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How to
highlight your hair

Simple instructions and expert tips for every hair type.

How To Color Your Hair

Before You Highlight

For at-home highlights, this is as easy as it gets.

Light Works is for those that love soft highlights that appear subtly grown-out, sun-kissed and natural-looking. Unlike traditional foil highlights, which are close to the roots, Light Works uses a Wishbone applicator, designed to mimic the pattern salon professionals use to create balayage highlights.

Light Works is ideal for the following hair types:

  • Darkest brunette to light blonde hair (natural or color-treated)
  • Redheads who want soft golden-toned highlights

We care about you and your hair, and we want to make sure you understand that Light Works is not for everyone. Do not use Light Works if the following applies to your hair:

  • Fashion or “rainbow” colored highlights (silver, titanium, blue, peach, etc.)
  • Hair that has been treated with a chemical hair straightener, relaxer, keratin treatment, perm, all-over bleach, or henna
  • Those looking to touch up all-over bleached hair (double process)
  • Those looking for dramatic levels of lightening (from darkest brown to blonde)
  • Hair is mostly-highlighted, and the highlights are heavily processed (white or platinum in color).

Light Works will lighten or “lift” up to 3 levels on color-treated hair, and up to 4 levels on hair that has not been previously color-treated. Your results will vary depending on how light or dark your current color is, and whether you have natural (virgin) or color-treated hair.

Light Works is a highlighting kit. It is not intended for gray coverage. If you want highlights and want to cover grays, use Radiant Cream Color to cover your gray hair, and use Light Works to add highlights.

Yes, Light Works can be used on natural (virgin) or color-treated hair. The presence of previous permanent color and the level of darkness of the shade will impact the level of lightness achievable with Light Works.

Yes. First mix, apply and process your Radiant Cream Color shade. Then, shampoo and dry your hair. Proceed with applying Light Works. Pro tip: It's usually not necessary to pull Radiant Cream Color through all of your hair hair before using Light Works.

We recommend you do a sensitivity test 48 hours before you use Light Works. Shampoo your hair at least 24 hours in advance—next-day hair is best for coloring.
We also recommend that you do a strand test before you highlight to determine the approximate timing required to reach your desired degree of lightness.

To help you highlight with confidence, we recommend having the following items on hand:

  • 2 plastic spoons (or other small non-metallic containers)
  • Cotton swab (for the sensitivity test)
  • Small elastic hair band (for the strand test)
  • Shirt or smock that buttons or zips up the front
  • 3-4 plastic hair clips (for sectioning)
  • Wide-tooth comb
  • 2 old towels which you don’t mind getting discolored (one to drape over your neck, one to wipe excess bleach from gloves)
  • Timer
  • Clear, flat surface on which to work
  • Check out our handy accessories here.

The entire 2-step application and processing time will take approximately 90 minutes.

We offer a special Light Works kit for short hair (hair which is shorter than chin length). It includes an angled brush in place of the Wishbone applicator, and a special set of a instructions, to ensure the best results on short hair.

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Ready To Highlight

How to apply for the perfect highlights

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Light Works Wishbone Application

Light Works Step by Step

How to use Light Works, a step by step guide

pdf iconInstructions: Light Works
Light Works Short Hair Instructions

Light Works for Short Hair

How to use Light Works on short straight hair

pdf iconInstructions: Light Works Short Hair

It’s not necessary to use Light Works on freshly shampooed hair (unless you have a build-up of styling products). Wait at least one full day after shampooing your hair before using Light Works—the day after your last shampoo is best.

The Light Works application technique is designed to incorporate natural-looking highlights all throughout the head. Most of the highlights that you will be creating fall around your face with blended highlights towards the back of your head.

For best results, Light Works should be followed with Step 2: Light Works Finish Toning Glaze. The toner refines the highlights to a softer color tone, plus adds superior shine and leaves the hair in great condition.

No. Madison Reed does not recommend using Light Works Lightening Cream for on-scalp application. Light Works was formulated for “off-scalp” techniques only. The product consistency is ideal for using the Wishbone Balayage applicator to apply highlights to the surface of the hair.

Can't find what you're looking for? Please visit our FAQs page

After You Highlight

The best ways to protect and refresh your highlights

We want you to love your hair. If you don't—a professional colorist will help you find a color that you do love, send it to you, on us. And if you're still not happy? We'll refund your money on your first box, 100%.

We recommend using our Color Protecting Shampoo and Conditioner to lock in luxurious, lasting color, and nourish hair from the inside out. These sulfate-free formulas gently yet effectively cleanse, hydrate, and strengthen hair's natural proteins for incredible softness and shine while providing fade-resistant UV protection.

To strengthen your highlights in between Light Works highlighting applications, use Light Works Bond Building Cleansing Treatment once a week in place of your favorite shampoo. It contains technology that rebuilds bonds inside the hair.

To keep your highlights always looking fresh, apply Light Works Toning Glaze every 4-6 weeks in between Light Works highlighting applications. The demi-permanent glaze tones color, reduces brassiness and improves the overall condition of highlighted hair, all without interfering with your base hair color.

We recommend using Light Works to add subtle highlights about every 3-4 months. With each application, you create new lightened pieces -- hair looks lighter, brighter, and highlights become more vibrant. The more often you apply Light Works, the lighter your overall color will become. It’s important to avoid over-lightening the hair, so take care to not overlap or apply Light Works onto sections of hair that are already treated with Light Works or another bleach lightener.

Light Works is a bleach lightener and will permanently lighten both color-treated and non-color-treated hair. The Toning Glaze is a demi-permanent color that is formulated to be used after the lightening step to help refine and neutralize the undertones exposed during lightening. This step will gradually wash away in about 20+ shampoos.

Can't find what you're looking for? Please visit our FAQs page

Meet our Colorists

Doing it yourself doesn't mean you're on your own. Our expert colorists are always available to answer your questions.