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What is the difference between highlights and lowlights?

/ 07.14.2015
Jennifer Lopez has some of the best balayage we know!
Jennifer Lopez has some of the best balayage we know!

If you have ever had your hair colored, or done a little research into what kind of options are out there, you probably know that highlights and lowlights are often talked about together. But what exactly is the difference and do you really need both?

Highlights and lowlights 101

1/ What's the difference?

Many people believe highlights are blonde and lowlights are black or brown, but it's a little more nuanced than that. Highlights are always lighter than the base color, while lowlights are always darker. In both cases, the contrast can be as subtle as one shade different.

Highlights are applied to lighten the hair, whereas lowlights add depth. Lowlights aren't always necessary, but with very bright tones like platinum or hair that has been repeatedly highlighted, they give the look more dimension.

2/ How they're applied

There are many ways to apply both highlights and lowlights to your hair, and two of the most common are balayage and foils.

Balayage is a freehand technique where the dye is applied to individual pieces of hair in a sweeping motion. Usually, the color starts a few inches down from the scalp to create a natural looking sunkissed color- not unlike ombre hair.

Foils, on the other hand, produce a more uniform finish, blending more with the base color. This makes them better suited to less dramatic, all-over lightening.

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