hair highlights

What You Need to Know about Hair Highlights

Getting highlights as a teen might have been your first introduction to the world of styling your hair. Moms let their adolescents dabble with hair color without going overboard, and many of our at-home DIY highlights may have photo evidence that haunts us. However, getting highlights professionally is a beauty trend that is tried and true. The technique has many variations and options that can be customized to anyone’s style. Whether you’re looking for bold and chunky highlights or face-framing natural wisps, your stylist is sure to have something to make your hair pop. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide that covers all-things-highlights. Scroll on to find which highlights work best for you and how to maintain your new mane.

Traditional Hair Highlights

When someone refers to getting foils in their hair, it’s usually associated with the traditional highlighting technique. Your colorist will look at your base tones and find a shade that will add lighter strands throughout your hair. Bleach and color is applied at the root and pulled all the way to the end, lightening the entire piece evenly. 

Traditional highlights via Tangerine Salon


The stylist will leave strands untouched between the foils to increase the highlight’s effect. Traditional highlights can be done on a full head of hair or just added to specific sections; the style adds dimension to an otherwise flat color and gives your everyday hair a fresh look. 

Face Framing Highlights

Similar to getting a cut that fits your face shape, stylists can use color to bring out your best features. Face-framing highlights are utilized to attract attention to your most notable characteristics, subtly drawing attention to certain parts of the face . Your hairstylist will assess your look and find a color and highlighting technique that appears natural.

Face-framing highlights via Pinterest


In the past few years, “money pieces” have been a face-framing trend that is a bolder version of the classic approach. Money pieces are bold splashes of color that are usually bright blonde or hotter-toned colors that are placed in the front two chunks of hair, either in curtain bangs or longer strands that directly touch the face. This look is a cool switch-up for those looking for something quick and easy that will change up their style in a big way.

Chunky Highlights

We first saw the emergence of chunky highlights in the early 90s, alongside the terrible trend of frosted tips. One of these throwback looks made a comeback, and thankfully it wasn’t the latter. Chunky highlights are exactly what they sound like: large sections of hair that are bleached to stand out from the base color. One of the most iconic examples of this style was Christina Aguilera’s “Dirty” music video debut, where the pop star sported black hair with bleach blonde chunky highlights. 

Chunky Highlights on Christina via YouTube


Almost all highlighting techniques go for subtlety, but chunky highlights want nothing to do with being delicate. This look is for the bold babes who want to stand out and honor their inner 90s dreams. The best part of chunky highlights is they can be executed on almost any hair color. Stylists can do a bleach blonde chunk on darker hair or even put stark black or neon pink onto blondes. If you’re looking to make a statement, chunky highlights are a no-brainer.


Babylights are for those who want a change, but would rather dip their toes in the water instead of do a cannonball. This highlighting style makes your hair look sun kissed and natural, barely noticeable in the most beautiful way. Stylists use tiny strands of hair placed throughout your whole head, almost lifting the entire color in a way that shimmers when the light hits just right.

Babylights via Pinterest


People who have naturally thin hair can use babylights to add the illusion of texture and volume without cutting anything at all. You won’t have to tease or tussle with your hair for hours and you can ditch the overload of products. Babylights will give you that boost you’ve been looking for sans hours of effort. Your stylist will be able to work with you if you want something low-key, and they can choose any number of color mixtures that match your natural mane.


We’ve all heard this term thrown around in the beauty world, but do we know what the word actually means? In French, Ombre literally translates to “shadow.” This makes perfect sense as the technique creates a faded effect that changes in color from root to tip. An ombre starts with one color at the crown and gradually transforms into another once the ends are reached. Usually, a darker tone is at your roots and the color begins to get lighter as it moves down the head. A reverse ombre is the opposite, and your lightest shade will be at the root.

Ombre via Redken


Your stylist achieves the ombre effect by horizontally applying a lightening agent, getting heavier with the product as they near the ends of your hair. The blended look is perfect for people who want something stylish but low-maintenance. As your ombre grows out, it will still look perfectly chic. You can visit the salon way less and save money while still looking trendy. The grown-out highlighting technique first appeared over a decade ago, but influencers and celebs are still seen rocking the style. Ombre hair allows you to also try out different colors that you might not be confident wearing in full. You’ll be able to keep tones that compliment your complexion towards your face while sporting fashionable hues on your ends.


Stylists were finally seen for their true artistry when the balayage trend hit the scene a few years ago. The hand-painted highlighting technique requires extreme skill and attention to detail. The French term means “to scan” or “to sweep,” and that is literally what it looks like on your head. Balayage is done without foils, making the final look more blended than bold. The trend rose in popularity as people realized it worked with almost any color, cut, and texture of hair. Your balayage hues take center stage as they dance around with your base color.

Balayage via Wella


Similar to ombre highlights, balayage highlights require little maintenance. As they grow out, your highlights will continue to fit seamlessly with your color, sometimes even looking better as they are worn in. Balayage is a great go-to for those who want to change things up without it being too noticeable. If you let your stylist know you want something as natural as possible, it’s likely they’ll do some iteration of a balayage highlight. The technique can brighten up your face and refresh your do with just a few strokes, giving you that extra something you never knew you needed.

Growing out Highlights and Keeping up with the Color

If you’re new to the hair game, you might be wondering about highlight maintenance and the cost of highlights. Luckily, there are so many options available that price points and upkeep can fit anyone’s budget and timeline. Chatting with your stylist about the logistics of your locks will help you better determine the look that will work for you, and most highlighting techniques can be made wallet-friendly and effort-free.

The lowest cost bracket for highlights can be found at a chain hair salon and are usually a partial-foil. These can come in around $25-$45 if you find a stylist who is willing to add a few foils to brighten things up. On average, typical highlights of any style can range from $75-$150, which is highly affordable when you consider the skill and time your stylist is putting in for your look. High-end salons who specialize in ombre and balayage techniques can be pricier, and are usually priced around $250 to start.

As far as maintaining your highlights, there are styles that require more upkeep and some that are virtually effortless. If you’re getting traditional highlights or chunky highlights, you’ll need to visit your salon semi-regularly to make sure your roots haven’t grown out and your color is refreshed. If you opt for balayage or ombre highlights, you can wear the look for as long as you’d like. The strands aren’t lightened at your root, so as they grow out they’ll keep the same effect and you’ll only need to visit once the color nears the ends.

It’s suggested you don’t wash your hair after highlights for at least 48 hours. This allows the color to completely set in and won’t compromise your new pigment. Once the cuticles have closed and your highlight is locked in, it’s safe to shampoo your hair. Experts suggest avoiding water in general, even skipping out on swimming for the first few days post-appointment. It’s also best to find a color-enhancing shampoo that will boost your new hues and keep your new color safe.

Haircuts for Humans: Your Highlight Heroes

By now, you’re probably aware we’re big hair fans in these parts. Our team loves researching new trends and delivering them to our readers, ensuring they know what looks to love and which ones are a no-go. Highlighting your hair is a stress-free way to get a glow up without undergoing a full-on makeover. Though most techniques are fairly subtle, you’ll find that highlights give new life to a look you’ve been rocking perhaps a little too long. What highlights are you going to try out? Leave us a picture in the comments below or tell us what technique you might take for a spin.

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