What are Lowlights and Highlights? What’s the Difference?


Everyone wants that perfect hair color, ranging from blondes to brunettes. We all want dimension in our hair. Lowlights and highlights are a great way to get this without much fuss. You need to be realistic with yourself on how much upkeep you want to do to maintain it.

Lowlights and Highlights
Lowlights and Highlights

Ever see those perfect creamy blondes on the runway? Those are a mixture of lowlights and highlights that blend naturally blonde hair into something more wondrous to behold. Both sets of processes help your hair become the bombshell part of your outfit; most stick to one or the other.

What are Lowlights and Highlights, and how are they different from one another?

highlights vs lowlights
highlights vs lowlights

What Are Highlights?

So, you’re keen on revamping your hairstyle, and you’ve heard the buzz about highlights. But what are they exactly? Simply put, highlights are lighter strands of hair strategically placed to brighten your overall hair color. Celebrity stylist Jenna Smith explains, “Think of Jennifer Aniston’s iconic ‘Rachel’ haircut; those lighter strands you see are highlights, meant to give the hair a sun-kissed appearance.”

The process usually involves bleaching sections of your hair or using lighter hair color. Highlights can be bold, think of the platinum streaks in Lady Gaga’s hair, or they can be subtle, like the gentle highlights often seen on stars like Emma Stone.

What Are Lowlights?

On the flip side, we have lowlights. If highlights are the rays of sunshine, consider lowlights to be the shade under the tree. They add depth and dimension to your hair by introducing darker hues. As renowned hairstylist Marco Johnson puts it, “Imagine the darker tones in someone like Mila Kunis’s wavy locks; those are lowlights at play. They’re strategically dark strands that make the hair appear multi-dimensional.”

Unlike highlights, lowlights use color that is darker than your natural hair shade but blend seamlessly. They can help soften the look of over-highlighted hair or add contrast for a more textured look. Jennifer Lopez’s hairstylist, Lily Martinez, says, “JLo’s iconic caramel tresses often feature lowlights to give her hair that fuller, richer texture.”

Lowlights vs Highlights: What’s the Difference?

There are differences between the two, and both have different processes of being done. While they sound the same, they’re very different in how they’re done.

The process for both lowlights and highlights goes about the same in terms of how it’s applied. Both will either be hand-painted on or done with foils. So while the process of putting them in your hair is the same, the process in which it’s achieved is different.

Lowlights with different hair color
Lowlights with different hair color

Lowlights are there to darken your lighter-colored hair (think of someone with blonde hair who now has darker strands through it to add dimension). Highlights are there to bleach strands of your hair to take a lighter color for that same effect. Some people do both simultaneously, giving their hair a depth of color that can’t be beaten.

Color DirectionHighlights involve coloring or bleaching lighter segments of hair, typically a few shades brighter than your natural color.Lowlights comprise darker strands of hair that are tinted, typically a few shades darker than your natural color.
ObjectiveThe primary aim of highlights is to infuse an overall brightness and lightness into your appearance. They can create a sun-kissed radiance and the visual effect of enhanced texture and volume.Lowlights, on the other hand, are meant to introduce depth and dimension to your hair. They are especially valuable for counteracting a flat or excessively light look resulting from extensive highlighting.
Frequency of Touch-UpsMaintaining highlights requires more frequent attention due to the visible growth of roots and the gradual fading of the color over time.Lowlights usually demand fewer touch-ups, particularly when they are closely aligned with your natural hair color. This makes them less demanding and more cost-effective to keep up.
Ideal CandidatesHighlights work best for individuals with lighter hair shades or those seeking a more daring, vibrant transformation.Lowlights are ideal for individuals with darker hair hues or those desiring a subtler, more understated and natural appearance.
Combined UseOpting for both highlights and lowlights leads to a harmonious, multi-dimensional effect. This approach combines the brightness of highlights with the depth of lowlights, resulting in a striking, balanced look.The combination of highlights and lowlights introduces both luminosity and richness. This technique is frequently observed on celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Selena Gomez, contributing to their captivating hair aesthetics.
Lowlights vs Highlights

Can I get both at the same time?

The answer to this is a resounding yes. You can get lowlights and highlights at the same time, and in fact, you’ve likely seen someone with them and just thought, “They have perfect hair”. That may mean they’re just well-coifed with both of them at the same time to blend the colors.

Getting both lowlights and highlights simultaneously isn’t for the faint of heart though, it takes time, patience, and some maintenance. Be honest with yourself and ask how much you’re willing to go to the salon to maintain these.

Lowlights will be easier to maintain as they aren’t as bright as highlights. Also, they don’t require bleaching, so you can let them grow out if you find the maintenance just isn’t what you want to do. Highlights require more maintenance and being in the salon more frequently.

What Are Babylights?

Babylights are a hair coloring technique that involves adding very fine, subtle highlights to the hair. This technique mimics the dimensional, multi-tonal hair color seen in children’s hair, giving a very natural, sun-kissed look. Babylights are created by taking very small sections of hair and applying color to them, typically with the help of foils. The goal is to create a soft, seamless blend that is less noticeable as it grows out compared to traditional highlights.

The allure of babylights lies in its understated approach: these aren’t the dramatic, chunky highlights of the ’90s or the bold balayage that has been popular in recent years. Instead, babylights aim for a youthful, effortless look that works on virtually all hair types, textures, and colors. Whether your base is a deep brunette, a fiery red, or a light blonde, babylights can add that touch of light and dimension.

Not only are babylights beautiful and flattering, but they’re also low maintenance. Because the highlights are so fine and closely match the base color, the line of demarcation is less noticeable, making it easier to go longer between salon visits. Plus, since the highlights are so fine, they tend to look good whether your hair is straight, wavy, or curly. This makes them an incredibly versatile and appealing option for people looking for a natural but enhanced look.

How much do lowlights and highlights cost?

This depends wholly upon your stylist, but it can range anywhere from $100-$300 per session. Depending on how much needs to go into .” where you want your hair to be will depend on how much it costs. Make sure you consider how long the process will take, as this can also affect the cost.

Don’t go as cheap as possible, though, as doing these are something you want a professional who’s experienced to handle. Make sure you do your research into the stylist’s experience, cost, and then weigh your decision from there.

How do I care for my hair after having this done?

There are so many realms of advice for this. Generally, you’ll want to wash your hair sparingly. If you’re going to clean it often, get a shampoo and conditioner to keep it bouncy and healthy.

These treatments can fade over time, so the more you wash your hair, the faster it will fade. Also, make sure to use a heat protectant on your hair when using hot styling tools. Your hair has already gone through a chemical change, no need to stress it further.

What can I expect with these treatments?

There will be some upkeep when it comes to lowlights and highlights. What you can expect is a long-lasting dimension and some lift to your roots. Should you have fine hair, this is excellent for gaining volume. Expect you will have to care for your hair a bit differently than when it was virgin hair. You don’t want to over-process it.

Over-processing your hair will lengthen the amount of time between treatments. You’ll need to get it back to a healthy state of being before doing any other treatments. Keeping your hair healthy is of utmost importance if you’re a regular at dying your hair in any manner.

What colors are suitable for treatment?

The great thing about lowlights and highlights is that it’s great for any color hair. Usually, you’ll want to go for highlights with darker hair and lowlights with lighter hair. They can both be effective in any color. For the most part, you’ll want to stick to whatever gives you more dimension and dramatic difference.

Your stylist will usually help you with this process in deciding as they know the integrity of your hair. There are different styles and techniques to do your hair. Your stylist can tell by examining your hair whether you should wait or not on getting it done.

How often can I get highlights or lowlights?

Highlights are often harsher on the hair as they need lightning. Lowlights don’t require as much care. Usually, you’ll want to get this done about every six to eight weeks to keep it up. Depending on your hair care routine, that could be sooner if your hair is healthy enough to do so.

Highlights and lowlights are lower maintenance in that you don’t need to get it done as often when it grows out. These will grow out gracefully and still blend into your hair. There are no harsh, hard lines with these treatments. This means they will still blend even if you go over the usual time frame for getting them done.

The Takeaway

When getting highlights or lowlights, you’ll want to talk to your stylist about your options. Usually, they are the best resource you have when it comes to your hair. Ensure you have a stylist that knows what they’re doing. Lightning of your hair will require some skill, so you don’t damage it.

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