Highlights, lowlights…. what are the “right-lights” for you?

We speed dialed Samantha Grover, top creative colorist and sought-after balyage expert at Off 7th hair salon,  to share hair highlights ideas and give us a full breakdown on how to do highlights the right way.

Next time you catch up with your colorist, you’ll be a pro when it comes to all the lingo - Foils, Balayage, Ombre, Sombre and everything in between.

What are highlights and lowlights?
Highlights are specific thin sections of hair that are foiled out in a pattern then lightened, roots to ends, to the client’s desired brightness giving an overall lightened effect to the hair plus lots of dimension!
If highlights are lighter sections of hair dyed into your hair, lowlights go in completely the opposite direction. They involve picking up a few thin or thick sections of hair and coloring them in a shade or two darker than your base color.

How are different types of highlights and lowlights created?
When you add highlights, hair is usually treated with a foil technique, as this is the most traditional form of highlights. Foils are lightened sections of hair, in a pattern all around the head, to give an overall lighter appearance. The colorist can determine what type of pattern and what size sections to take based on the client’s desired finished look. Very natural, sun-kissed looks entail smaller weaved sections. If the client wants a bolder look that would entail thicker, sliced sections!
Foil highlights require ongoing maintenance, upkeep and regular salon visits…it’s a “forever service” for colorists! But clients prefer less commitment.  And this has led to another form of lightening the hair... balayage!


What is balayage?
Balayage, which is what most of my clients want is free-hand painting off the root.  It’s a super blended technique that is much more natural and subtle, sun kissed. Leaving the hair with tons of dimension and much less maintenance than your standard highlight. I typically like to give a “halo effect” which is keeping the lighter shades up around the face, in the hairline and towards the ends!”

How often do you have to renew highlights and lowlights?
With the traditional technique of foiling, the regrowth is very noticeable.  So at the very least, every 6-8 weeks. Balayage is much easier to maintain.  It doesn’t have hard lines, so it grows out gracefully.  My clients can go 3-6 months between coloring!

Hair Highlights Ideas: What’s the Most Popular?
A lot of my clients want a full head of back-to-back foils.  That’s how they go really light blonde without double-processing (“Double-processing” is how pros bleach hair up to Gwen Stefani-platinum.  It’s a super harsh process, best left to highly experienced colorists.  To be clear…this is an FYI, NOT a DIY!) - Essentially blonde hair highlights are a hack to minimize damage.
But to be honest, it’s a lot of upkeep.  And you better learn to embrace your roots…or how to cover them up with a really good root concealer!

Most of my clients want, and love balayage. It’s such a personal way to add a pop of brightness around someone’s face, or highlight a cut. Very blend-able, and really easy to customize, too! With all of the updo’s going on….ponies, braids, buns…I like to paint balayage highlights into the undersides of girls’ hair so when they put their hair up,  you’re not looking at this giant dark mass of hair underneath.
Same with the hairline.  It’s much prettier when it’s softly blended with some sun kissed touches of light. It’s like contouring the hair!


Hair Highlights Ideas: Ombre and Sombre
I still see a lot of this look going around but today... it’s done a bit differently. I would say more of a “melted” effect rather than the harshness that an ombre used to have a few years back. Both looks are still going from solid roots - to solid ends... but now it’s done in a much softer way.  Color melting highlights hair in a more natural way.

Hair Highlight Ideas: Are Highlights for Curly Hair?
I do highlights on curly hair, but it’s tricky.  With straight hair, you know where the color is going to fall - you can map out the contrast.With curls, they’re constantly changing shape and position, so highlights are really just random sparks of light.  But they can look really pretty and give curls a whole new depth and dimension.

Shop This Blog Post