighting or lowlighting),
and the strands are allowed to “process.”
Using a professional stylist is advisable, as she can mix colors,
understands coloring chemistry and knows how to avoid overprocessing
your hair. While stylists recommend having highlights or lowlights
applied in the salon setting, there are new consumer lines that
allow women to apply highlights at home. If you’re on a
budget, you can try a product like L’Oreal Couleur Experte,
which consists of two steps:
Application of all-over color, for a translucent
base, using a permanent gel crème. Color is applied to
dry, unwashed hair, over the full head, with an applicator bottle
and left on for 25 minutes. (If you have resistant gray hairs,
color should be left on for about 10 additional minutes.) When
the color is set, rinse it out and towel-dry hair.
Once the first step is completed, you add
illuminating highlights with a special wand. For hair of one
length, choose strands that frame your face (but don’t
forget the back of your head). For layered hair, follow the
layers’ angles, paying special attention to top layers.
If you have bangs, apply highlights to wispy strands, and vary
the spacing to keep the look natural. If you have curly hair,
you can use the wand or even your fingertips to apply color
to curls; the texture of your hair requires a bit less precision.
Always read all directions before using any highlighting or lowlighting
products. Experts recommend wearing an old button-down shirt when
coloring, which protects your neck and shoulders from any color
To help you choose the right shade, L’Oreal offers an online
questionnaire, as well as instructional videos that demonstrate
Clairol offers a similar product, Herbal Essences Highlights,
but it does not include the base color—only the highlighting
agent. The product is applied to dry hair with a highlighting
If you have any concerns about home highlighting, or if you’ve
never colored your hair before, take the safe road and book an
appointment with a colorist.
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