Highlighting Hair with a Highlighting Cap

Highlighting with a frosting or tipping cap
Cap highlighting - Photo: Shutterstock
Highlighting the hair is probably the most commonly used coloring method for adding some visual interest and enhancing the look of the hair without completely altering its color. This may be traditional highlighting. That is where a color that is one or two shades lighter than the natural base color is applied to add some brightness to the overall look of the hair.
It could be lowlighting, where a color that is a shade or two darker is applied to add depth to the color of the hair. Finally, this technique may even involve accenting the hair with a different color altogether.
Whatever the desired goal, the methods of highlighting hair vary from very basic to very advanced. Today, we will discuss the easiest method for applying highlights to the hair: the cap method.
The cap method refers to the use of a plastic cap (frosting cap or tipping cap) that fits snugly over the scalp. Thin locks of hair are then pulled through the cap using points that are marked on the cap. The number of holes used determines the amount of highlighting that takes place.
The hair is pulled through the cap using a long, slim tool with a small, hooked end. The tool resembles a thin crochet needle, and, in fact, a crochet needle can be used in many cases. The needles come in many sizes, allowing for more precise control of the amount of hair that is gathered and pulled through the cap.
The caps are usually marked with patterns to help individuals space the highlighting evenly over the scalp, thus avoiding unbalanced results in the finished look. These patterns may be color-coded, and a cap may have a variety of numbers of holes, depending on the type of highlighting effect desired.
The success of traditional cap highlighting has led to adjustments in the cap design to allow for different effects to be achieved. The most noticeable variant of the highlighting cap is called a streaking cap, which allows for larger, bolder streaks of color to be applied to the hair. Naturally, this involves using a large tool to gather and pull the hair through the streaking cap.
Highlighting method pulling hair through a cap with holes
Photo: Mtreasure/Getty Images Signature via Canva
How to Get Your Best Results
Despite the fact that the highlighting cap is the easiest method of applying highlights to the hair, there are still ways in which the process can be done poorly. The following are some tips to help you get the most out of your highlighting cap usage:
• The cap method of highlighting works best with short to medium-length hair that is cut in layered styles. Longer hair can become more easily tangled and knotted when trying to pull it in thin locks through a highlighting cap.
• Comb or brush the hair thoroughly before applying the cap to help prevent tangles and snags from blocking the hair from being pulled through the cap.
• If your hair is coarse in texture or prone to tangles and snags, use a light spray of detangling spray or a shine oil to lubricate the hair before applying the cap to the scalp.
• Use the smallest tool necessary to gather the amount of hair you want to highlight, and pull it through the cap. It is important to keep the holes in the cap as small as possible so that they form a secure collar at the base of the locks of hair that are protruding through the cap's plastic. This prevents the color that is applied later from seeping through the holes and spreading onto the rest of the hair.
• Carefully use the patterns on the cap to keep your locks of hair evenly spaced. Failing to do so may result in uneven color application or a splotchy look in the finished style.
The greatest benefit of using a highlighting cap is that it helps to reduce the risk of errors when highlighting the hair. In many cases, an individual may find that they can actually perform their highlighting service themselves. If the intention is to achieve all-over highlighting and assistance from a friend is required, you can be assured that there is more confidence in doing the highlighting.
Once you have pulled the hair you wish to highlight through the cap, the rest of the process is simple. Apply your hair color as directed on the package instructions, taking care to avoid pressing the color around the holes in the cap.
Once processed, the color can be rinsed away, then shampooed in a preliminary wash, followed by the removal of the cap for a second shampooing and conditioner application.
See also:
Highlighting with foils
Highlighting questions and answers
How to choose natural-looking highlights