The Basics of Highlights and Lowlights

March 7, 2007 by Heather Wood  
Published in Hair

A highlighting and low lighting guide for hair. Includes the different looks that you can achieve which each method.

Hair highlighting is a process in which a bleaching, coloring, or peroxide agent is used to lighten the shade of your hair creating two or three different tones of color. With darker shade, different hair coloring kits are utilized to create two or three similar hair colors that blend together perfectly. Segments of hair are covered in the bleaching or coloring agent and lightened or dyed to add depth to a hair color. Usually, highlights are best with blond or golden brown hair.

Highlights need to be redone once a month to retain the full effect. If your highlights are low-key and do not drastically change the color of your hair, you may be able to get by without having the highlights updated for three months. This can be an expensive endeavor as highlights and lowlights both can cost upwards of $100 to $200 every time you have it done.

Lowlights are the opposite of a highlight. Lowlights darken and add depth to darker hair colors like red, dark auburns, plum, or eggplant. If you have black hair, eggplant colored lowlights can add depth. They also need to be touched up once a month.

Highlights and lowlights can be done on the entire head or just half the head. With normal highlights, a cap is placed over your head and then a hook similar to a crochet hook pulls small strands of hair through the holes in a set pattern. The bleaching or coloring agent is then applied to the strands of hair that has been pulled through to the outside of the cap.

The other type, foil highlights, involves spreading a coloring mixture onto salon foil and then wrapping the hair up in the foil. The stylist separates the strands of hair that need to be lightened by hand. It is a more time consuming process, but usually results in a more professional look.

Highlights and lowlights add warmth to all skin tones and are meant to look like the sun has altered the color of the hair naturally. There are three main patterns for highlighting.

Balayage is a method in which the area of bangs is the only portion of hair that receives highlights. This eliminates the need for a cap. Instead of using foils, a paintbrush is used to apply the coloring or bleaching agent in natural streaks. This form of highlighting is meant to bring attention to the eyes.

The Skunk involves taking one large section of hair from the top of the head and then coloring it. This results in one lighter patch of hair that falls down the side of the hair. Do not attempt this style at home, as it is very hard to perfect.

Tipping involves covering the tips of the hair in a bleaching or coloring mixture. The mixture can be painted right on or applied to foil and then wrapped up. Tipping is usually best on straight hair that is cut into chunky layers.

Low lighting involves covering sections of hair in a darker color of hair dye to add depth to darker hair colors. The process is similar to highlights and the effects can be as dramatic.

Neither highlighting nor low lighting should be attempted at home unless you have very blond hair to begin with. It is too easy to make the shade of highlights too light creating a fake look that will require expensive repairs in a professional salon. With lowlights, if you go too dark, the same occurs.

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3 Responses to “The Basics of Highlights and Lowlights”
  1. nisha Says:

    I want to change my golden blonde highlights back to black hair what can I do

  2. jr Says:

    I have naturally black hair and many times was bored and highlight my hair to get bored and want to go back to black only a year later. Every time I have bleached and dyed my hair then decided to go back black it is actually pretty easy. Black is the one color that will always absorb into hair better than any other color. Black can not turn another color if you use a color that has “black” and not just dark brown. I even use a semi-permanant to cause less damage and the color stays. If you are a natural black, you shouldn’t have a problem.

  3. sweetie786 Says:

    i need a creative foil pattern that will look good on virgin black hair… wat can i use??

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