We've all come across lust-worthy hair—you know, the usual honied highlights Jennifer Lopez has been rocking for years, or those Instagram-worthy lowlights that you can't stop pinning (we're right there with you). TL;DR: Both highlights and lowlights are great options for those who seek to scratch that itch to change up their hair but don't want to undergo a full-on transformation.
But, what's the difference and how to decide which to go for? While highlights lighten hair with strands of a lighter color, lowlights add dimension with strands of darker color. And, asking your stylist to add both to your hair can give it an illusion of volume, depth, and texture. Below, we outlining a few things to consider before your next color appointment.
The Look of Natural Hair Color
While it's common to think of natural hair color as being just one shade (brunette, blonde, black), it can actually have many shades within it (think dirty blonde hair or chestnut brown hair with red tones).
For this reason, your stylist may suggest adding a few lowlights in with your highlights to complement your base color. Or, depending on your natural hair color, they may recommend skipping the highlights altogether and only darkening your hair with lowlights, which can help retain a more natural look while boosting your color in a subtle way.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Lowlights?
People with blonde or light brown hair are considered good candidates for lowlights, as it may be difficult finding a darker lowlight color for anyone with black or dark-haired locks (more on that later).
Another thing to consider: What style of color are you aiming for? If you have light hair and you want to go several shades darker, you might be better off getting an all-over hair color. And, even if you're a die-hard hair highlighter, there may be times you want to ask for some extra lowlights. For example, adding dark lowlights during the wintertime adds warmth to your overall look.
The good news is that no matter your hair texture (curly, straight, or anything in between), lowlights will complement it.
If you have lighter hair, opt for darker tones to give your hair a little more depth and create a sun-kissed look.
Going Darker With Lowlights
If your natural hair base is already dark and you still want to add depth by adding a few darker strands, your stylist can do this with lowlights using foils or balayage, which is a more natural-looking alternative to all-over hair color. To maintain the most natural color, your stylist will likely stick to a shade that's no more than two to three shades darker than your natural color.
Lowlights Mixed in With Highlights
If you're getting foils or balayage, you can amp up the dimension by asking your stylist to add a few lowlights with your highlights (think the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Anniston).
Think about how dark (lowlights) or light (highlights) you want to go and come up with a percentage for the two. For example, 20% lowlights and 80% highlights means you'd stay rather light. Switching that would make your hair appear darker.
Different Approaches to Lowlights
The options for playing around with lowlights and highlights are endless. Your stylist might use highlights to frame your face, for example, then use lowlights to give the main body of your hair more dimension. And if you're feeling adventurous, a dip-dye look (when the ends of the hair are darker than the rest) is also an option.
Keep in mind, lowlights are meant to be more subtle than streaks. Typically, the darker colors are spread throughout the hair evenly (versus leaving well-defined sections of color). The look can be enhanced even more with balayage, which gives the stylist more freedom to paint color in rather than the more uniform foil technique.
Deciding What to Do
Between lowlights, highlights, and all-over hair color, your head can spin with options. We recommend hunting down inspiration photos of hair colors you're drawn to, whether it be from celebrities or your favorite influencers. Bring in a few of these looks to your stylist so they can have a better understanding of what you're after, offer up ideas of how to incorporate the desired look into your hair color, and ultimately, help you make a final decision.