Home highlight kits that will give you salon-worthy results

Here’s how to use home highlight kits to color your hair—whether you have blonde hair, brunette hair, or dark hair

Home highlight kits: grid image of the best home highlight kits from L'Oreal, Josh Wood Colour, Bleach London, and more
(Image credit: Future)

We've handpicked our favorite home highlight kits to color your precious mane—be it blonde, brunette, or a hybrid of the two. If you're in a pinch and cannot get to the salon, consider yourself covered.

While most of us are possessed with an innate sense of loyalty to our colorists, lack of time, energy, or motivation to leave the house can make it increasingly tempting to try home highlight kits.

Of course, we've likely dabbled with plastering on a semi-permanent dye and crossing our fingers for the best at least once in our lives, but trying our hand at highlighting is a completely different ballpark so it's important to know exactly what you're doing.

Not only are there different types of highlights to consider when it comes to enhancing your color—with highlights, balayage hair, and ombré the most popular—but you also need to make sure you've got a good product and the right kit on hand before nailing the method you're going to use. Otherwise, it could have a serious impact on the health of your hair.

Because let's face it, if there's one thing we all want from our locks, it's a healthy reflective shine. And while we can be as mindful as we want about heat tool use, even the best hair dryers and the best hair styling products won't save your tresses from color damage if you mess up the highlighting process.

So we've picked out some brilliant home highlight kits for blonde, brunette, and dark hair, as well as explaining exactly what you need in your kit and the range of methods to use during application so that you can enjoy a seamless process from start to finish. 

Home highlight kits for blondes

1. L'Oreal Excellence Age Perfect 9.31 Light Beige Blonde Hair Dye

RRP: $8/£7.99 | No. of shades available: 8 | Permanent? Yes | Gray coverage? Yes

This nifty little number, designed with graying hair in mind, takes the trickiness out of home highlighting by blending gray and natural hair to create multi-tonal hair color with high and low tones as if the hair’s been highlighted. And it's also super easy to apply, so you won't find yourself in a tangle in the bathroom!

2. L'Oreal Paris Colorista Permanent Gel Hair Dye

RRP: $8/£5.99 | No. of shades available: 10 | Permanent? Yes | Gray coverage? Unknown

If you're stuck on what color you should dye your hair, then we'd opt for L'Oréal Paris' latest hair dye innovation Colourista Permanent Gel, as it comes in a variety of bright shades that you can play around with. Personalize your look with an ombré or balayage effect by painting this onto your locks in a blended streaky style. These shades are bright and bold if you want to try something different and daring or enhance your existing shade.

3. Josh Wood Colour 9.0 Lightest Blonde Permanent Hair Colour

RRP: $10/£14 | No. of shades available: 11 | Permanent? Yes | Gray coverage? Yes

Ideal for adding a subtle but striking highlight to blonde hair, this light blonde shade will lift roots and darker areas of the hair for a bright and sun-kissed finish. It contains a unique complex of shine-boosting ingredients to leave locks looking healthy and will even cover up pesky gray hairs.

Home highlight kits for brunettes

1. Jerome Russell Bblonde Maximum Highlighting Kit No.1

RRP: $10/£6.49 | No. of shades available: 1 | Permanent? Yes | Gray coverage? Unknown

Working particularly well on light to dark brown hair, expect an ‘unrivaled lift of up to 8-9 shades’ from this highlighting kit. It also promises professional results and ‘enhanced hydration and shine’ thanks to the addition of avocado oil, and we love the sweet honey and caramel tones that it delivers.

2. L'Oreal Paris Superior Preference Ombre Touch Hair Color, OT5 Light to Medium Brown Hair

RRP: $14/£10 | No. of shades available: 3 | Permanent? Yes | Gray coverage? Yes

A clever kit to make that tricky ombré technique easier to pull off at home. This contains an expert touch finger applicator brush to assist with blending the lightened ends and root sections. Christophe Robin, an expert colorist for L'Oréal Paris, advises, "For best results, start between ear and chin level."

3. L'Oreal Paris Preference Glam Bronde 03 Brown Permanent Hair Dye

RRP: From $9/£18.99 | No. of shades available: 4 | Permanent? No| Gray coverage? Yes

To get the on-trend bronde look, which gives subtle but luminous blonde highlights and a salon shine to brown hair, opt for a L’Oreal home balayage kit—it comes with a clever bush to separate the hair for natural-looking highlights that last for up to eight weeks. The only downside is that it's often sold out, so you may have a challenge getting hold of it—but once you do, it's worth the wait!

4. Laid Back Balayage with Total Bleach London

RRP: $18/£17 | No. of shades available: 3 | Permanent? Yes | Gray coverage? Yes

Hip hair color specialists Bleach London launched this kit to help their loyal fans create pro-style balayage without a salon visit. The kit contains bleach to lift the hair, a tint brush to apply the bleach, the Champagne Super Toner Kit to add creamy tones, and a balayage board to help with neat highlighting. Ideal for those with naturally dark brown hair for which only bleach will do the job! Just be sure to use heat protection for your hair if using this alongside heat tools, as even the best hair straighteners can leave your locks on the parched side when you combine them with bleach.

Home highlight kits for dark hair

While lighter hair tones can get away with highlighting their locks using home hair dye kits or color-brightening products, those with very dark or black hair will know that nothing does the job except bleach. Because of that, we would always recommend that darker hair types get the job done by a professional rather than trying it themselves at home.

However, if you're trying to be a bit kinder on the purse strings and don't fancy forking out upwards of $100 on a color refresh every couple of months, it's a good idea to opt for balayage at your salon instead of full-head highlights and then stock up on some color maintenance products. This way, you can keep your color looking fresh and let it grow with your locks, rather than being left with a harsh line from where your roots are coming back in.

And luckily, there are some fabulous products on the market to stop your balayage from going stale and to keep your hair color looking bright and healthy from the comfort of your home.

1. John Frieda Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Lightening Spray

RRP: $11.99/£6.99 | No. of shades available: 1 | Permanent? No | Gray coverage? No

This gentle hair lightening spray is ideal for giving your highlights a healthy refresh when your color is starting to fade a little bit. Or, if you're not ready to take the plunge with coloring your own hair just yet, this can also prolong existing highlights that you may have had done at the salon. Alternatively, it can be sprayed onto blonde hair to create subtle and easy highlights. Simply isolate the strands you want to color for a gentle spray once a week. The results are gradual, so you won't get any nasty surprises with the color.

2. Christophe Robin Shade Variation Mask - Baby Blonde

RRP: $37/£39 | No. of shades available: 5 | Permanent? No | Gray coverage? No

We've all had the dreaded brassy tones hit after a few weeks or months of getting our hair color done, so this clever mask works instantly to tone down brassy tones in highlighted hair. If your issue is that your lightened streaks have taken on a new, less flattering tinge, this could well be the solution to your hair problems and help your hard work last just that little bit longer if you think even the best purple shampoo you have on hand needs a bit of help.

3. Josh Wood Gloss and Glaze 

RRP: From $19/£19 | No. of shades available: 13 | Permanent? No | Gray coverage? No

If you've already got bleached hair and are looking to play with your color a little between salon visits, then Josh Wood's Shade Shots will let you try out a few different looks without inflicting any damage on your hair or shelling out a fortune on treatments. Chestnut and Smokey Brunette options are available if you like to stick to a darker look, but if you want to brighten things up a bit, the Champagne or Icy Blonde Gloss will lift your bleached sections for a professional-looking finish. Or you could even try out more fun options like Caramel, Copper, Cherry, Berry, or Rose!

How to prep and use your home highlight kit

What should a home highlight kit contain?

There are a few basics that it's best to have in-home highlight kits. However these can vary depending on what color technique you're going for—so it's best to know beforehand which look you want to try and achieve and what method you'll be using.

But generally, great home highlight kits will contain:

  • Lightening formula: The actual dye, and sometimes even a darker dye if you're going for a reverse ombré
  • Applicators: Tint brush with foil, tint brush with balayage board, comb applicator, or cap and hook 
  • Accessories: Gloves, and sometimes a mixing bowl, depending on your chosen application method
  • Conditioning mask: A conditioning after-treatment
  • Instructions: read these thoroughly and always carry out a skin test

There are few different methods you could try out to apply your highlights, so we've explained each one to get you going with your color application.

How you decide on which method to use is completely up to you—however, we have instructed which color techniques work well with each different method, so it could all be dependent on what you want your final look to be.

1. The foil method

Works best with: Highlights

Full-on highlights are when fine streaks of color are distributed evenly in small sections throughout the hair, often separated by foils, and tend to come right up to the root—they can also be fine or chunky, depending on technique.

So if you really know what you’re doing, or you're happy to give it a go, use foils like some hairstylists do, as they help give the closest finish to what you would get in a salon.

"Highlights are in the foil directly at the root and are the lightest effect usually, as the heat from the foil works the best," says Francesca Dixon, creative colorist at Hari's Hairdressers.

You can get hold of professional hairstylist foils easily on Amazon.

2. Apply with a tint brush

Works best with: Balayage, ombré or adding shadow roots to grown-out highlights

If you usually opt for balayage when getting your hair colored in a salon, chances are your stylist will use a freehand brush technique and a board to paint your color in. This color technique is usually painted on freehand without the use of foils for a more natural look and often applied in larger sections, and blended through the natural hair color—so for an expertly blended finish, we'd opt for that technique if you want this look.

"Balayage is a sun-kissed natural highlighting technique where the color is painted onto the hair in very thin strands," explains Francesca. "It tends to be the lowest maintenance, so you can get away with it for a little bit longer, thankfully—most people have it twice or three times a year."

This brush method can also be used for creating an ombré look, which is "a shadow technique of coloring hair that gives hair a rooty effect going from dark to light effect from root to tip which gives a root effect," says Francesca.

"In a salon, we often merge the two techniques of balayage and ombré together which can create a beautiful and more gentle result."

You can also use this method to brush a darker shade onto your roots (known as shadow roots) if you find that your highlights are growing out and becoming too high-maintenance.

"These can be created on top of highlights to convert it into a balayage," advises Francesca.

3. Apply with a comb applicator

Works best with: Highlights, balayage or ombré

A comb applicator will distribute dye through the hair for a highlighted effect. Use the one that comes in the highlight kit, or buy a paddle brush or a professional highlighting paddle.

Wearing gloves, use your fingers, and then comb through for a more natural effect.

You can also use a comb applicator or paddle brush to create a balayage effect by applying the coloring product to the tool and then combing or brushing through your locks.

4. The cap and hook method

Works best with: Highlights

Alternatively, use a cap and hook. Some highlight kits have a cap instead of a comb, but you can also buy a professional highlights cap and hook set quite easily on Amazon. 

To use, simply pick hair through your highlights cap with the hook evenly throughout your head and pull each section through. Take your time and be gentle; the last thing you need is to tug at your roots and encourage breakage. Try to set up your station with a mirror on both ends so you have easy reference as well to the back of your head.

How to maintain your highlights

After going through the effort of painting your locks, chances are you'll probably want to do everything you can to make them last as long as possible (unless the process hasn't gone quite like you thought it would).

So we got Francesca's expert advice on exactly how we should be looking after our highlighted hair—and we even picked out a few color maintenance products to add to your repertoire.

  • Nourish hair: "Keep your hair well-nourished and in good condition," advises Francesca. "Use a home hair mask and glossing treatments and drink lots of water for extra shiny hair."
  • Start from the inside: "What you take internally will reflect externally," explains Francesca. "Hair vitamins are always a good idea to ensure you’re giving your hair all the nutrients it needs for optimal health."
  • Go sulfate-free: "Opt for a sulfate-free shampoo to help prolong the color and tone from fading," says Francesca. "All of the products in Rahua and Pureology are sulfate-free and are professional-grade. However, it's good to be aware that you only need a small amount of these shampoos, as they are very concentrated. If in doubt, add a dash more water to lather it up more."

How to fix a home highlighting mishap

"If you had any of the issues from your DIY hair experience, I would always recommend waiting to see a professional to fix it," says Francesca. "If you have patchy hair color, have a root glow, or whatever your hair crisis may be, Hari's offers a full consultation (virtually or in salon) with your professional who will deal with the problem and advise and guide you. Don’t try and fix it yourself at home as you may make it worse, which could cause breakage.

"If you have patchy color, try using a purifying shampoo to remove the coating and soften the build-up to help your hairstylist deal with the color mishap and keep your hair in good condition for when you do manage to get back into the salon," advises Francesca.

"I recommend L’Oréal Professionnel Nutrifier Masque as it's silicone-free, so it won’t leave a coating on the hair cuticle and contains coconut oil and glycerol, which is proven to hydrate nourish and add shine. If your hair is warmer or brassier than your desired result, then try a silver shampoo to mute the hue. L'Oréal Professionnel Blondifier Shampoo is my go-to shampoo for that!"

woman&home thanks Francesca Dixon of Hari's Hairdressers for her time and expertise.