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What Are Lowlights vs. Highlights?

by Madison Reed May 01, 2024

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Lowlights vs. highlights – what’s the difference between them? As the name suggests, lowlights involve darkening your hair strands, while highlights do the opposite, making them brighter. With both processes, you can achieve a significant contrast or add a natural, sun-kissed look to your hair. Do you want to learn more? Then you’re in the right place – read on!

Lowlights vs. Highlights: What Are They?

For starters, let's chat about hair lowlights and highlights separately.


Lowlights are simply strands of hair colored darker than the lightest areas of your hair. They can be done to add contrast and depth to your hair, as well as to make it look thicker. Additionally, lowlights are perfect for creating dimension for hair that has gotten overly light with highlighting or if the color has faded too light in the sun – but you don't want it to look darker overall.


Highlights are strands of hair that are lighter than your overall base color. They can be both drastic (creating high visible contrast), or barely noticeable (babylights), adding lightness to your hair without being too obvious.

Highlights are usually associated with blonde, but they are gorgeous on darker shades too! If you are a brunette, for example, you can still get your hair highlighted to a light brown – or if your hair is black, you can get it highlighted to a medium-dark brown color.

Lowlights vs. Highlights: What’s the Difference?

The only key difference between lowlights and highlights is the shade with which you color your hair. The former goes darker than the base and the latter goes lighter. This leads to some other minor differences as well depending on which one you choose. Let’s take a look at them:

  • Maintenance: lowlights fade more naturally, so they don’t need as much maintenance as highlights, which become much more noticeable as time passes

  • Cost: due to less frequent touch-ups, lowlights are usually less expensive than highlights

  • Hair health: since lowlights don’t require you to use a lightener, there is less chemical processing on the hair – this is ideal if your hair feels more on the fragile side

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What About Mixing Lowlights with Highlights?

So far, we’ve been focused on lowlights vs. highlights, but what about lowlights and highlights? Can you combine these two techniques? Yes, you can! 

Many people blend lowlights and highlights with gray hair to soften the contrast between darker and lighter strands, but that’s not the only option. Combining both of these techniques is a great way to create natural-looking, eye-catching hair. How does it work? 

You simply need to decide how much lightness and darkness you want to see throughout your hair and determine where you want to see the dimension.

Can You Do Lowlights and Highlights Yourself?

While it may be possible to do both lowlights and highlights at home, it may be best to stick with one or the other when you apply the product since it may be difficult to keep the lightener and darker color lowlight away from one another. 

If you want to achieve a gorgeous result, you need to know what works best with your hair, both in terms of the shade and picking the best color application method for your hair. That’s why, even if you opt for highlighting/lowlighting at home, you’ll need the opinion of a professional. We also recommend that you read our guide on how to lighten your hair at home – this is especially important if you’re planning to do your own highlights. 

You should also consider how you’ll section your hair, whether you choose face-framing highlights vs. full highlights vs. partial highlights. Each type might work with different shades, so consider your options before you proceed with highlighting/lowlighting.

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Highlights vs. Lowlights: Which Is Better for You?

So, now that you know the difference between highlights and lowlights, which one is best for you? It all depends on your hair goals. 

If you prefer a hairstyle that’s easy to maintain, or you have really light hair, go for lowlights. If you don’t mind frequent touch-ups and you want to go lighter, go for highlights. It all depends on your preferences. To get professional colorist recommendations, contact our Color Crew for at-home coloring advice or visit a Hair Color Bar to have a professional apply the color for you.

The Takeaway

By now, you should have everything you need to know about highlights vs. lowlights to make an informed decision about your hair color. Both are great ways to make a statement, become more confident, or add something fresh to your look!

Do you want to have your highlights or lowlights done professionally? Then find a Hair Color Bar near you and discover how our expert hair colorists can help you!
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