Highlights vs Lowlights: Difference and Comparison

Whenever it comes to dyeing your hair, the possibilities are limitless. However, if you want to boost your tresses, you have two options: highlights and lowlights.

Before making a significant shift, it is critical to understand the distinction between the two. Highlights involve bleaching, and lowlights involve coloring.

Key Takeaways

  1. Highlights lighten sections of hair for a sun-kissed look, while lowlights add depth and dimension by darkening specific strands.
  2. Highlights are generally applied using foils or balayage techniques, whereas lowlights require caps or foils.
  3. Lowlights complement natural hair color, while highlights create contrast and make the hair appear brighter.

Highlights vs Lowlights

Highlights are used to create a brighter, sun-kissed look, tend to be placed on the top layers of the hair and involve adding lighter tones to your hair. Lowlights are used to create a more natural, multi-dimensional appearance, are placed underneath and involve adding darker tones.

Highlights vs Lowlights

Highlights are the style of changing an individual’s hair color using a lightener to lift the brightness of hair strands.


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There are four classifications of highlights: foil highlights, hair painting, coating, and chunking. Highlights could be any color if they are lighter in tone than the hair around them.

Lowlights are often used to add dimension to the hair and can be utilized to adjust the overall tone. They are intended to be more subtle than streaks and are suited for light-colored hair such as blonde or light brown.

It is normally two to three shades darker than the hair’s natural color.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonHighlightsLowlights
FunctionInvolves bleaching of hair to lighten hair colorApplying a colored shade to the hair
DamageIt causes more damageIt causes less damage
Type of HairSuitable for dark hair (black and brown)Suitable for light hair (blonde, light brown)
EffectProvides a sun-kissed effectProvides more volume to tresses
Type of ColorTwo-three shades lighter than the base colorTwo-three shades darker than the base color

What are Highlights?

Hair highlighting is the process of modifying the color of a person’s hair by applying a lightener to lift the level of brightness of hair strands.

Hair that has been bleached or colored permanently will remain that way until new growth appears. Hair that has been highlighted can make it look fuller.

As a result, it is occasionally prescribed for those with thin or fine hair.

It is also a suggested treatment for attaining better color balance in persons with at least 50% grey hair. It also helps decrease the line of demarcation once new growth from permanent hair color is visible.

Highlighting your hair, regardless of technique or color, has several advantages. Highlights are young and fresh, giving dimension and movement to any base hue.

Not to mention that the care and upkeep required is notably less than if you were to completely alter your hair color which means far fewer salon appointments.

Experienced colorists can personalize and fine-tune the application of color to best suit your hairstyle. Not to mention that they are educated to consider factors such as skin tone and eye color when determining the optimal color scheme for you.

There is also the issue of hair health to consider because highlights include whitening the hair and the possibility of certain damages.

highlights hair

What are the Lowlights?

Lowlights may be used to wash out your hair with cool-toned strands or to give a layer of richness with some warmth.

Lowlights are dark patches weaved into the hair that add contrast and are used as a quick remedy for solid hair color from over-highlighting.

Lowlights are used to add dimension to the hair and can be used to change the overall tone of the hair. If your hair looks a little flat, lowlights can help you mimic extra depth through a hair color optical illusion.

Lowlights for natural-looking hair can be darker than the hair’s lightest sections but not darker than the natural foundation. Lowlights are supposed to be more subtle than streaks.

Darker hues are uniformly distributed throughout the hair. Balayage, which allows the stylist greater latitude to paint color in opposed to the more uniform foil method, can be used to enhance the appearance even further.

The nice thing about lowlights is that they can be used on any hair color if your hairdresser is knowledgeable and uses the proper formula.

They can be problematic for those with a light brown natural tone and over-processed blondes. Clients should always meet with their colorist for an in-depth consultation to address both long- and short-term results.


Main Differences Between Highlights and Lowlights

  1. Highlights require bleaching the hair to brighten the colour meanwhile, lowlights involve putting a colored shade to the hair.
  2. Highlights produce greater hair damage, whereas lowlights cause less damage.
  3. Highlights are appropriate for dark hair (black and brown), whilst lowlights are appropriate for light hair (blonde, light brown)
  4. Highlights create a sun-kissed look, meanwhile lowlights add volume to the hair.
  5. Highlights are two to three shades lighter than the base hue, while lowlights are two to three shades darker.
Difference Between Highlights and Lowlights
  1. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/746486/summary
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-15781-5_8

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