Home highlight kits that will give you salon-worthy results – and foolproof methods for using them

Want to know how to highlight hair at home? We're here to help.
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • Miss the salon? Here’s how to use home highlight kits

    From manis and pedis to salon-worthy facials, DIY versions of our favourite pampering treatments have become the new normal. And what’s also perfectly possible is using one of many excellent highlight kits on your hair at home, whether you’re refreshing your highlights, have brown hair with blonde highlights, or want to rock a bold new colour.

    With so many advances in at-home hair care, you no longer have to go to a salon to achieve professional-level results. It can be pretty daunting highlighting your own hair but, with the help of a good kit, some face-framing highlights or a low-maintenance balayage or ombré effect is achievable, meaning you’ll still feel at your best – even if it is just for a Friday night Zoom call.  And, with the current lockdown situation in mind, we can afford to experiment with different styles and colours – you could have even nailed a new look by the time quarantine is lifted.

    Home highlighting kits are an ideal way to shake up your style. With clear instructions and proven results, it’s never been easier to breathe new life into your hair.

    MORE: Colour analysis: How to pinpoint the most flattering colours for you

    Types of highlights

    Highlights: distributed evenly and vertically in smaller sections throughout the hair. Highlights can be close together or further apart.

    Balayage: applied to the hair vertically, in larger sections, and usually blended more subtly and seamlessly than highlights.

    Ombré: colour runs horizontally across the hair with darker roots and lighter ends. You can also get the ombré effect using the balayage technique.

    MORE: Techniques to transform frizzy hair

    Golden rules for using highlight kits at home 

    • Ensure you have enough highlight kits – if you hair is long and thick you will need two, or even three boxes. If you’re using the same colour throughout, you can mix the dyes.
    • Always perform a patch test to ensure you’re not allergic to the dye.
    • If your hair is dry or damaged, use an intense nourishing mask such as Lee Stafford’s Arganoil from Morocco Deep Nourishing Treatment a couple of days before dyeing. This will hydrate your hair. Prefer a more natural product? Massage a couple of teaspoons of Biona Organic Raw Virgin Coconut Oil into damp hair and leave for an hour or two before rinsing.
    • Wear a protective towel or gown that you won’t mind staining.
    • Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly around the hairline, on the forehead and temple area. This helps prevent the dye staining the skin around the hairline. Avoid getting it on the hair as it forms a barrier to colour.
    • Look at the box for shade recommendations based on your existing/natural hair colour.
    • Follow the instructions word for word – all colour brands have slightly different formulas so please make sure you read the instruction leaflet which will give details on application and development times.
    • Application is important. The better the application, the better the result, so take your time.
    • Make sure your hair is tangle- and knot-free. Use a small amount of serum so your hair is smooth and easy to section.
    • Use hair clips to hold sections of hair so you can apply the dye more precisely.

    After dyeing your hair

    • If  you’re concerned that the colour is a bit brassy, you may want to buy a hair colour toner such as one from the Scott Cornwall range. Apply after dyeing for 20-25 minutes then wash out.

    MORE: What is hair toner? 

    • Make sure you have some moisturising shampoo and conditioner to hand to give your hair a hydration boost after dyeing, or use a leave-in mask such as OGX Restoring Boding Plex Cream.

    MORE: Best ways to treat coloured hair

    What home highlight kits should contain

    • Comb applicator, or cap and hook
    • Lightening formula
    • Gloves (and sometimes a bowl)
    • Conditioning after-treatment
    • Instructions (read these thoroughly and always carry out a skin test)

    Highlighting methods

    Applying with a comb applicator

    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. Alternatively, wearing gloves, use your fingers as shown in this vlog. A comb applicator or paddle brush can also be used to create a balayage effect – follow these steps from Superdrug.

    The foil method

    If you know what you’re doing, or you’re happy to give it a go, use foils like some hairdressers do. You can buy professional hairdresser foils here. This YouTube tutorial shows you how to highlight your roots using foils.

    The cap and hook method

    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. This YouTube video shows you how.

    MORE: How to get a salon blow-dry at home

    How to highlight hair at home

    Ask for help

    If you’re concerned about an even application ask someone in the household to do the back – or all – of your hair. This is useful whether you’re using a cap, an applicator, or foils.

    Know what you want before starting

    Be aware that the sparser and lighter the strokes the more subtle and natural the result, while for something more dramatic be generous with the dye, especially at the ends. To frame your face, apply dye from the root to the ends of the strands around your face.

    Regularly detangle your hair

    This is important before dyeing a section, then use clips or a hairband to keep hair you’re not dyeing out of the way.

    Take your time

    It may be a laborious process but the results will be much better.

    Apply the dye 2-3cm from the roots and work your way down

    Add a little more to the ends for a graded effect.

    For an ombré effect apply dye to the ends first

    Then work your way up as far as you’d like to go. This helps to lighten the ends further.

    Use heat

    For a stronger look you can use a hairdryer on a low heat; blow on your hair for 5 minutes before washing out the dye.

    Popular highlight kits that give salon-worthy results

    NAV BUG FIX