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If you love highlights but want a look that’s more subtle, prepare to be obsessed with babylights. Learn all about this low-maintenance highlighting technique, ahead.

Babylights Are the Sun-Kissed Hair Color Trend We Can’t Get Enough Of

If you love highlights but want a look that’s more subtle, prepare to be obsessed with babylights. Learn all about this low-maintenance highlighting technique, ahead.

Think back to how your hair looked as a child during the summer. Chances are, you probably had natural, sun-kissed highlights gifted by Mother Nature herself. But is it possible to recreate those natural-looking streaks as an adult? The good news is they are attainable—with the right highlighting technique, that is.

Enter babylights: This highlighting technique mimics the natural highlights you had as a child (hence the name “baby” lights). And, while this lightening method may appear subtle at a glance, it can seriously transform your hair, adding eye-catching dimension and brightness to a lackluster mane.

There are so many reasons to be obsessed with babylights, starting with the fact that pretty much anyone can pull off this flattering, sun-kissed look. Ahead, we’re sharing some of the facts you should know about these delicate highlights, including how babylights differ from other color techniques (like balayage), who they may be best suited for, and how to maintain the look between salon visits.

What Are Babylights?

Babylights—sometimes referred to as “playground highlights—are thin, delicate highlights designed to help enhance your hair’s natural dimension. Typically, they’re finely woven throughout the hair to create a natural sun-kissed effect, similar to the way a child’s hair naturally lightens during the summer months.

Good hair day by @sunniebrook.

Babylights vs. classic highlights

As mentioned above, babylights are technically a type of highlights. That said, they differ from classic foil highlights in a few key ways. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, they’re thinner—often, significantly so. While babylights are delicately woven and placed very close together, chunky highlights use thicker sections of hair to create pops of color and a high-contrast look. (The nostalgic “tiger stripe” highlights of the early ‘00s are the perfect example of a high-contrast, chunky highlight look.)

Babylights also tend to be less obvious than traditional highlights. The super-fine weave pattern of babylights creates more of a natural, blended effect with less color contrast between the lightened strands and your natural color. Because of this, babylights may not always read as highlights—they often have more of a beach babe aesthetic than a fresh-from-the-salon vibe.

Good hair day by @kristakstorm.

Babylights vs. balayage

Balayage is another highlighting technique that, similar to babylights, has a natural-looking effect. With balayage, bleach is hand-painted onto the strands (rather than placed in foils, as is the case with babylights). The color is then processed under plastic wrap or in open air, creating a soft, natural-looking transition between the base and highlight colors.

The goal of balayage is to replicate the natural look of grown-out hair color, whereas babylights mimic a natural sun-kissed effect. Depending on your hair texture and the look you’re going for, your stylist may even combine both techniques to create gorgeous, customized highlights.

Good hair day by @thebangsbabe.

Who Are Babylights Best For?

Babylights can be a flattering option for all hair types, colors, and textures. Although anyone can pull off this look, it really complements those with fine hair. The texture of fine hair allows the subtle highlight technique to really shine, whereas thicker, coarser hair may require a heavier highlight to make as much of an impact. Strategically placed babylights can also create the illusion of more fullness for anyone with fine strands.

If you’re not sure whether babylights are the right option for your hair, we recommend booking a consultation with a professional colorist. They can answer any questions you have and customize your babylights in a way that flatters your skin tone, haircut, and preferred styles.

What Are the Advantages of Babylights?

Babylights are perfect for anyone who wants to switch up their look without going for a dramatic change. This technique is also great for anyone seeking a fairly low-maintenance way to enhance their natural hair color.

Below, we’re sharing some of the top perks you can expect when trying out this highlighting technique.

Subtle, natural-looking highlights

Babylights create a soft and natural look that adds dimension and depth to your natural hair color. This makes them great for achieving a sun-kissed look that’s subtle and versatile.

Enhanced overall hair color

Babylights can be a great option for anyone who doesn’t like the look of traditional highlights. As mentioned above, babylights create a blended look, which can make your overall hair color appear lighter. So, someone with naturally dark brown hair could add babylights throughout their hair as a way to create the appearance of medium brown hair—without needing to bleach all of their hair.


Because babylights are so fine and delicate, new growth is often less obvious than it would be with high-contrast, chunky highlights. This can make them a great choice for those with tighter budgets, as well as those who simply prefer lower-maintenance hairstyles.

Gentle on your strands

You can use babylights to add dimension and vibrancy throughout your strands, but here’s an added bonus: They may also be gentler than other hair color techniques. This is because placing thinner sections of hair inside the foil allows your strands to process more quickly (equating to less time with bleach on your hair).

Good hair day by @beautybyqwolf.

How Much Do Babylights Cost?

The cost of babylights can vary depending on your current hair color, location, and stylist. In many cases, babylights will be in a similar price range as traditional highlights. They may cost a bit more, however, as the ultra-fine technique can potentially require more time, product, and precision.

How much time you’ll need in the salon chair will depend on many factors, like your hair length and texture. We recommend speaking with your colorist if you’re considering babylights. They can offer advice and help you get your desired look within your budget.

Good hair day by @paulabadosa.

How Do I Ask My Stylist for Babylights?

First and foremost, we’d advise against taking a DIY approach with babylights (or any highlights, for that matter). It takes experience and expertise to mimic natural hair color and create subtle dimension, and doing it yourself could lead to uneven results or even damage. So, leave this style to the pros.

If you don’t already have a colorist you love, you’ll want to do some research before deciding where to go. Look for a colorist who specializes in or has experience with babylights—you can check out their social media channels or even ask your friends for recommendations.

Once you’ve found the right colorist, make an appointment and share your hair goals with them. If they already have experience with babylights, they should have an idea of what you’re going for. However, it always helps to bring photos of the color you’re hoping to achieve—stylists generally appreciate having inspirational photos to reference.

Good hair day by @tamhair_style.

How Long Do Babylights Last?

With babylights, grow-out is typically less obvious than classic highlights or chunky highlights. This means you may have a bit more flexibility when it comes to deciding when to schedule your next salon visit. For the most part, babylights should be touched up approximately every six to eight weeks—but this can vary depending on your personal preferences and how quickly your hair grows.

And remember: Your colorist is the only person who should touch up your babylights. They can ensure that you get the look you want with minimal damage to your strands.

How To Maintain Babylights

To keep your babylights looking fresh and vibrant between salon visits, you’ll need the right color care products. Here are a few of our favorite products for color-treated hair from the L'Oréal portfolio of brands.

Good hair day by @redken.

Redken Blondage High Bright Pre-Shampoo Treatment

Before shampooing your hair, reach for a pre-shampoo treatment, like the Redken Blondage High Bright Pre-Shampoo Treatment. This treatment is the first step in Redken’s High Bright hair care system. It deeply cleanses and purifies your highlighted strands for an instantly illuminated, brighter-looking blonde.

Redken Blondage High Bright Shampoo and Conditioner

Investing in a good shampoo is essential for maintaining vibrant babylights. Redken’s Blondage High Bright Shampoo is powered by vitamin C and Redken's Brightening Care Complex to instantly brighten your locks. It’s formulated to wash away buildup and impurities in your hair and can help brighten dulled, darkened, or mattified blonde hair between salon appointments. Follow it up with the Redken Blondage High Bright Conditioner for best results.

Editor Tip:
Supplement your shampoo routine with a toning purple shampoo, like the original Redken Blondage Shampoo. This violet pigment-depositing shampoo gently cleanses color-treated hair while helping to neutralize unwanted brassiness.

Good hair day by @effortlesslychiic.

Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate 5-Min Liquid Mask

If you use bleach on your hair, a strengthening hair mask is a great way to help counter some of the drying effects that it can have on your strands. In just five minutes, the Acidic Bonding Concentrate 5-Min Liquid Mask from Redken quickly melts into the hair for unrivaled strength, moisture, detangling, and shine.

Biolage Professional Color Last Deep Treatment Pack Hair Mask for Color-Treated Hair

Try alternating your toning hair mask with a non-pigmented one, like Biolage Professional Color Last Deep Treatment Pack Hair Mask for Color-Treated Hair. It helps maintain and restore color-treated hair, leaving it feeling stronger with less breakage.

Good hair day by @redken.

Redken One United Leave-In Conditioner With 25 Benefits

Redken One United Leave-In Conditioner With 25 Benefits is a 25-benefit leave-in nourishing treatment is a great option for reducing dryness, detangling, preventing breakage, and controlling frizz. We also love using this color-safe formula as a heat protectant when styling color-treated locks.

Ready to try a babylights look? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a professional stylist near you.
Next Up:
Every Kind of Highlighting Technique, Explained

Header photo credit:
@kristakstorm and @thebangsbabe

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