Beautiful young asian girl in white dress outdoor portrait highlights

Highlights and lowlights: what’s the difference and which one should you get?

Learn about the difference between highlights and lowlights so you can decide which of these coloring techniques is right for you!

We love how hair experts everywhere have been coming up with all these hair coloring treatments and techniques that make our hair fun and pretty. But we understand that with all the different terms, it’s easy to get lost and confused and harder to pick the right one for you. There’s balayage and ombre, which are the more recent hair coloring trends; and then there’s highlights and lowlights. They’re relatively older, but they still get some people confused.

Highlights and lowlights may be similar in the way that they’re both coloring techniques where only sections of hair are dyed. But they are total opposites and have significant differences. One may provide benefits that that the other one can’t. To help you pick the one that would look better on you, here are everything you need to know about highlights and lowlights.

Highlights and lowlights: what you need to know

highlights and lowlights
Golden highlights for fair skin. Credit:

1. The basics

Lowlights involve coloring sections of hair a shade or two darker than your base or natural color. Highlights, in contrast, use colors that are lighter than your natural shade.

TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Blonde Brilliance Shampoo

Editor’s tip: Whichever technique you choose, you’d want the effect to last longer, so it’s a good idea to use products that are specifically designed to protect your color and keep it vibrant. We recommend TRESemmé Pro-Color Series Blonde Brilliance Shampoo. It has purple formula to neutralize brassy tones and jojoba oil to help keep your hair moisturized. 

2. Lowlights look better on lighter hair

Lowlights are great for blondes and light browns because the effect is more prominent. Highlights on the other hand, generally look better on darker colors like black or brown.

3. There’s a damage difference

Highlighting does more damage to your hair than lowlighting does because highlights involve bleaching your strands to lighten the color. Lowlights only require for the color to be deposited to your strands.

Editor’s tip: To counter the damaging effects of hydrogen peroxide (a.k.a bleach) to your tresses, use Dove Intense Repair Conditioner. Formulated with Keratin-Actives, they help your hair recover from damage in two different ways. The formula helps repair signs of surface damage, making your hair look and feel smoother and stronger against breakage. It also penetrates the strands to help provide hair nourishment deep inside, that leaves hair strengthened and resilient to future damage.

highlights and lowlights: the difference
Do you want depth or movement? Credit: iStock

4. It’s about dimension

Both highlights and lowlights help create dimension in your hair; but if you’re going for a sunkissed effect with added movement, choose highlights. Now if you’re more after adding depth and volume to your tresses, then go for lowlights instead.

5. You might also want to consider the season

Highlights look more appropriate, trendy, and “in season” during the summer because it gives your hair a sunkissed effect (like you’ve been out in the beach). Now we don’t have winter here, but lowlights would work better during the cooler months.

In case you decide to go for highlights, find out how to keep it looking salon-fresh here.