The Great Big Guide To Highlights

To the uninitiated, highlights can be daunting. Just as the Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow, the nuanced results you can achieve using the various methods on the full spectrum of base colors, from dark to light, are legion.
To demystify the process and help you ensure you get the look you want, we talked to the best colorists in the beauty game for their tips on everything from what words to drop in your color descriptions to the difference between buzzwords like babylights, sombré, and ecaille. But, first let's take a look at what you need to know before your head even goes near the dye.

Before You Arrive
Come with your root-flag flying. “Using root-camouflaging products before getting your hair colored doesn’t let us see the base color we’re working with,” explains Redken celebrity colorist Tracey Cunningham. So, skip the root touch-up pen just on the day of your appointment, though Cunningham specifies that dry shampoo is okay to apply pre-coloring session. Coloring dirty hair is also fine, but be kind to your colorist and skip the just-worked-out sweatiness.     

The Consultation

Colorist Jack Howard uses his own hair-color Pinterest board to communicate with clients. Bringing in photos is encouraged. “It can be more helpful for your colorist if you bring in a picture of what you don’t like!” says Cunningham. Become acquainted with the universal hair-color chart used to describe natural and dyed hues: 1 is black, and 10 is the lightest possible platinum. Lastly, consider your cut before your color. “I always recommend first cutting hair into the style you’re looking for, then consider what color would accentuate that cut,” says Reyad Fritas, artistic director of Fekkai Fifth Avenue
Now that you know the pre-appointment basics, keep reading to get the full breakdown on all the different highlight options and which one is right for you, plus a roundup of all the products to keep your color going strong between appointments.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series