The Ultimate Guide To Highlighting Your Hair

The new year is rapidly approaching, and with it comes the inevitable itch to reinvent yourself. New year, new you, amirite? (Sorry.) The best, and often easiest, way to make a change is by switching up your hair. Is a cut too daring for you? Not ready to do a full-fledged, all-over dye job? Then, we suggest trying highlights.

When done right, highlights will immediately both brighten your face and transform your hair — a change, yes, but not a capital-C change. If you're not sure what style to choose from (babylights, tortoiseshell...who can keep up, really?), don't sweat it: That's where we come in. We tapped four colorists to share with us their favorite looks, and included some celebrity-highlight greatest hits. Ahead, inspiration to pin or take to your colorist. Also, why wait until January 1 to make the change? Carpe diem, and all that.
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Photo: Via @frogirlginny.
"A hair-painting technique, like the Pintura method we use at Devachan, is great on this curl type. You can really bring out the texture and dimension of the curls. I painted Ginny’s curls freehand to the movement and shape of her curl pattern and cut. The result is a bold feel, with a heavy pop of golden tones — perfect for amazing, big hair!" —Rachael Urrico, hairstylist at Devachan
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Photo: Via @ninezeroone.
"Dimension can be achieved without a large difference in depth. This color is great for those who want all-over brightness, and for the hair to be very blended. She still has a shadowed root, with a pop around her face and ends." —Tabitha Baker-Duenas, color specialist at Nine Zero One
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Photo: Courtesy of Cherin Choi.
"This hair color and highlighting is great for someone that wants to keep it low-maintenance. It only needs a toner once every four to six months, and grows in with her natural color, blended in throughout her hair. It will slowly become more of an ombré that blends down nicely.

"It's great for brunettes that want to go lighter without having to commit to anything that will turn brassy or warm. The hair is lightened up enough to fade to more of a blondish tone, once it's grown out for several months. It's highlighted all throughout, from the roots with lightened tips, then toned darker from the root, and then with a lighter gloss from the mid-length down." —Cherin Choi, colorist at Ramirez Tran Salon
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Photo: REX Shutterstock.
"Khloé has the lightest hair color out of all her siblings, however, has always kept her mane very dark. We decided to go back to her 'roots,' and in about a six-month period, gradually, we achieved this beautifully highlighted blond color. [She went] from being a dark brown, to an ombré, to a sombré, to this ultimate blond. [We did] lots of Olaplex treatments during coloring and in-between salon visits, to keep her hair healthy and minimize breakage.

"Her eyes are a beautiful deep-brown, and her olive skin works great with this winter-blond. Very natural, with a glow." —Tracey Cunningham, Redken celebrity colorist
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Photo: Via @charyjay.
"This look features 'tipping' at the ends of curls. Tipping the ends gives a fun pop of color to any curl pattern! To achieve this look, ask for honey-brown tipped ends." —Rachael Urrico
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Photo: Courtesy of Cherin Choi.
"This hair color was bleached from half an inch [away from] the scalp. By leaving a darker root, the client has been able to simply grow it out into a smooth, transitioned ombré. From several visits to just touch up the gray, the client is able to enjoy the blond hair underneath by either wearing it [as] an ashy blond or touching it up with gray tones, or even punky colors. The hair was bleached to a pale yellow, then toned with gray and violet tones to achieve this look." —Cherin Choi
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Photo: Via @traceycunningham1.
"Being a natural redhead myself, I LOVE working with red hues. Taking a blonde to red is a transition — you have to make sure the blond hair you're working with is as healthy and manageable as possible. So if your client has porous, damaged hair, start with an Olaplex treatment for 20 minutes.

"With Leslie's red transformation, I also did lowlights and highlights. I don't like 'hot roots' on a redhead, so I made her overall look very warm and soft. The end result: Leslie looks like a natural redhead!" —Tracey Cunningham
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Photo: Via @andyallo.
"Most curly girls looking to go blond are ALWAYS scared of [highlights] changing their curl pattern. Have no fear! Pintura allows you to have control over the distribution of the color by NEVER overlapping the same curl that was previously highlighted, which maintains the integrity of your curls! This look is best described as a two-toned blond, offering some warm-blond tones and some paler blond Pintura highlights for an extra pop!" —Rachael Urrico
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Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.
Chrissy Teigen is something of a highlighting queen. She's had some of our favorite looks to date, from blond to light brown to everything in-between. And she manages to pull them all off flawlessly. We love these understated golden highlights, which subtly pop against her auburn hair.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cherin Choi.
"Some fun coloring for those with blond hair! As long as you stay away from green, it's non-committal since it washes out nicely over time. I recommend trying pink or lavender to start, since they wash out quickly. The hair was highlighted all over to a beautiful blond, then I used Pravana pink — with some hints of orange and magenta — to punch it up." —Cherin Choi
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Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI.
"To get Shakira’s strawberry blond, highlights and lowlights are a great choice! The lowlights create that warm blond, with a hint of copper, and highlights add a bright pop. Ask your stylist to face-frame some of the lighter pieces to brighten up the face." —Rachael Urrico
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEI.
Beyoncé's blond highlights reach new levels of enviable with a super-high ponytail.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cherin Choi.
"For the darker-haired client that wants a lighter effect overall, we bumped her base to lighten it up, then blended down with highlights and tips all over; it has a darker and warmer toner for fall. For someone that is willing to come in more often to maintain a base adjustment, a base bump is more advisable than an actual permanent hair color. It is enough to go brunette with less of the reddish-brown circumstances that usually follow." —Cherin Choi
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Photographed by Justin Ryan Kim.
Amp up your curly mohawk with blond tips, like Teen Vogue's beauty and health director Elaine Welteroth.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cherin Choi.
"This is an example of a low-maintenance brunette hair color for someone with naturally darker hair. This type of hair-coloring can last you six months to a year. It will fade to a beautiful blond ombré once it grows out, and can be maintained with glosses or toners; hair color should last longer than a month or two.

"Rather than coloring your hair to brown using permanent base colors, this technique allows many different options for adjusting from blond to brunette. Highlights were placed over her natural hair color, along with lightened tips, then toned with Redken shades." —Cherin Choi
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Photo: Via @anthonyholguin.
"Here is a great example to show the power of tone. Tone is the actual shade of color. There is warm (gold) and cool (blue). The perfect shade can do wonders for your complexion. Brassy to classy!" —Tabitha Baker-Duenas
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Photo: Via @hairbytabitha.
"Living in California, there are a lot of blondes — sometimes, too blonde. Keeping hair bright and clear is very important. Here's [a look] I did recently — she was near platinum before! By placing shadows throughout, I was able to define her brightness while contouring her shape." —Tabitha Baker-Duenas
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Photo: Via @helzzzrich.
"I love that this look has a sun-kissed feel on the ends. It's beautiful on corkscrew curls, and can last up to a year! The color is low-maintenance and subtle. The colorist can just start applying color slightly off the root, and create this beachy, sandy-tone feel that requires minimal upkeep." —Rachael Urrico
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Photo: Via @sincerelyjules.
"Nikki Lee from Nine Zero One salon colors [style blogger Julie Sariñana's] hair. She keeps the 'pop' pieces around her face, and on the tips, to create a dimensional brunette that is both effortless and flattering. It's like she lives at the beach (she pretty much does)." —Tabitha Baker-Duenas
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Photo: Via @bwatuwant.
"This look is a personal favorite of mine! It requires using two different colors: one a highlight and the other a mid-light, which is a color lighter than the base color but not as light as the highlight. Using both allows the colorist to create a ton of dimension and show off the structure of the curls beautifully!" —Rachael Urrico
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Photo: Via @hairbytabitha.
"Subtlety is king. By putting light in strategic areas, the highlight directs the eye and tells the story — here, accentuating the short, blunt cut." —Tabitha Baker-Duenas
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