With age comes wisdom, a bigger bank account… and a scattering of gray hairs that seemingly crop up overnight. Our first thought may be to pluck the errant silvers (please don’t!), but eventually, we resign ourselves to the fact that gray hair is a right of passage. Gratitude aside, many of us don’t necessarily want to go completely gray but are still interested in finding a way to embrace or strategically disguise our new incoming color. If you have yet to find the perfect gray coverage routine, we’re here to introduce you to herringbone highlights.
To set the scene, visualize the current mane of a leading actress who starred as a newspaper columnist on a hit New York City-based show in the late 90s. Got it? Great! You now have a perfect representation of this red-hot hair coloring technique. Whether you have premature grays or have been tending to them for years, we’re dishing out everything you need to know about herringbone highlights.
What is herringbone color?
Whereas many coloring methods exist to cover up your grays, herringbone highlights intentionally include existing silver strands in their design by weaving them into a gorgeous blend of cool and warm-toned highlights. The result is a natural-looking highlight that enables your grays to work with your hair color instead of against it.
How do you do herringbone highlights?
Whether it’s stamped onto a rug, embroidered into a blanket, or knitted onto your favorite sweater, you’re likely familiar with the herringbone motif. This distinct pattern consists of rows of parallel lines where two adjacent rows slope in different directions to form a V-shape. Some say it resembles the bones of a fish, hence the name.
You may be wondering how this pattern could possibly apply to our hair, and the answer lies within the diagonal placement of the foils. Your colorist will place highlights across from each other rather than on top, merging the tones into a bespoke kaleidoscope of color. It may sound fancy, but don’t be mistaken—herringbone highlights don’t take any longer to apply than traditional foils!
Are herringbone highlights low-maintenance?
Yes! As much as we adore salon pampering, anything that saves us time and upkeep is a win in our book. You can expect to extend your salon visits by an average of two weeks, depending on whether you want to maintain the look or let it naturally grow out. Since a herringbone service eliminates that severe line of demarcation, your roots will grow softer and look less harsh against the rest of your mane.
Do herringbone highlights work on all hair colors?
The best part about herringbone application is that it can be done alongside the shade you’re already best known for. Sure, it may seem like blondes have a leg up on this technique since their strands have less contrast against grays. The truth is, blondes, brunettes, and redheads can all get in on the look—as long as it’s left up to a seasoned professional. Your colorist is well-versed at tailoring your highlights to your specific hue by adding in an array of tones from your hair color’s family.
How do you care for herringbone highlights?
You wouldn’t wash an expensive blouse in a bucket of dish soap, so why apply hair products that won’t keep highlights in tip-top shape? Maintaining your highlights with an at-home care routine is essential.
First, we recommend switching to a shampoo and conditioner made especially for color-treated hair, like Biolage Professional’s Color Last Shampoo + Conditioner Duo. Together, the low-pH system gently cleanses and moisturizes hair, extends the life of your color, and leaves strands soft, detangled, and shiny.
If you want to prevent blonde and gray herringbone streaks from turning brassy over time, pick up a customized toning spray like Matrix Total Results So Silver All-In-One Toning Leave-In Spray. Utilizing violet dye color-depositing technology, this lightweight leave-in spray lasts through the next shampoo, can be built to your desired intensity, and won’t stain or transfer. Plus, the all-in-one-formula packs in 10 additional hair-nourishing benefits.
Opt for Matrix’s Total Results Brass Off All-In-One Toning Leave-In Spray if you're a dark-haired beauty who had their strands lightened. This conditioning leave-in spray uses blue dye color-depositing technology to neutralize those pesky brassy and orange tones that plague lightened brunettes and dark blonde hair.
Gray hairs are notorious for being more coarse and wiry than their colored counterparts, so incorporating a hair mask into your routine is also a good idea. Look no further than Pureology’s Hydrate Soft Softening Treatment Mask for a mask that boasts softening and color-preserving benefits. Made with nourishing ingredients like shea butter and almond oil, the sulfate and paraben-free mask nourishes and softens dry, color-treated hair instantly.
Now that you have the full breakdown on herringbone highlights, here are 12 looks to inspire your next salon appointment.
The 12 Best Herringbone Highlights to Try Now
Blonde with Lowlights
You may have already seen these classic herringbone highlights on the heads of a few A-list celebrities. Lowlights add just the right amount of gray-blending dimension to your mane with less upkeep and reduced bleach damage.
Even though less lift is required to achieve this look, coloring services can still weaken and damage hair. We suggest adding a bond-strengthening mask into your hair routine, like Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment. The rinse-off formula’s Bonding Care Complex reinforces hair’s weakened bonds to help damaged hair become more resilient against future breakage.
Platinum, warm blonde, and subtle undertones of lavender—what more could you want in hair color? We especially love this bright look on a short wavy lob to play up the depth of the intermingling shades.
Multi-Dimensional Golden Blonde
This sugary-sweet mane is a perfect example of how beautifully herringbone highlights marry cool and warm tones. Ask your colorist about Redken Shades EQ Hair Gloss in Mojave, Vanilla Cream, Opal Glow, Cafe Au Lait, and Crystal Clear to recreate this exact look.
Mushroom brown is a match made in heaven for salt and pepper strands because the ashy undertones help gray hair blend right into your herringbone highlights. Good news, if you can’t decide which of the light brown hues you prefer—your colorist will add lowlights and highlights in numerous portobello-inspired shades.
Sandy Blonde Curls
Getting sand in your hair may not sound like a walk on the beach, but hear us out! The cool tones of sand-inspired hair color pair well with a dark base, providing a pop of brightness that helps grays visually recede.
Ringlets help further enhance the dimension of herringbone highlights, so consider picking up a defining lotion, like Mizani’s True Textures Curl Enhancing Lotion to play them up.
Sandy Brown with Strandlights
Are you starting with a sandy base? A few strategically placed platinum blonde strandlights create a seamlessly blended glow that meshes with grays and subtly transforms your mane.
Lightened brown hair runs the risk of becoming orange and brassy, but you can outsmart it with the help of a blue toning system like Redken Color Extend Brownlights Shampoo + Conditioner Duo.
Dark Ash Blonde
When you think about the color of actual ashes, it makes sense that corresponding ashy hair colors would feature cool-toned hues with undertones of gray and white. We love how this deep ash blonde can create herringbone highlights whether your base starts off dark or light.
Ash brown is naturally a gray-leaning shade that plays well with the cool undertones of silver hairs. If gray coverage on dark hair is your priority, this is a great choice— particularly if you’re more interested in seamlessly mingling your grays rather than exiling every colorless strand on your head.
Judging by its name, it's a no-brainer that greige would be an ideal choice for herringbone highlights since it already incorporates hints of blonde and gray.
Wondering how to achieve a striking greige color? Inquire about Redken ShadesEQ Ash Gold Series, in-salon glazes that lean into the fusion of cool and warm tones.
If you prefer your greige to be on the warmer side, ask for golden reflects on a brown to tan base.
Nothing is more eye-catching than luminous pearly beige highlights, which resemble gray hair so closely that you’ll hardly be able to tell the shades apart.
Pump up the shine with a dash of the editor-approved Kérastase Elixir Ultime L'Huile Original Hair Oil. This blend of five precious hair oils add shine, deeply nourish, and prevent breakage for lustrous, reflective tresses.
Gray Highlights and Lowlights
There's no need to totally part ways with your existing hue if you decide to transition into gray hair gradually. Instead of painting on shades similar to your base, have your stylist add more silver or gray hair color near the roots. As your natural grays come in, your hair will still look completely blended—plus, it'll be a cinch to cut off your old dyed ends when the time comes.
Find more of the best salon-recommended hair products for herringbone highlights at Hair.com.
Banner Image Credits: @capellibymegs and @hairbystaceycourt