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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
Jerome Russell BBlonde Maximum Highlighting Kit No.2, £4.33
Working particularly well on light to dark brown hair, expect an ‘unrivalled lift of up to 8-9 shades’ from this highlighting kit from ‘the UK’s number one blonding brand’, which also promises professional results and ‘enhanced hydration and shine’ thanks to the addition of avocado oil.
L’Oréal Excellence Age Perfect Layered-Tone Dye, £8.25
This nifty little number, designed with greying hair in mind, takes the trickiness out of home highlighting by blending grey and natural hair to create multi-tonal hair colour with high and low tones as if the hair’s been highlighted. It’s easy to apply too.
Christophe Robin Shade Variation Mask in Baby Blonde, £15
This clever pouch works instantly to tone down brassy tones in colour-treated and highlighted hair, so if your issue is that your blonde tones have taken on a new, less flattering tinge, this could well be the solution to your hair problems. 'It leaves my hair super soft and gloriously shiny and the best bit.... white blonde once more!' wrote one shopper on the brand's website.
L'Oréal Paris Colorista Permanent Gel, £5.99
If you want super-shiny hair (and let's face it, who doesn't?) opt for L'Oréal Paris' latest hair dye innovation - Colourista Permanent Gel. Personalise your look with an ombré or balayage effect. These shades are bright and bold if you're wanting to try something different and daring or enhance your existing shade. 'It feels much more expensive than it is' wrote one happy customer on the brand's website.
L’Oréal Paris Preference Glam Bronde Brush On Balayage, £8.25
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.
Wella Hair Streaking Kit, £6.99
Don’t let the dated hairstyle on the box put you off – this highlighting kit gets excellent reviews on Superdrug and Amazon and is especially effective at giving blonde or light brown hair a sun-kissed look. It’s bleach-based so best used for highlighting rather than all-over bleaching as it could prove too harsh, and although it comes with a hat if you have thick hair or prefer something a little more sturdy it’s worth investing in a professional cap.
Revlon Frost & Glow Platinum Highlighting Kit, £19.85
Regularly sold out on Amazon, this kit has gained a cult following. Loyal fans admit that the process is time-consuming, but the results make that hour of strand-pulling worthwhile. A fool-proof colouring treatment, users have exclaimed time and again how they won't ever go back to paying pricey salon costs when this DIY option rivals the results.
Superdrug Dry Shampoo, £1.99
If you need a very quick fix for those Zoom meetings or Facetime catch-ups, Superdrug’s Dry Shampoo Golden Goddess and Cocoa Brownie offer a hint of colour. Ideal for an emergency temporary root cover-up, it also allows you to create a natural balayage – and it's vegan-friendly, too.