What are Highlights?

Hair with highlights, cut in a jaw-length bob
Image: AI illustration
Q: What are highlights?
A: Highlights are a hair coloring technique to add dimension and depth to hair by brightening certain sections of it. Thus, highlights are strands of hair that are lighter in color than the current hair color.
Since highlights are lighter streaks, they look best on darker hair. For a subtle effect, two or three shades lighter than the existing hair color is chosen. For a more dramatic effect, a shade that is significantly lighter is chosen.
There are several advantages to getting highlights:
• The primary benefit of getting highlights is that it adds depth and dimension to one's hair. Lightening certain sections of hair, creates contrast and makes it look fuller and more voluminous.
• Highlighting can emphasize the natural beauty of hair. Adding subtle highlights can bring out the natural highlights of hair and make it look more radiant.
• Highlights can be used to create a bold and striking look. With a bold color and applying it to larger sections of hair, highlights can create a dramatic hair color contrast and let you make a strong statement.
• Depending on the highlighting technique used, highlights can be quite low maintenance. If you choose a natural color for your highlights and get it applied with the foiling technique, you might only need touch-ups every few months.
Highlighting can be done using different techniques: the foils technique, the brushing technique (also referred to as comb highlighting), and the cap highlighting technique.
Foil highlighting - Highlighting technique with foils
Photos: Getty Images Signature via Canva
The foils technique (foiling) is the most commonly used highlighting method. It involves using pieces of aluminum foil to isolate sections of hair and apply the bleach to them. This is done by parting the hair into small sections and securing them. The size and location of the sections depends on the desired result.
Then foil is cut into small rectangular pieces. Next, bleach is applied to the sections of hair that need to be lightened. After applying the bleach, the hair is wrapped in the foil and left to process for a certain amount of time. The foil traps the heat and accelerates the lightening process. The processing time will depend on the desired level of lightening.
The brushing technique, also known as comb highlighting, is a highlighting technique that involves applying the bleach to the hair using a comb or brush. It is a popular highlighting technique because it is relatively simple to do and can give a natural-looking effect.
When using the combing technique, a comb is used to separate small sections of hair and then they are secured away from the rest of the hair. Then bleach is applied to the teeth of a comb or to a brush and the bleach is combed or brushed through the small sections of hair. Once all the sections have been treated, the bleach is left to process for the necessary amount of time, depending on the desired level of lightening.
Highlighting method with a lighteningcap
Photos: Getty Images Signature via Canva
The cap technique is a highlighting method from the past, but some hair salons still offer it. This technique is especially good for those who want a subtle highlighting effect, as it is hard to get strong or extreme highlights using this method. It is usually cheaper than other highlighting methods.
The cap technique involves using a perforated cap, that looks like a swimming cap with holes in it, to isolate and highlight specific sections of hair. The hairdresser will choose a highlighting cap that is suitable for the desired outcome. Caps with bigger holes will create larger highlights, while caps with smaller holes will create smaller, more subtle highlights.
The cap is put on the customer's head and fits tightly. Using a small hook, small sections of hair are pulled through the holes in the cap. With a tint brush, bleach is applied to the hair that is now visible. Once all of the visible hair has been covered with bleach, it is left to process for the required amount of time. After the processing is finished, the cap is taken off.
The foiling, brushing, and cap highlighting techniques are all effective ways of getting highlights. Each technique has its own pros and cons, and the best technique for you will depend on your hair type, the desired level of highlighting, and your personal preferences.
See also:
What are lowlights?
How to choose natural-looking highlights