How To Highlight Your Hair

If you want to change the look of your hair, but aren't ready to take the plunge into full-on dyeing, you may be ready for highlights. This is a chemical process, but only involves sections of your hair, rather than all of it. Highlighting can give your hair an all-over subtle glow, or add brighter, more noticeable spots of contrast. When you do it yourself, you have all the control. Highlighting your own hair can be tricky, though, so make sure you're prepared before you start. 

To highlight your hair:

  1. Pick the color: Check out your natural color, and choose a dye that is two to three shades lighter. For more obvious highlights, you may want to buy a highlighting kit that is just bleach. Beginners should stick with making subtler changes, though--mistakes are much easier to hide this way.
  2. Supply yourself: Retailers such as Target or Rite Aid carry highlighting kits in the same aisle as the hair dyeing kits. Most major brands are easy to use, and come with everything you need to do it yourself. If you're feeling braver, head over to a professional supplier, like Sally Beauty, and pick your necessities individually.
  3. For the brave: Those who aren't buying complete kits will need the following supplies:
    • Lightener: What creates the actual highlights.
    • Latex gloves: Get as snug a fit as possible that still allows for ease of movement.
    • Brushes: An acrylic brush, a half-inch to a quarter-inch size, will prove very useful for accurate application of color to your hair. Even if you're using a kit, a brush is really invaluable to your highlighting success.
  4. how to highlight hair yourselfPrepare your hair: Use a good clarifying shampoo a couple of days before you plan on highlighting your hair. This will clear out all the buildup from dirt, natural oils, and styling products you use on a regular basis, and make your hair more receptive to the color. However, try to avoiding shampooing your hair on highlighting day--you want some of the natural oils to remain, as they will protect your hair and scalp from too much chemical stress.

  5. Prepare yourself: Read the instructions on the box carefully. Do you understand everything that you're going to do? Do you have all your tools at hand? You should have:
    • The color
    • Gloves
    • Brushes
    • A towel or rag to protect your clothing
    • A highlighting cap, should you choose to use it, or clips to keep each section of highlighted hair away from the rest of your head
    • A timer
    • Dry hair that's free of snarls--give it a good roots-to-ends combing to evenly spread its natural oils and detangle it.
  6. Get going: Following instructions, mix the color. Take a brush and apply the color to each section of hair you want highlighted, working from the back of your head to the front. This way you won't get lightener on your arms--or anywhere else it's not supposed to be--as you work.
  7. Follow the plan: For a natural look, keep the highlighted sections thinner, and stick to the top layer of hair only. For bolder looks, make the sections thicker. Be sure to spread the color evenly from roots to ends, and secure each section with a clip to keep it under control.
  8. Be patient: Set your timer to the appropriate time. You can use the wait to rinse out your brushes and clean up any mess you may have made. When you're ready, take the clips out of your hair and rinse according to instructions. If you did it right, you should now have beautiful highlighted hair.


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