You may think blonde highlights are just… well, blonde highlights. That there's little difference between one set to another. Well, a few years ago that may have been the case, but no longer. Advanced application techniques and innovative multitonal professional colours have meant highlights have evolved from the chunky, tabby cat–like streaks and stripes we were sporting in the '90s to something far more sophisticated and subtle.
"The popularity of techniques like balayage—where colour is hand-painted on to give a super-natural, sun-kissed look, has had a knock-on effect with highlights," explains Jenny Perrson, style and colour manager at Taylor Taylor in Liberty London. "We're finding clients don't want that obvious highlighted look anymore; they want the easy-breezy effect of balayage but in highlight form, allowing the colour to be taken all the way to the root. So that's what blonde highlights for 2018, and I predict for quite awhile to come, are all about.
"It does take more skill, as it's about creating seemingly invisible sections between the foils and making sure they blend seamlessly into one another so you can't see where one colour ends and another colour begins, but the result is gorgeous, totally natural-looking tones that have an ultra-expensive look and feel about them." Keep scrolling for 13 blonde highlight looks you're going to want to show your colourist.
Honey-blonde highlights can be a good way to perk up mousey hair. But be warned—curly hair tends to be drier, and highlights can dry it out even further, so stick to a strict regimen of a weekly dose of Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector (£32).
Short, almost spiky hair looks striking with blonde tips, especially if when a few millimetres of your darker natural colour comes through at the roots.
This is what 2018 highlights are all about. With that slight root smudge but beautifully weaved tones of blonde, it's perfect and polished but still utterly natural looking. The bandana is optional but highly recommended.
With a whole spectrum of blonde shades to choose from, this slightly more honey and warmer blonde tone works perfectly on naturally light brunettes or mousey blondes. To boost the shine factor, finish with a spritz of Ghd Final Shine Spray (£9).
If platinum blonde is your bag, you can still embrace the highlight effect by having some icy vanilla tones weaved through. This will not only stop your hair from looking too brassy, but it will give it more depth and keep the roots at bay for that little bit longer.
Naturally darker hair colours can still embrace the highlighted look; just be prepared for more frequent salon visits to keep roots looking fresh. By having slightly smudged roots—allowing your natural colour to gently blend in with the lighter tones—you can incorporate your natural tones. But for those days when you can't get to the salon, Color Wow Root Cover Up (£29) will keep your highlights in check.
Highlights not only create a gorgeous colour, but they're a great option for hair that's predominantly one length, as it creates the illusion of movement and texture. Although we're also swooning over the simple, strand plaits that have been added here. Feel like a braiding dunce? Redken Braid Aid (£15) will help keep each strand defined, making it easier for you to create something gorgeous.
If ever there was the perfect example of 2018 highlights at their best, it's this. With sun-lifted roots flowing into ashy and honey tones, it's styled to perfection with a deep-set side parting and waves. Want to give it a go? All you need is a Boots Tail Comb (£8), Cloud Nine Waving Wand (£100), and to finish, a spritz of Percy & Reed Session Hold Hairspray (£13).
Don't think it's only long, Rapunzel-like hair that can sport highlights. Cropped and shorter styles are the perfect way to show off just how intricate and technical this type of colour work is. Plus, the added bonus of extra layers means more tones to work through the hair, giving you even more highlighted gorgeousness.
Natural hair growth is one way that highlights will start to lose their vigour, but sun exposure and swimming in the sea or pool will also mean that the different tones can lose their vibrancy and start blending into one block colour, which is not what you want. Lock your colour in place with Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil (£20).
The key to success with this new way to wear highlights is to work as much within your natural hair tones as possible. A talented colourist will be able to lift the mid and end sections of your hair so you will still be able to go quite a few shades lighter while staying near your natural tone near the roots without creating a two-tone effect.
Subtle highlights will lift black hair to a golden hue, while clever placement will enhance the look of natural curls and brighten the complexion.
Want a seriously lived-in look? Ask your colourist to apply the colour using their hands (otherwise known as palm painting), or balayage will do the trick.
Opening Image: Imaxtree
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.