Your Guide to Highlights!

Spring is in the (h)air! The decision is made! It’s time to freshen up your current style. You check out the magazines for your favourite celeb haircuts, to give your stylist an idea of how his scissor skills can make it work; but the real gamechanger is colour. Here’s where you might face a dilemma! Should you go for an overall colour, or opt for highlights? Full head, half head or partial? If you’re a highlight virgin, you might choose a safer option, just to dip your toes into the colour-pond, and settle for partial lights, or you might be feeling completely bold and go the whole hog – a full-on head of lights!

All highlighting techniques are designed to introduce lighter shades to your hair, giving it more depth, texture, and volume. The questions are: how much of your hair do you want to lighten, how subtle do you want the finished result to be, and should you choose more than one shade. A consultation with your colour specialist, will help you decide what is right for you and for your hair, but the following will hopefully provide you with a little insight, so that you understand your options better before you commit.

Will highlights damage my hair?

Highlights have been a popular colour technique for many years because they can be tailored specifically for each individual and are completely flexible, depending on what the client and colourist want to achieve. They have also come a long way in terms of the products that are used to create the look! It isn’t all about harsh bleaching application anymore. Many colour specialists can use a high lift tint, rather than bleach, to achieve certain blonde shades. Complementary products, such as Olaplex, have come onto the market, to make the process easier and gentler on the hair. It also allows the boundaries of hair colour to be pushed a little further, by the colour technician, without compromising the integrity of the hair. The maintenance products that are available will also ensure your hair remains in optimum condition. If you follow the advice of the professionals, your hair will always look healthy, regardless of the colour service you have opted for.

Highlights are easier to maintain than block colour, as root re-growth can be ‘hidden’ for longer. They can also create as much, or as little, impact as you would like. So, whether you want to gradually transition into a beautiful blonde or are simply looking to add more sun-kisses to your current shade, highlights will not disappoint.

The difference between partial and full head highlights!

As a guide: a full head of highlights is just that! The entire head, including the underneath, is finely weaved into small sections, and colour applied. It gives a more dramatic appearance and is great when you are looking for a complete change. It is also ideal if you wish to add more diversity to your base colour and ensure more visibility, make soft transitions or a bold statement. The choice is yours. Partial highlighting, on the other hand, is usually applied to the crown area, side sections and often around the front hairline to frame the face. Partial gives a more natural look and is a great introduction to hair colour. Most colour specialists will have honed their own interpretation of highlight placing over the years and will talk their client through the process.

Once you and your colourist have decided on a colour plan, the colours will be mixed together into a bowl ready for application. It is always best to have hair colour applied in the salon by a professional colourist, who will have undergone years of training in every aspect of hair colour, including colour mixing and application. They may opt to use two or three different shades to achieve the desired result. They will know exactly what ratio of colour to use, how much to use and the volume needed. This is why you should always put your hair in the hands of the professionals.

Highlighting the hair using strips of foil is the most commonly used application, it allows precise placing of colour and enables the colourist to get close to the roots, so that there is no demarcation line in the colour. Strands of hair are very finely weaved into sections, using a tail comb, each section is placed onto a foil strip, colour is then applied, the end of the foil is folded back towards the root, and the outside edges are then folded in to seal the colour into the foil packet, this also stops any colour seeping out of the foil and into the rest of the hair. What you end up with are little packets of foil envelopes, each holding strands of colour ready to be processed naturally or using a heat lamp. The more highlights you opt for, the more foil packets there will be.

How do I care for my highlights?

Maintaining the quality and longevity of your hair colour is neither too complicated, nor too demanding, but it can have a significant effect that will either prolong – or shorten – the life of any colour service you have chosen to spend your hard-earned money on! Therefore, it is really important to choose products that have been specifically formulated for your hair colour, texture and type. The best person to advise you is your own professional hairdresser. Alternatively look for products that have been formulated specifically for colour treated hair.

Choose your products wisely

Regular hair washing with sulfate-free shampoos is something that should go without saying, regardless of your hair type, length, texture or style, and it’s even more important for coloured and highlighted hair. Sulfates deprive your hair of keratin, which is a key protein that keeps your hair healthy and strong and maintains its smoothness. So, whilst your hair will naturally lose keratin with time, there’s no need to hasten the process by using products that can be damaging to the hair and deprive it of this crucial nutrient.

Treat your hair to extra nourishment

Conditioning the hair regularly is paramount when you have colour-treated hair. There are many different kinds on the market: deep conditioners, masks, oils and foams. All are designed to work their magic to keep the health, beauty and integrity of the hair intact. In addition, when using heated appliances, always apply a heat protecting spray to the hair before you start styling. Too much heat can cause the hair to break and become dry. A rule of thumb: if the hairdryer is too hot for your hand, it’s certainly too hot for your hair!

Maintain your colour

As with any type of hair colour, highlights need to be freshened up and regularly maintained. Visible root-regrowth, brassy yellow/orange tones, and faded colour, do not make for a good look.

It is therefore essential you protect your colour investment, by setting up regular trips to your salon, so they can keep your colour looking fresh and glossy. It also makes good economic sense to go every 6-8 weeks. If you leave it too long, the whole process has to be repeated from scratch and the cost is naturally going to be higher. Hair colour is an investment, just like your favourite designer outfit, so give it the care and attention it deserves.

We hope that this quick rundown of the highlighting process, has armed you with enough knowledge to comfortably chat to your hair salon, and choose the right colour option for you. Enjoy your new look and wear it with confidence!