Highlights look beautiful on natural hair when done right. Color choice and proper technique makes all the difference between having perfectly highlighted hair that looks truly natural or having overdone, skunk-like highlights that are unflattering.
I recently got highlights for the first time at a client’s request. As always, I asked numerous questions throughout the process and my colorist was gracious enough to answer them all in detail. The first thing that struck me was his technique. Before starting, he put my hair into large two-strand twist. This, he explained, was to avoid the skunk effect. When the color was done, I was surprised to see blondish-brown highlights. He then put a toner over it, so the final result was a bit more toned down. I love it.
If you’re thinking of getting highlights, here is some important info that will help you achieve a look you will love.
Important Hair Color Terms
Level. In the hair color world, “level” refers to lightness or darkness. The more natural you want your highlights to look, the closer the level should be to your own. In other words, if your hair is black and you put in blonde highlights, the result (even if it’s beautiful) will not be very natural-looking. If your goal is a natural, sun-kissed appearance, stay fairly close to the same level of lightness/darkness of your other hair. (In colorist terms, stay within one to two levels of your existing level.)
Tone. Tone actually has nothing to do with lightness or darkness, but rather how warm or cool your hair is. Is your hair golden? Or ashy? Or red? When doing natural-looking highlights, the tone in most cases should be kept slightly on the warm side, because this is how hair naturally lightens. If your hair is black or dark brown, highlights should be a medium brown or caramel color. If your hair is light brown or blonde, highlights should be a golden tone or platinum tone, respectively. If your hair has red in it, highlights should stay on the reddish, copper, or very golden side to look natural.
Application. This includes how the highlights are put into the hair-the technique and tools used, how thick or thin the highlights are, and where the highlights are placed. For the most natural look, highlights should be applied to extremely thin sections that have been separated with a very fine weave. Also, consider where the sun naturally hits your hair when you are outside. Highlights should be heavier on the top of the head and lighter or avoided altogether at the bottom or nape of the head. Highlights also tend to be heavier and more obvious closer to the face than at the back.
There are many different ways to highlight your hair, including at home kits. However, when it comes to getting hair color it is always a good idea to work with a professional. It’s also good to do your homework and familiarize yourself with commonly used terms. Good luck and happy highlighting!
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