A few flecks of blonde dispersed expertly throughout your lengths can accentuate your eye colour, warm up your complexion and even lift your cheekbones. But book into any salon and your chosen colourist is likely to follow the same tired technique: bleach applied to bone-dry hair either using a brush or fingers, followed by a head of unsightly foils. While this method is proven to achieve a brilliant blonde, it often takes hours and can leave hair looking and feeling frazzled thanks to the high level of chemicals.
Lately, though, London hairstylists have discovered that the key to brighter, healthier and even faster blonde highlights is a tiny tweak during the highlighting process, and it's pretty simple: applying the colour to wet hair.
Coined 'wetlights' by colourists who are practising the burgeoning trend, it may not sound as buzzy as some others, but it's starting to take salons by storm. "Wetlights is a freehand highlighting technique which means colour is painted on to wet hair to soften and break up a harsh hairline or regrowth," says Francesca Dixon, creative colourist at Hari's salon, which is pioneering the technique. "It also provides a halo of light that brightens up the overall colour, but most interestingly, restricts extreme damage, leaving hair stronger, smoother and healthier looking."
Applying colour to wet rather than dry hair means that the water encourages the cuticles to open, so colour lifts around 50% faster than traditional colour techniques. As a result, hair feels softer and looks glossier, but the best part is that depending on the thickness and length of your hair, the process only takes around 5-15 minutes maximum before drying and styling.
During the appointment, Francesca typically opts for a tailored combination of products. "At Hari's, we use the L’Oréal 9 Levels of Lift with the L’Oréal Professionnel SMARTBOND treatment (both available in salon) as they work together as a nourishing and hydrating bleach formula to create a cleaner, less brassy result. The trick is to comb the hair until it is slicked back to ensure we can apply colour close to the root and get as many face framers as the client likes. We'll also place a few pieces throughout the mid-lengths and ends to give a sun-kissed glow and break up any harshness." The result is natural colour and hair that feels nourished, not strawlike.
Whether chunky or fine, if highlights aren't your thing and you prefer that natural, "no-colour colour" finish, Francesca says that wetlights can work to enhance what you already have when placed correctly. The addition of water also means that the colour is evenly dispersed and not heavily concentrated to a handful of strands, which can look 'blocky'. "Our clients who have highlights, balayage and subtle colour love them not only for the speed but the ability to drastically improve hair health. For this reason, I'd definitely recommend the method for those who have ongoing colour treatments and are looking to regain beautiful, glossy locks with great results."
At Hari's, wetlights are similarly priced to original highlights and start at £95, but the technique will vary across salons. Francesca concludes that even though it takes a fraction of the time to achieve, the colour lasts just as long as usual highlights, so you won't need to constantly book in for top-ups.
To maintain your highlights, it pays to switch up your haircare routine. Heading back into salon for a hair toner treatment is a great shout. Also try L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Blondifier Gloss Shampoo and Conditioner Duo, £27.45, to keep hair vibrant, not brassy, for longer. Fudge Clean Blonde Shampoo, £4.50, works to keep harsh yellow tones at bay, while a weekly mask such as Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Colustre Masque, £45.90, or BLEACH London Reincarnation Mask, £7.50, softens and protects.