Difference Between Highlights And Lowlights


by Arshiya Syeda

When it comes to coloring your hair, the options are endless. But if you want to give your tresses that extra oomph, you have two options – highlights and lowlights. Thanks to popular sitcoms, we know what highlights are – a few hair sections colored in a lighter shade. But what are the lowlights? How different are lowlights from highlights? Which one should you choose? Get all the deets in this article, along with 10 styling ideas. Read on!

What Are Highlights?

Highlights are hair sections or strands dyed three shades lighter than your original hair color. The main purpose of highlighting is to brighten up the overall hair color and add softness and dimension.

For example, if you have jet black hair, your highlights should be a shade of dark brown or reddish-brown. Brunettes can go for copper or caramel hues, and blondes may opt for a lighter shade of blonde or platinum.

There are two ways to highlight your hair. You can get them hand-painted into your hair (which is now the famous ‘balayage’ technique), or you can go the more traditional foil route. In the latter method, aluminum foil pieces are used to separate the highlighted hair sections and warm up the product for a better color payoff. This prevents the color from getting on the surrounding hair and gives you the look you are aiming for.

What Are Lowlights?

Lowlights are the opposite of highlights. In this technique, the hair sections are colored three shades darker than your actual hair color. Lowlights add depth and dimension to your hair, making it look thicker and voluminous.

People usually go for lowlights after highlighting their hair a few times to add some of the colors back to their overly lightened strands.

Lowlights uses the same coloring techniques as balayage and tinfoil techniques. The result may look like “highlighted hair,” but it may not be so. How can you differentiate between highlights and lowlights? Scroll down to find out.

Highlights Vs. Lowlights: What Is The Difference?

Highlights Vs. Lowlights

Shutterstock

In many ways, these two hair color techniques are the opposites of each other. Let’s look at some of the significant differences between highlights and lowlights:

  • Highlights generally look better on dark hair (like shades of brown and black), and lowlights have a more prominent effect on lighter hair (like shades of blonde and light brown).
  • This may be a dampener on your hair coloring dreams, but highlighting damages your hair as it involves bleaching to lighten your hair color. Lowlighting, however, requires depositing color onto your hair to dye it the shade you want.
  • Though both highlights and lowlights add dimension to your hair, highlights add more movement to it and give it a sun-kissed effect, while lowlights are great for adding depth and volume to your tresses.
  • When you should be sporting highlights or lowlights also depends on the season. Highlights usually look better with summer styles as they give your hair that perfect sun-kissed look. On the other hand, lowlights work better during the winter due to their darker coloring.

Now that you know the difference between highlights and lowlights, you might wonder which one you should get. Let’s figure that out in the following section.

Highlights Or Lowlights: Which One Should You Get?

 You can get highlights or lowlights depending on two things:

  • Your Original Hair Color: If your original hair color is dark (black, red, auburn, shades of dark to medium brown), go for highlights. If it’s blonde, go for lowlights.
  • If Your Hair Is Colored: If your hair is bleached to a lighter shade and you want to add depth to it, go for lowlights. If your hair is colored darker than your actual hair color, go for highlights to add dimension and movement.

But is it necessary to choose either one of them? Find out in the next section.

Can You Mix Highlights And Lowlights?

Yes, you can! Rather, your stylist may mix two styles to make your hair look voluminous and trendy and enhance your sense of style. If you want a multi-dimensional hair color with multi-colored highlights, your colorist will use various shades to highlight and lowlight certain sections of your hair. The result? Effortless pizzazz that looks fabulous on everybody.

If you have not jumped off your chair/couch yet, here are a few styling ideas for highlights and lowlights that will certainly get you moving towards the nearest salon. Scroll down!

Top 5 Styling Ideas For Highlights

1. Soft Blonde Highlights

Soft Blonde Highlights

Shutterstock

Now, here’s a great highlight idea for all you ladies with blonde hair. Brighten up your global honey blonde color by highlighting it with a light golden blonde shade. Cut and style it in a long wavy bob to transform into a total beach babe.

2. Milk Chocolate Highlights

Milk Chocolate Highlights

Shutterstock

If you have medium brown hair, these highlights will do wonders for you. Go for a light milk chocolate brown shade of highlights to complement your brown tresses. Curl the lower half of your hair to enhance the movement and dimension already created by the highlights.

3. Caramel Highlights

Caramel Highlights

Shutterstock

Here’s a gorgeous highlight style that you won’t be able to get enough of. Caramel highlights have a richness to them that cannot be recreated by any other shade. Go for this shade on mahogany brown hair and slay everyone with your gorgeous hair game.

4. Bronze Balayage Highlights

Bronze Balayage Highlights

Shutterstock

Remember the balayage technique? That’s what’s been done here to create this stunning hair look. Highlight the lower half of your auburn hair with a beautiful bronze to create this gorgeous contrasting style.

5. Sun-kissed Highlights

Sun-kissed Highlights

Shutterstock

A great thing about having jet black hair is that no matter what shade you highlight it with, it is bound to look awesome. These dull gold highlights look like they were molten and dripped down her dark tresses to create a mysterious and sultry effect.

Like you have so many options to experiment with highlights, there are multiple options for lowlights. Here are our top 5 picks.

Top 5 Styling Ideas For Lowlights

1. Dark Gray Lowlights

Dark Gray Lowlights

Shutterstock

When going for lowlights, you don’t need to stick to the spectrum of your base color. Experiment with shades of multiple contrasting colors. These dark gray lowlights, for example, amp up the movement and dimension of her brown hair to the core.

2. Coffee Brown Lowlights

Coffee Brown Lowlights

Shutterstock

Tired of your same ol’ light blonde hair? Break the boredom by opting for some lowlights to change your look. Go for some sandy brown lowlights right at the top and around the crown of your head to add some serious depth and color to your monochrome blonde tresses.

3. Mahogany Lowlights

Mahogany Lowlights

Shutterstock

An excellent way to add some fun texture and volume to your ginger hair is to go for some seriously dark lowlights. A deep mahogany shade will work like a charm in making your ginger hair look super thick and full of life.

4. Night Black Lowlights

Night Black Lowlights

Shutterstock

While you are not supposed to go more than a couple of shades darker than your base color, but some rules are meant to be broken. For instance, you could go for some super dark lowlights (almost black) on your light blonde hair to create a luscious and super multidimensional hair look.

5. Transcending Dimensions Lowlights

Lowlights

Shutterstock

Seldom do you come across a hair color that you keep thinking about. Multi-colored lowlights are one of them. If you have blonde hair, you can try multi-colored lowlights without damaging your hair. Your stylist will take sections of your hair and deposit various colors, ranging from dark brown and ash to violet and pink. Wash it off at the right time to give your hair depth, volume, and an enigmatic transdimensional look that is tough to look away from.

Whether you choose highlights, lowlights, or a mix of both, the options are open to you. Now that you know the difference between highlights and lowlights and have styling ideas in mind, you can talk to your stylist and envision how your hair might look after coloring it. So, go ahead get that hair makeover you have been pushing for months.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Can lowlights cover gray hair?

Yes, lowlights can cover gray hair. They will make the hair look naturally beautiful and add depth and movement.

How much do lowlights cost?

Lowlights may cost around $100 to $500, depending on the stylist’s expertise, location, color used, length, and hair density.

Do lowlights work for all hair colors?

Lowlights may not work for jet black and dark brown hair colors. You need highlights for darker hair colors.

Are there any hair colors that shouldn’t get lowlights?

Apart from colors that are too close to your original hair color, you can experiment with different colors and hues for lowlights.

How often do you need to touch-up lowlights and highlights?

If you have highlights, you may need a touch-up every 5 weeks. If you have lowlights, you can get touch-ups once in 2-3 months.

Will highlights damage your hair?

Yes, highlights can damage your hair. Highlighting involves bleaching your hair color by at least 3 shades. Getting frequent highlights without taking proper care of your hair can cause serious damage.

Recommended Articles

Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.

Arshiya Syeda

Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).
scorecardresearch