How to Highlight Your Own Hair

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The History of Hair Highlighting

Hair coloring can be dated back to the early Egyptian civilization, where people used henna to dye their hair when it starts turning grey. In ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, plant extracts were used to create a permanent black dye, although this was soon put to a halt due to the toxicity of the chemicals involved in the hair dye. A hundred years later, people were able to create hair dyes with colors other than black. This was also the same time when highlighting one’s hair was supposedly begun.

In the 18th century, the first synthesized dye was accidentally invented, and paved the way for the foundation of most hair dyes at present. It was not until 1950 when a one-step hair dying agent was invented, without the use of bleaching agents. Hair coloring became a fad among women in the ‘60s, and was openly practiced the following decade. In the 1980’s, hair highlights were trending among women, same time when people started using foils to make the process of highlighting the hair more convenient.

1980 hair highlights

The Best Hair Highlights of Today’s Fashionable World

  • Dip Dyed Hair – An easy way to give some life to plain hair color, dip dyeing is as simple as adding a brighter color or shade to the tips of your hair. Whether you have short or long hair, this hair highlighting style is among the easiest and cheapest to achieve, as it only involves one type of hair coloring that you will need to apply only once. Jessie J and Lea Michele are among the many Hollywood stars who have sported this kind of hairstyle.
  • Lowlights – The name says what it is—the opposite of highlights. It is done in the same way as highlighting your hair, only that it uses darker shades instead of lighter. It tends to imitate the effects of sunlight on your hair, wherein you will see lighter hair on top of your head, and darker on your nape and below the neck. This is particularly effective on blondes and brunettes, of course, as they are practically the ones who can find darker hair colors basing on their natural hair shade.
  • Frosted highlights – It is a combination of dark and light hair strands, so depending on what color your natural hair has, you will need to add the opposite to achieve this kind of look. Frosted highlights are often combined with pixie cuts and short bobs, but this definitely can be done on long locks if you want to.
  • Ribboned – A perfect option for those who have wavy or curly hair, ribboned highlights can be a natural-looking ‘do with the use of hair coloring within the same color range. Take for example, Jessica Alba’s caramel highlights that gorgeously emphasized her huge and sexy curls. You can also choose to use pastel colors to highlight your waves, as these lively yet subtle hues have flooded the fashion world in recent years. Jennifer Lopez also loves sporting this style with her wavy brunette ‘do. In general, darker curls are the perfect stage for lighter ribbons, since they emphasize each wave for a classy look.
  • Hair Painting or Balayage – A result of genuine expertise and artistry, Hair Painting or Balayage can be considered one of the sexiest ways to highlight one’s hair while maintaining a natural yet audacious guise. It is equally perfect for curly and wavy hair, and nonetheless can be done on straight locks that need some lively addition to plain strands.

DIY Highlights

Home hair coloring is not an uncommon practice all over the globe. Many women take to their own hands the future of their cosmetic appearance, due to the fact that hair dyes are now easily accessible at highly affordable rates. Going to the salon is obviously a more convenient way to get your hair highlights done, as you can leave it all to your hairstylist to decide which kind of highlights will best suit your hair type. They can do a careful analysis of the condition of your hair, your face shape, and your personal preferences and provide expert advice on which way to go when it comes to coloring your locks.

However, hair highlights can be very expensive at the salon, especially if you’re on a budget. They can range from $75 to $300, depending on the complexity and coverage that you want. If you are blessed with thick and long mane, then you can fairly expect to pay more than that. This is why many women turn to their own capabilities to experiment on their hair and strive to achieve any of the looks that were mentioned above.

How to Highlight Your Own Hair

If you think doing your own highlights is as easy as coloring your hair, then you are definitely wrong. Unlike dyeing everything on your crowning glory, highlights are a bit challenging and doing it on your own needs some practice and getting used to.

Before we go to the step-by-step guide, here are a few tips when highlighting your hair at home:

  • Know which dye to begin with  - Choosing the most suitable hair dye is a big challenge for first-timers. With too many brands and products out there claiming to be “it”, it’s too hard to decipher which one is really the best for you. To make it much easier, remember to choose according to your hair color base—that is, find a hair dye that says it is for your hair type and not what it will turn out to be. “For dark hair” is a good basis for whether this dye is for you, than choosing one that says “golden highlights”. Remember, though, that with each session of hair dyeing that you do, your hair will gradually lose its pigment and that means hair dyes will leave you with better results as you repeat the process.
  • Follow the instructions, including the strand test - Don’t jump into highlighting all parts of your hair without doing a strand test. Doing so will enable you to see the results, and whether you will want that kind of highlight afterwards. In case it goes awry and does not give you what you expect, it will be easier to touch it up. If you want something lighter at the first try, you can reapply the dye for another five minutes.
  • Don’t use the plastic cap - It’s in the package, but it doesn’t mean it is the most effective paraphernalia you can use. In fact, the best tools you can utilize is right in your home. Using the plastic cap will not guarantee great highlights, since it is very difficult to know where pulled hair is coming from. You will need to choose the strands using your own hands. Applying the dye can be done using a toothbrush or a paintbrush.
  • Protect your skin. Moisturize your hair - Rub some petroleum jelly on your neck, below your hairline, along the ears to avoid staining them in the process. After applying the hair dye, wash your hair and use a deep conditioner to make sure your hair remains soft and smooth, and with strong strands, that is!
  • Wear gloves to avoid stains on your hands - If you will be using permanent hair dye, using gloves should never be forgotten. Unless you want to have dirty-looking nails for a week, you will need to protect them from getting stained by your hair dye. Temporary hair colors are easier to wash. Some of them take as little as soap and water to get removed from the skin. In case you want temporary highlights, then using gloves can be ditched.


  • Read the instructions on how to mix the dye. Depending on the brand that you get, hair dyes can be applied straight from the package, or will need to be mixed according to certain instructions. Mixing different colors of hair dyes is an option for those who aren’t able to find the exact hue that they want to achieve.
  • Apply the dye on your hair. Section your hair like you normally do. Brush the hair dye to the part of your hair where you want your highlights. You can also literally ‘dip’ your hair in the mixture. Make sure the tips are fully covered with dye. Dip dyeing requires you to color the same length of hair all throughout your head.
  • Gradually decrease the amount of dye you apply as you go up. This will allow the color to blend with your natural hair color little by little, as it meets along the way.
  • Use foils to wrap your colored hair. Part your dyed hair into sections and cover each one with aluminum foil to speed up the process. While this is totally optional, this actually helps in allowing the hair color to seep in properly and penetrate the hair shaft.
  • Leave it on according to instructions and check your hair every now and then to make sure it is not overly done.
  • Once you get your intended color, wash your hair to rinse out the dye. Make sure to use cold water and conditioner to take off all the residue.
  • Lastly, you can dry your hair and style it the way you want.


  • Choose a hair color that is 1 to 2 shades darker than your base hair color. Section your hair into parts where you want to put lowlights. A tail comb is a good tool to do this effectively, in even parts, just like when you are doing highlights. Lowlights go to the lower part of the hair. Combing your hair well before sectioning it will make this part easier.
  • Use a clip to pin the hair strands that you will lowlight, and decide which color will go to each one. Lowlights with different lengths look more natural. Depending on how you want them, you can have lowlights that are closely placed or more loosely done.
  • Apply the dye on one part at a time. If you plan to use more than one color, this will definitely be the hardest part. Use a brush to apply the dye and make sure the hair is well covered.
  • Make sure to leave at least half an inch of hair from your scalp. As you apply the dye on the sections of hair you set aside, cover each one with foil to prevent the dye from bleeding.
  • Let it sit in for the allowed length of time. Make sure to read the instructions on the package to avoid overdoing it.
  • Wash your hair with cold water and conditioner on the sink, or take a shower but do not shampoo just yet. Continue rinsing your hair until you can see little to no dye that is washing off. Make sure not to shampoo within 24 to 48 hours, or else you will risk removing part of the lowlights that you worked hard for.


  • Mix the solution in a bowl as instructed on the package. Make sure to use gloves to avoid staining your hands. Apply petroleum jelly on your hairline, and wear an old shirt in case you stain it while doing the job.
  • Apply the hair dye frosting on your hair. Work from the back to the front, if you plan to frost highlight everything. Otherwise, choose which parts to highlight, and make sure to apply the dye evenly on the hair so it would come out great.
  • Leave the hair dye on for some time, depending on how you want the results. Make sure not to exceed the recommended time frame so as not to damage your hair.
  • Rinse your hair using cold water and a conditioner. If a deep-conditioner is included in the package, use it.
  • Style your hair as you would desire.


  • Like every other kind of highlighting technique, ribbon highlighting begins with choosing the right hair dye to achieve a particular look. Ribbon highlights is technically dying your hair with darker shades of hair coloring to give it a multi-dimensional look. Make sure you get a dye that is 1 to 2 shades darker than your base hair color.
  • Section your hair into thin parts that you would like to add color to. The hair dye will go on the lower part of the hair, so those with long hair can clip their locks to take them higher.
  • Color the lower part of your sectioned hair. It does not need to be symmetrical. The more varied it is, the more natural it will look.
  • Let the hair dye sit according to the allowed length of time. Use foil to separate each section where you applied the mixture on.
  • Rinse your hair with cold water. Condition to make it look and feel softer. Style your hair and enjoy the voluminous effect on your waves. Make sure not to shampoo your hair for a day or two to allow the hair color to seep in and last longer. Also, lessening the frequency of using shampoo will preserve the color and make it last longer.

As the trend has shown over the years, highlighting your hair has no limits. It has endless possibilities where one can discover which type of highlights may suit them best. The only rule is to follow what the instructions on the package says, and you are free to try out whatever type of highlights you want. If you are unsure about what you are going to do, you can use a temporary hair dye to try it out with, and if you are satisfied with the results, you can redo the whole process using a permanent hair color.

If your goal is to copy a certain person’s highlights, remember that doing it yourself needs practice, and you may not get your desired look at the very first time. In this case, the temporary hair dye option will save you from unwanted results and will give you a chance to practice before doing the real thing. You can also try out different highlighting styles using temporary hair dye, and ask your friends which one looks best on you. After you have tried out different styles, you’ll surely be ready and able to highlight your own hair without any difficulty.

(Last Updated On: November 24, 2017)

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