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

2. L'Oreal Paris Colorista Permanent Gel Hair Dye

3. Josh Wood Colour 9.0 Lightest Blonde Permanent Hair Colour

Home highlight kits for brunettes

1. Jerome Russell Bblonde Maximum Highlighting Kit No.1

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

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

4. Laid Back Balayage with Total Bleach London

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

2. Christophe Robin Shade Variation Mask - Baby Blonde

3. Josh Wood Gloss and Glaze 

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.