Your Highlights Are Aging You — Do This, Say Stylists, So They Lift Features, Blur Wrinkles, and Brighten Hair
Celebrity-inspired highlights make a flattering statement.
The sun won’t be the only thing shining this spring — but only if your hair has the right highlights. According to stylists, ensuring your post-winter “glow up” — as the kids say — requires adding various forms of light to your hair. In fact, certain highlighting techniques can lift features, brighten grays, blur wrinkles, and volumize hair. Read on for the simple strategies to achieving these age-defying at-home techniques for beautiful hair highlights in a flash.
1. To Lift Features: Try ‘Halo’ Highlights
“Bright, face-framing streaks that graduate into lighter ends throughout the head create a halo of light around the face that helps counteract saggy features like droopy eyes and jowls for a more energized, lifted look overall,” says colorist Mike Petrizzi, who has worked with Joan Jett and Mandy Moore.
Get the Look: Using a clean toothbrush (it allows for precise placement), apply the bleach from a highlighting kit (like Revlon Frost & Glow in Platinum, Buy from Amazon, $16.99) onto two 1-inch sections of hair on each side of the face from roots to tips. Then paint onto various ½-inch sections of hair around the rest of the head, applying less bleach on roots and more onto the ends. Let sit for 30 minutes; rinse.
2. To Increase Hair’s Luster: Try Balayage Slices
“Caramel-hued highlights pop against a darker brunette base color, giving once dull or flat-looking hair a healthy, lustrous, sheen,” says Petrizzi. Achieving them by using a balayage (also known as hair painting) technique leaves the roots untouched, so any regrowth will look intentional and you can go up to six months without a touch-up!
Get the Look: Paint bleach from a balayage kit formulated for dark hair (like Clairol Balayage for Brunettes, Buy from CVS, $16.49) onto various ¼-inch sections of hair starting 3 inches away from roots and skipping a ½-inch section in between. This helps create more natural-looking streaks. Let process for 40 minutes before rinsing.
3. To Brighten Grays: Try Babylights
The secret to ensuring grays appear more glowing than granny? Sprinkling them with babylights, fine streaks that mimic the way a child’s hair lightens in the sun, says colorist Jeremy Tardo, who’s worked with Helen Hunt and Natalie Maines. “These subtle highlights instantly brighten the silver hue, and since they’re almost undetectable, there’s no harsh line when hair begins to grow.”
Get the Look: Paint the bleach from a highlighting kit (like Clairol Frost & Tip, Buy from Amazon, $9.97) onto the fine side of an all-purpose comb, then brush onto hair around the face from roots to ends. Let process for 25 minutes, then rinse. Next, to cancel out any yellowing or discoloration in the rest of hair, apply a blue-based toner (like AGEbeautiful Permanent Liqui-Creme Top Coat Toner in Silver Ash Blonde, Buy from Sally Beauty, $10.99) all over damp hair. Let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse.
4. To Slim the Face: Try a Soft Ombré
“My clients love a soft ombré for two main reasons,” says celebrity colorist Mike Petrizzi. “First, the technique — which creates subtly and gradually lighter hair from about ear-length down to the ends — draws the eye vertically, ‘stretching’ the face so it appears long and lean. And second, it works beautifully with any hair color!”
Get the Look: Part hair into six equal sections; leave one down and clip the remaining five sections up. Gently tease a 1-inch segment of the section’s hair at the root, then paint on and heavily saturate ends with bleach from an ombré kit (like L’Oréal Paris Colorista Bleach Ombré, Buy from Amazon, $8), gradually applying less bleach as you move upward; stop at mid-length, then wrap the segment with foil. Continue with 1-inch segments, skipping a 1-inch section in between, and once the whole section is done, repeat with each of the other five sections. Let process 45 minutes before rinsing.
5. To Conceal Incoming Grays: Try ‘Tricolor’ Shadowing
The key to lightening up without having to re-treat grays as quickly as they grow in? A magic mix of highlights, lowlights (two to three shades darker than highlights), and hair’s natural hue. The combo brightens hair without looking overly bleached while seamlessly blending in with incoming or stray grays, says celebrity colorist Jeremy Tardo. Plus, creating a “root shadow” in the same deeper hue as lowlights makes new grays less noticeable as they grow in.
Get the Look: Choose a coloring kit that comes with both bleach and a darker dye (like L’Oréal Paris Couleur Experte in Toasted Coconut, Buy from Amazon, $13.94). First, apply highlights by painting bleach on various ½-inch sections of hair. Let sit for 30 minutes; rinse and blow-dry hair. Next, apply the darker dye onto roots and ¼-inch sections in between the lighter streaks. Let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse.
6. To Blur Wrinkles: Try a Buttery Allover Blonde
The bright reflective nature of an allover golden blonde hue bounces light onto the face, visually softening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, says Luis Rodriguez, a Clairol Professional colorist in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Get the Look: Apply a light blond dye (like Wella ColorCharm Liquid Permanent Hair Color in #811/8N Light Blonde, Buy from Amazon, $7.83) onto hair evenly from roots to ends. Let sit for 30 minutes; rinse. Bonus: To nix any orangey tinge, use a purple shampoo like Pantene Sunlit Blondie Purple Shampoo (Buy from Amazon, $6.80) once a week.
7. To Volumize Hair: Try Platinum ‘Chunks’
“The contrast of dark roots and platinum chunks gives strands added depth for the illusion of a fuller, more ‘solid’ head of hair,” says celebrity colorist Mike Petrizzi. His key for natural-looking streaks when using platinum dye? “Make sure highlights and base color are both cool or ash-toned. This keeps the bright blond color from looking yellow.”
Get the Look: First, apply a cool-toned brown dye (like Clairol Nice’N Easy in #6A Light Ash Brown, Buy from Amazon, $7.57) all over hair. Let sit for 25 minutes, then rinse and blow-dry hair. Next, use a highlighting kit that comes with bleach and toner (like Madison Reed Light Works Balayage Highlighting Kit in Sorrento Cool Vanilla, Buy from Amazon, $45). Starting 2 inches away from roots, apply the bleach onto 1-inch sections of hair, all around the head. Let process for 30 minutes, then rinse. Immediately after, while hair is damp, apply the toner all over. Let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse.
8. To Highlight Facial Features: Try Face-Framing Slivers
“Thin streaks concentrated just in front of the face put all eyes on you and light up your features from bright eyes to a stunning smile,” says Petrizzi. “This is also a great way to test out and tiptoe into highlights without making a full-on commitment, and it’s simple to change up or cover if you end up not liking the look.” An added perk: These slim “slices” of sun-kissed strands have a contour-like effect that visually chisels cheekbones, shedding years from your look.
Get the Look: Grab a highlighting kit that includes a brush-on applicator (like Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color in #BY1 Icing Swirl Balayage Kit, Buy from Amazon, $7.97). This allows you to paint on skinny streaks with ease. Apply bleach onto the brush and paint on three ½-inch sections of hair around the face from roots to ends; repeat on the other side of the face. Let sit for 45 minutes, then rinse.
9. To Enhance Radiance: Try Strawberry Streaks
The “natural” highlights created by a light copper hue’s red, yellow, and brown pigments warm up skin and bring out its youthful radiance, says colorist Joel Warren, who has worked with Jessica Alba and Molly Sims.
Get the Look: Warren advises using a dark copper on roots and a lighter copper from mid-lengths to ends to help achieve the luminous color. Try: Developlus Satin Professional Hair Color in #7GC Golden Copper Blonde (Buy from Amazon, $26.99) and #8GC Light Golden Copper Blonde (Buy from Amazon, $9.99). After color has been applied, brush through hair with a wide-tooth comb from roots to ends to blend the two shades and prevent a harsh line of demarcation. Let the color sit for 40 minutes; rinse.
Bonus: The 3-Step Secret to Hair Color That Lasts
Find that your color needs a touch-up every four to six weeks? These tricks help extend it at all stages of the process for a hair hue that shines up to 12 weeks long.
Before Coloring: Prep With Clarifying Shampoo
A shampoo with citric acid-rich lemon essential oil, like Avalon Organics Clarifying Lemon Shampoo (Buy from Amazon, $7.02), removes impurities from roots and hair’s cuticle so dye can better absorb into strands. Tip: Wash hair once, two days prior to coloring. Natural scalp oils help prevent dye-related irritation.
While Coloring: Protect With This Mix-In
Adding a powder packed with malic acid to bleach or dye before applying “re-seals” broken hair bonds to reduce damage created from coloring. One we like: Step one of pH Plex Protect & Repair (Buy from Amazon, $4.95). Bonus: The step two packet is a post-dye hydrating mask that locks in color.
After Coloring: Enliven With a Clear Gloss
Using a colorless gloss, like L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss in Clear (Buy from Amazon, $15), twice a month coats hair with sheer, shine-inducing molecules to sharpen color and boost vibrancy. Plus, it comes in tinted versions to amp up allover color as well.
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.