Highlights for Dark Hair

Highlights for Dark Hair

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  1. Dark hair presents a stylist with limitless options for highlighting.   Highlighting, which is the process of placing streaks of a lighter color in the hair, looks best on those with medium-colored to dark hair.  Before we discuss which highlight colors look best on dark hair, let’s examine the most common techniques for highlighting the hair.


    Without a doubt, foils are the most popular method for highlighting hair in today’s salons.  In this technique, selected strands of hair are placed onto a foil strip.  The desired color is then painted onto the hair in the foil, thereby separating it from the rest of the hair.  Foils allow a stylist to place many different colors into the hair at once, and foils allow the stylist to place the highlights wherever they wish.

    Frosting Cap

    Although cap highlights have decreased in popularity in the past few decades, they are a wonderful tool for highlighting dark hair.  This is because dark hair has so much melanin (the pigment that gives hair its color), that it may be necessary to re-apply bleach or dye to the hair during processing.  Since the highlighted strands are pulled through holes in the plastic cap, it is easy to wipe off the bleach or dye and re-apply if a longer processing time is needed.


    This technique, also called "hair painting", is a freehand highlighting technique which involved painting bleack or dye onto the surface of the hair with a brush.  This is a great method for adding very subtle and natural-looking highlights.

    Color Selection

    Any of these three methods can be used to highlight dark hair effectively.  Once the proper technique is selected, it’s time to choose the right color.  The best shades of color for highlights on a dark base are colors that are not too light.  Platinum blonde highlights on dark hair, for instance, will look very un-natural.  Instead, opt for colors like caramel, light brown, red, or auburn.

    Red highlights look best on those with very dark or black hair.  The darker the natural color, the more vibrant the red can be.  If your hair is medium brown, for example, a more natural looking red will look better than a vibrant "fire engine" red.

    Caramel is another great highlight color for dark hair.  Just as there are many different shades of blonde, there are many different shades of caramel.  A caramel color is a shade somewhere between blonde and brown, with warm gold undertones.  Choose a dark caramel to highlight darker hair, and a lighter caramel to highlight lighter hair.

    Blonde highlights are not recommended for dark hair for a few reasons.  The most obvious reason is that it will look very drastic and artificial, and the other reason is that it is very damaging to the hair.  It takes a longer time and stronger chemicals to make dark hair blonde than it does to lighten medium brown hair to blonde.  Since dark hair also contains so much natural melanin, attempting to go blonde will often result in an ugly yellow-orange color.

    When it comes to highlighting dark hair, always remember that it is less damaging to achieve subtle highlights than it is to achieve dramatic or super-light highlights.  The best highlights for dark hair tend to be only two to four shades lighter than the existing base color.   

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