So you’ve already made up your mind to add highlights to your hair… but your city’s on lockdown again.
Well, you can always do the highlights yourself at home!
You might not know where to start but no sweat, we’ve got you covered!
It’s totally doable to apply your own highlights at home, just calm down your excitement and take it one step at a time— you do not want to end up burning off all your hair.
What You'll Need
- Lightening agent (usually bleach powder)
- 20 volume developer (usually 6% hydrogen peroxide)
- Aluminum foil
- Tail comb
- Mixing bowl and brush
If you’re wondering where to buy bleach powder or peroxide don’t worry, most of these things can be found in a store-bought color highlighting kit or in your local beauty supply store!
And if you don’t have aluminum foil, you can always use plastic wrap instead (although aluminum foil will give you the best results).
You can use whatever glass or plastic bowl you have at home to mix the dye, and any paint brush with a width of around 2 inches would work as well!
These are great alternatives to go for if you hate the idea of paying for a mixing bowl and brush specifically for hair coloring that may cost more due to “beauty taxes.”
Make sure to wear your gloves— remember that you’re dealing with chemicals that can cause serious damage to your skin!
Highlighting Your Own Hair: Reminders Before You Begin
Unless you have the patience of a Buddhist monk, maybe refrain from highlighting your hair on the entire head.
It’s not only going to take FOREVER to do on your own (trust us on this— we’ve been guilty of starting then getting too tired and lazy to finish), but it will be harder to fix if you mess up.
Here are some friendly reminders to remember:
- Instead of risking an at-home highlights disaster, highlighting the hair at the top of your head is simpler and more than enough to give you that highlighted look.
- Face framing highlights matter way more than highlighting strands underneath that most people won’t even notice!
- Also take note that despite your best efforts to improve your skills at highlighting your hair at home, it’s going to be a pretty messy process. So, make sure you’ve got a couple of towels and a t-shirt on that you don’t mind getting dirty.
- It would also be good to manage your expectations because it will never look quite as good as getting it expertly done by a professional colorist in a salon. However, you can still achieve great results when you self-highlight your hair at home!
- Nothing should go horribly wrong if you follow instructions, and the worst-case scenario is paying to have it fixed by a professional at a salon.
1. Buying a Highlighting Kit
Like we mentioned before, using a good hair highlighting kit at home is a great way to get most of what you’ll need all at once.
But if you have a lot more hair, it will probably be cheaper to buy a lightening agent and developer separately in bigger amounts, rather than buying 2 or more kits.
And if you’re still a little hesitant about doing your hair at home yourself, you can actually try requesting a professionally prepared color kit from your favorite salon!
Many places started selling these and offering online consultations in response to the pandemic.
This brings us to the next step: consulting a colorist.
2. Consulting a Colorist
Even if you don’t plan on buying a kit from the salon, it would be a good idea to consult a colorist— especially if you’re not working with virgin hair.
Strands that have already gone through the process of bleaching will lighten differently from virgin hair.
The possibility of splotchy-looking hair highlights will definitely increase if you don’t consult with a colorist to come up with a plan of attack.
A colorist can also help you figure out which color kit to buy, or what ratio of lightening powder and peroxide to mix for your desired highlight shade.
Choosing a Color
Choosing the right color for your hair highlights can be trickier than you think so it might also be good to ask a colorist what highlight color to go for.
Oftentimes, the colors won’t match what you had in mind or even what’s pictured on the kit.
Most people will go 2-3 shades lighter than their natural hair color or current base color, and this is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Pro Tip: You should also test the mixture on a few strands of your hair to figure out approximately how long you need to wait before washing!
People with dark hair will probably have to leave the bleach on for a little longer so that it will be able to strip off and lighten enough of your natural color for the perfect highlighted shade.
Although it might cost you a little more, a consultation can help you decide, depending on the natural color of your hair, what shades to go for and how long you should wait to leave the bleach on your hair.
They can even guide you step-by-step as you’re dyeing your hair in real-time— this way there’s no second-guessing or any big mishaps during the highlighting process!
3. Application Techniques
After buying your materials and preparing, it’s time to really get into how to highlight hair at home yourself!
All the staying home we’ve been doing during this pandemic has honestly made many of us just a little bit trigger happy with doing our hair at home.
Doing your own hair at home is fun and exciting, but you’ll want to be patient to get the best results! The more detailed you are when you highlight your hair, the more professional it will look.
Aside from what we previously mentioned, here are some of the best tips for when you highlight your hair at home:
- Do a strand test first! You can pull one out or pick one from your hairbrush to see how your hair reacts to the color mix and how light you might want to go.
- Permanent hair color is best applied on dry hair that hasn’t been washed yet but isn’t too oily or dirty.
- Use the pointy end of the tail comb to help section the top half of your hair into 3 or 4 parts, and then do the same to the bottom half if you plan to highlight your hair all over.
- Mix 1 part bleach and 2 parts developer in the mixing bowl.
- Place a piece of aluminum foil under the section of hair you want to color, then paint the hair color on with your brush.
- After applying the mixture, fold the aluminum foil over each section to prevent bleaching other parts of your hair and to trap heat to encourage the bleaching.
- To increase heat or to prevent a mess while waiting during the bleach process, put on a shower cap to protect your hairline area.
- When you’ve given the bleach enough time with your hair, remove the foil, wash and rinse with shampoo.
- If you’re using a store-bought kit, make sure to follow the instructions on how to mix and apply the bleach and developer mixture along with our tips!
For really natural-looking highlights, you can also opt to lighten your hair with stuff you probably have lying around at home!
This is a great idea for people who are scared of making too much of a mess of their homes and hair, especially if they don’t want to deal with chemicals.
Using Household Items
Instead of a trip to a beauty store, you can find a bunch of things at the nearest grocery that would produce a chemical reaction similar to the bleach process.
You may have heard of Bella Thorne using beer on her hair but a colorist will tell you that no, beer doesn’t work to make your hair light— at least not fast enough.
What you can do is use something with higher alcohol content, like vodka, along with seltzer, lemon, and chamomile tea.
If you spray this on your hair over the course of a few days, you’ll end up with more light but very natural-looking strands.
An added benefit is this mixture also works to clean your hair similarly to a clarifying shampoo— just don’t forget to rinse it off!
Another popular and effective option to naturally bleach your hair is mixing honey and cinnamon.
This mixture is applied on freshly shampooed damp hair and left on even overnight (use a shower cap!), or just until you see the highlights come through.
Afterward, you can rinse out and shampoo again to enjoy your new look!
If your hair color isn’t naturally very warm, you might find your highlights looking brassy right off the bat.
This is because most at-home color highlighting kits are designed to fit a majority of people’s coloring, although one-size-fits-all definitely does not apply to hair color.
If you want to fix any brassy or orange tones, you can use a toner to fix it!
If you consult with a colorist, they might be able to advise you more on which toners to use and on proper color correction for your specific hair situation.
Before letting your hair dry, you must re-hydrate!
It’s a good idea to use a deep conditioning treatment right after shampooing the mixture off of your hair.
The chemicals will damage your hair quite a bit and no matter how good the highlights turned out, dry strands are never cute.
Caring for Highlighted Hair
Figuring out how to highlight your hair at home is just the beginning— you’ll need to take care of it post-coloring!
Like we said, your hair will be damaged after bleaching, so continue using a deep conditioning treatment once every one or two weeks.
Highlighted hair, like any sort of permanent color treatment on your hair, needs special care.
So you’ll also want to invest in haircare products meant for color-treated hair— avoiding sulfates, parabens, and silicones.
And remember, your hair needs its beauty rest too! So don’t go too crazy with at-home hair dye projects or styling your hair with heat.
Bleached or Blonde Hair
Bleached and blonde hair tends to get brassy quickly, especially if you go out under the sun often.
If that’s the case, you should definitely be using purple shampoo.
Purple shampoo is specially made for bleached and dyed blonde hair and is formulated to color correct or help tone any brassiness.
To avoid washing the color of your blonde highlights too quickly, you’ll want to wash your hair less often and invest in a dry shampoo instead!
At-Home Hair Gloss Treatment
Another great way to extend or enhance your color between dye jobs is doing an at-home gloss treatment!
Hair gloss is a protective barrier that enhances the color and shine of your hair. It can even make your hair look thicker.
The gloss barrier will not only make your hair look really healthy, but it will also protect your color from washing off too quickly with each wash.
User-friendly and affordable hair gloss treatments are widely available so you can DIY them at home too!
When applying the gloss at home, do your best to follow the instructions to a tee for the best results.
Each formula applies and dries differently and shortens or lengthens the gloss’ sitting time, it might not grab onto your hair at all or you’ll end up with a darker color on your hair.
Now that you’ve got it figured out, are you excited to start highlighting your hair?
At-home highlights can be a great way to change up your hair without causing too much damage— that is, as long as it’s done right. So make sure you’re highlighting your hair strands correctly!
We won’t lie and say there aren’t any risks when bleaching your hair at home, but it’s not as scary or as difficult as you might think!
On a final note, remember that hair grows out so don’t be too afraid to express yourself and try a bunch of new things with your hair.