Highlighting & Highlights

Brown hair with highlights
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The wind, surf, and sun make her hair glisten with golden highlights as she strolls lazily along the beach. She was a college student taking a break from her studies. Here, her and her friends all had hair that radiated several shades of blonde, with long thin streaks of strawberry blonde, platinum blonde, and red over light and medium brown giving the appearance of being au natural, but costing her hundreds of dollars.
Every week, thousands of women go to the salon of their choice to get highlights. This is part of their lifestyle. They set up a budget and realize they are high-maintenance ladies. Coloring their hair isn't just an option, but a necessity in their lives. As they get their hair serviced about 2 or 3 times a year, their stylist/colorist becomes a confidant and friend as she shares her life story.
Your Natural Hair Color and Highlights
To lift your hair up one or five levels depends on the color of your natural hair. If you are a dark blonde, your colorist can easily mix up a formula to lift your hair a few shades lighter without using bleach. If you have light brown hair and apply a high-powered blonde formula, there will always be a certain amount of reddish blonde brought up and deposited, because all browns have a certain amount of red. Reddish blonde is beautiful on some ladies and can look quite flattering with the right complexion.
If you have always dreamed of having highlights and you are a dark brown, here is something for you to consider. When lightening dark hair, there will always be some red involved due to the various stages of the process. The red/orange can be toned down with the appropriate toner to address this. However, light blonde strands running through dark brown is not the most flattering look on anyone. I have heard some call it the "skunky look", while others call it an Oreo cookie. The contrast between light blonde and dark brown/black is too drastic.
There is hope. Why not bring your hair up to a rich, golden hue? Not orange, but a shimmering gold. The dramatic effect could be dazzling. If you are daring and would like to be even lighter, put another color alongside your gold and brown, such as a rich coppery red. This would bring you three festive shades, discreetly of course. The best time to do this, if you want it to be kept secret, is to get serviced at a reputable salon while you are on holiday. People will think you have biked for miles in the sunshine when they admire your mane.
Hair with highlights
Hair with highlights
If you are a redhead and desire some highlights, this can be easily obtained by foiling your hair up one or two shades. Strawberry blonde can enrich the whole head of a true redhead and you will be ready to go anywhere with confidence.
Covering Gray Hair with Highlights
Highlights cover up gray and make you feel a bit younger. For those who are already young, they make them feel more attractive. Whether you have long or short hair, highlights are here to stay. My observation has been that 98% of women tint their hair for fun or to cover up the gray, highlight, or do both to their hair.
Is highlighting for you, though? If you have silver hair and want to cover up the gray by highlighting, chances are it will only make you look older. How can this be, you might ask? If you already have gray hair, it will look yellowed and washed out from the sun. You won't be fooling anyone and will look exactly like you have "highlighted" over gray hair. Because of this, tint the hair first with an attractive light brown or dark blonde color, and then highlight. Alternatively, you can ask your hairdresser about putting in some lowlights along with the highlights. This will take care of the yellowish-grayish blonde. Lowlights can range in shades anywhere from chocolate brown to a dark blonde for contrast and will do more deposit than lift.
The rule of thumb is to remember to go lighter, not darker, as you age. Some people want three shades and decide to add a red as well. As we age, not only does our hair gray, but our facial skin appears to do so too. We seem to “gray out” everywhere. Color does help us along this journey. If you are fortunate enough to have silver hair mixed in with your brown, believe it or not, you already have the most appealing color for you personally, unless your hair is not ultra-fine and difficult to work with. Then, it is time for you to color.
Another thought towards covering the gray and having golden highlights without all of the cost is to purchase a golden blonde/brown color and tint your whole head. The gray will be golden with automatic highlights without all the expensive cost and your natural color should be about two levels up with just a little bit of reddish tones involved. The secret is not so much to look younger, but to look attractive and well-kept at your age. Ask your hairdresser if there are other ways to cover your gray besides highlighting, and perhaps suggest what I have suggested.
Blonde over Blonde
Blonde over blonde equals blonde. Why foil when your hair has become blonde all over? At that point, all you need is a touch-up. If you are serious about a contrast, then you are a good candidate for lowlights. Remember, highlights and lowlights are detail work and should be left up to the professional. This work can take many tedious hours. It will save you money in the end. Many colorists have worked to repair messed-up colors.
Have you ever heard the phrase "less is more"? That is especially true when it comes to coloring hair. Subtlety is much more attractive than a head of hair that shouts "I am blonde!" Mystery is magical, not obviousness. Be wondrous. Let their imaginations puzzle over the charisma of your locks. Be an enigma. With a good attitude, the right color and cut, your hair can influence all those around you. You won't have to shout "I am a blonde!" All heads will be charmed when you enter the room.
There are many types of bleaches available today to use with your foils. There is still the powder bleach, but now it contains special ingredients to prevent drying out and flaking. Other types of bleaches include oil bleach, crème bleach, and a combination of the two. I prefer oil and crème bleach for any high lifts, as I look for ways to keep hair in good condition. They are gentler on the hair than powdered bleaches.
A long time ago, there were only harsh, high-powered bleaches that could leave hair like straw if one was not careful. We did not have the deep-moisture conditioners that we have now. Only crème rinses and oil treatments were available. Everyone wanted to be a platinum blonde, and many of us had to have double processes to bring our hair up to that level. Our scalps would be burning as we madly fanned our heads. By the time we had dyed our hair to the desired pale yellow, we then had to turn around and apply the toner to achieve the color we desired. The double process was a one-time thing in the beginning, but it was a nightmare to go through at the time.
The fun part with such a light color was that I could choose any shade of blonde I desired, and I would go through a touch up once a month. It would be unthinkable for anyone to see my dark roots, even though I knew I wasn't hiding the fact that I had bleached my hair (yes, I shouted "blonde!"). Today, it is almost fashionable to sport a couple of months' worth of new growth and reveal an inch or two of one's natural hair. Colorists do not find this appealing at all.
There are many pathways you can take if you are serious about highlighting your hair. Be open to what would look best on you and be consistent with your lifestyle and personality. You might be blonde right now, but have the personality of a sassy redhead. There isn't anything quite like beautiful red hair. Color and cut are everything. Don't give up or be discouraged; your unique color, designed just for you, is just waiting for you.
See also:
How to choose natural-looking highlights
Foil highlighting
How to highlight hair with a highlighting cap
Questions and answers about highlights