An Extensive Guide to All the Different Types of Highlights For Your Hair

Updated 02/07/19

Have you had this experience? You’re bored with your hair, so you chop it off. After a few months, you decide to grow it out...only to cut it short again. You’ve cycled through this so many times that you’re ready to try something different. You want to break the pattern. Switch it up. But you don’t know what to do. It’s safe to say, we’ve all been there at one point or other. 

If you’re looking for a change without cutting your hair, why not try adding dimension with highlights? It’s a time commitment in the salon chair, yes, but hey, all good things take time, right? There are various kinds to choose from, from balayage and babylights. If you're not sure what these terms mean, you're not alone.

“Often times, different colour terms can get confused or misused,” says Christine Thompson, Master Colourist and Co-founder of Spoke & Weal. “Even within the industry, new terminology pops up all the time but begins to morph into other meanings, which can lead to confusion, especially in the salon chair during the consultation.” To minimise any confusion, we recommend familiarising yourself with the different types of highlights you can get, so you and your colourist are always on the same page.

And if all else fails, a picture never hurts. 

To help you get started on your hair colour journey, Thompson breaks down all the different types of highlights you can get for your hair. Keep scrolling for your next hair change inspiration.

Babylights

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"Babylights are meant to make hair look slightly sun kissed," says Thompson on the petite highlights. “They can be harder to detect as a standalone highlight, but they give the hair more of a shimmer or glow.”

 

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Traditional Highlights

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“If you were to compare this technique to a haircut, it would be a bob,” says Thompson on the classic highlights that start at the scalp. “You would get different trends using traditional highlights by varying how close or far apart they are.”

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Balayage

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“This is a technique referring to the motion of 'sweeping' or creating a seamless blend,” explains Thompson. “A lot of the times you see this in open air painting; however it can be done within foils as well." She says that balayage often gets confused as a "look," but is actually a technique of painting by freehand using a sweeping motion.

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Foil-ayage

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This is the balayage technique where pieces of hair are placed into foils for more lightening, Thompson says. This is a good option if you're looking for more of a lift in color than hand-painted balayage, because the foil allows the hair to get lighter while its wrapped inside. 

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Ombré

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“Ombre is a look where the hair color goes from one color to another in a gradient or a shadow tone,” shares Christine.

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Sombré

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Sombré is an example of mashup terminology. It’s the combination of “subtle” and “ombre,” explains Christine and is exactly what it sounds: a subtle blend of a darker shade at the root to a light shade at the ends. 

Click here for more examples of brunette hair with highlights

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