Highlights Vs. Lowlights: Which Is Best For You?
Latest Color Techniques Used By Your Stylist

Highlights Vs. Lowlights: A Pro Weighs In

29 March 2018
photo of woman in salon getting highlights and lowlights
photo of Nicole Vince

Nicole Vince

Beauty Editor

With a reputation for haircare wisdom and knowledge of the latest hair novelties, there isn’t a hair trend or tip unobserved by Nicole.

It’s easy to get lost in the latest hair coloring trends. Luckily, one hair expert is happy to clear up one term that may still seem foggy in your mind: lowlights! Laura Gibson, L'Oréal Professionnel brand ambassador, shares her expert insight about highlights vs. lowlights.

photo of highlights being applied to hair

Both techniques have some things in common.

Highlights and lowlights both involve partially coloring strands or sections of the hair, using foil or freehand painting to have a certain effect against your base color. Forget traditional notions that anything “lights’” equals harsh streaks in your hair. These sections should always be seamlessly blended, which can only be achieved with a salon touch!

Here are the top 4 key distinctions between highlights and lowlights, according to Gibson.

Highlights brighten but lowlights add complexity.

Though both terms have the word “light,” in them, they serve different purposes for your hair. Highlights brighten against your base color for prominent reflection and brilliance. Lowlights enhance your color with darker notes for richness, depth, and—great for creating the illusion of volume and thickness!

For a better idea about which tones are used to brighten or darken, peruse the shades available in L'Oréal Professionnel’s salon-exclusive Majirel Cool Cover and High Lift hair color ranges.

Ask the stylist what colors go well with your skin tone and eye color...Lowlights are perfect for anyone whose color is starting to look flat and monotone.

Laura Gibson

photo of hair with blonde highlights

Highlights means bleaching, but lowlights do not.

Highlights create brightness with bleach—up to two shades lighter at one time! That may be fine for a hair color newbie, but less appealing to those who are hesitant about bleaching due to its ability to weaken hair.

Lowlights help you darker with color that sits on top of your natural color. Whichever you choose, experts always suggest incorporating L'Oréal Professionnel’s salon-exclusive Smartbond into your coloring treatment.

Highlights enhance contrast, but lowlights soften it.

Highlights produce interesting contrasts in your hair, but lowlights are subtle. Work metallic grey or ash undertones into brown shades for complexity. Copper or gold shades help tone down brighter blondes.

“Lowlights don't necessarily have to be a dark shade,” Gibson explains. “It could even be a medium blonde shade for a very light blonde.”

photo of hair with highlights and lowlights

When in doubt, stick with the seasons.

Sometimes it’s best to go with the flow of things and just adapt your style to the seasons. That can certainly be true for highlights and lowlights: Brighten for warmer seasons, then add intensity and depth during colder seasons. Highlights have a carefree feel, while lowlights create more mystery.

Two highlighting trends on the rise are natural, sun-kissed balayage and the more minimalist babylights!

Feel more confident in your highlights or lowlights with this comprehensive guide!

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