How to Decide on Highlight Color for Your Hair (Explanation)

How to decide on highlight color for your hair?
Photo: Instagram/@linsonhair

Many women turn to highlights when they want to change something with their hair. For some – that is like choosing another pair of shoes. At the same time, others think about their hair characteristics, texture, and, most importantly, their skin tone. 

If you don’t know how to decide on highlight color, this article is here to help you. 

Embracing your hair color with a few highlights or lowlights can be extremely beautiful. It can make a big difference in how you look, how your hair appears, as well as your skin. That is why it is crucial to pick the right highlight color. 

How to Decide on Highlight Color for My Hair?

When trying to choose a highlight color for your hair, first, determine your skin tone and undertone and then pick the shade. You will see, everything will appear much easier than you think. 

How to Figure Out Both Your Skin’s Tone and Undertone

Before taking a pick of your highlight color, you should try to determine your skin tone and undertone. Usually, people fall into one of these three skin tone categories: 

  • Light – Paler people, usually sun-sensitive, coming from northern European countries. 
  • Medium – medium skin tone is often referred to as olive tone, with its balanced neutral beige appearance. 
  • Dark – this complexion originates from world parts with the most ultraviolet exposure – Africa, India, and the Middle East. 

When it comes to undertones, they refer to the color beneath your skin’s surface. And while your skin tone can change, the undertones are always the same. These are different undertones:

  • Cool – red and pink with blue hints on the skin
  • Warm – gold, yellow and peachy hues
  • Neutral – a neutral and balanced mix of everything above, or the olive skin undertone

3 Tricks for Determining Skin Tone and Undertone

We know this might seem confusing, but some tested-and-proven tricks can help. 

1. Look At Your Face in a Daylight

Grab a mirror and head out into the daylight near the well-lit window to determine your natural skin tone. We should mention: do this without any makeup on. Observe different parts of your face and see which shades dominate the most. 

2. Take a Look At Your Veins

Check the color of your veins in natural light.

  • If they are blue or greenish-blue, then you have a warm undertone. 
  • If they are blue or purple, your skin undertone might be cool. 
  • If you can’t tell which colors your veins are, you probably have a neutral skin tone. Olive skin tone falls into this category. 

3. The Silver/Gold Test

If silver jewelry complements your skin better than gold, you will likely have cool undertones. Otherwise, when gold jewelry appears better on your skin, then your undertones are warm. 

Choosing Highlight Colors for Your Skin Tone

Now that you have determined your skin tone and undertone, it’s time to decide on highlighting color. Each skin tone will look best with certain shades.

We have grouped those highlight shades (plus added some examples). Explore different options before your next hair salon visit.

Light Skin with Warm Undertones

This skin combination will look amazing with ashy, platinum, blonde, ice, silver, as well as sand and champagne highlight colors. It is essential for your hair to be blonde so that you can add any of these highlight shades. 

Light Skin with Cool Undertones

Light skin with cool undertones will look good with warm shades. So, if your base color is blonde or strawberry blonde, you can add gold, caramel, amber, or honey highlights

Light Skin with Neutral Undertones

Golden, amber, and strawberry blonde are great on fair skin with neutral undertones. Adding copper, amber, and rust highlights on any of these shades will match perfectly. Rose gold is worth trying since it is trending at the moment. 

Medium Skin with Warm Undertones

The base of your hair should be brown. A cooler brown shade will make your warm and often yellowish undertones look creamier. You can try mixing dark brown, mocha brown, dark auburn, and dark chocolate brown. The effect will be gorgeous. 

Medium Skin with Cool Undertones

Women with medium skin tone and cool undertones can have darker hair roots. Combining them with anything that is caramel, honey, golden, amber, or mahogany shaded will be the right choice. 

Medium Skin with Neutral Undertones

Dark, black hair doesn’t have to be boring. You can also add subtle yet beautiful highlights to make it more textured. These shades will have that porcelain effect on your medium skin with neutral undertones. Go for licorice, espresso, dark brown, and blue-black highlights. 

Dark Skin with Warm Undertones

Browns and caramels will do their best to accentuate the dark skin and its warm undertones. You can go and add golden, honey, butterscotch, and caramel highlights. Your hair should be blonde or lighter brown for these highlights to work. Here you can find more on best hair colors for dark skin.

Dark Skin with Cool Undertones

The key is to warm up the skin a bit. Cool black will look good as a base, with dark mocha, brown-black, chocolate brown, and deep black shades as highlights. 

Dark Skin with Neutral Undertones

The neutral undertones are versatile, and they can rock any hair color. If you are into vibrant shades, such as auburn, chestnut brown, then go and add them f

hair base. 

Which Type of Highlights Is Right for Your Hair?

Hair highlights don’t stop at only one style. You can choose between different techniques of highlights, from babylights, lowlights, to balayage – all of these can look fantastic.

RELATED: 7 Most Common Questions About Hair Highlights

What Are Babylights?

Babylights are a type of hair highlights referred to as a natural way of dyeing your hair. Instead of picking bigger strands, the smaller strands are weaved and put in the foil. They are fine, usually placed around the hairline. 

Babylights are a synonym for low-maintenance. Your hair will appear just like post-vacation when the sun hit all the right spots and create different shade on your hair.

Babylights idea originated from the period when we were kids, and those small hair strands around the heads were differently colored, lighter or darker. The term itself is referred to the baby hair around the face at the crown of the face and the front.

If you decide to do babylights, you can be sure your salon visits will be rarer than usual. Your hair will remain natural even if some time has passed between applications. 

Highlights and Lowlights – What in the World Is the Difference?

Have you ever read about highlights and lowlights but didn’t get exactly what the difference is between these two?

Highlights refer to the general technique of lightening the small sections of hair by using light hair colors or hair lightener. They are created by weaving the small hair strands and then adding the color. Those sections can be both wrapped in foil or separated by hand. 

Highlights are perfect for women who don’t want to go to the hair salon too often.

There are often misconceptions that highlights are only for light and blonde hair shade. That is not true since you can have amazing highlights even on the darkest hair. 

As something contrary to highlights, lowlights are for anyone who wants to darken the hair.

They add depth by darkening your base hair color. They are perfect for adding texture, even though they are not brightening the hair but darkening it.

How to Decide Between Lowlights and Highlights 

We recommend thinking about what you want to achieve from trying any of these. Think of both highlights and lowlights as a pop of color on your hair instead of complete transformation. They are used to either brighten or darken your hair.

Both of these will add some texture to your hair. Whether your hair feels dull or you want a subtle change, you can pick one of these two techniques to achieve it. Highlights will provide you with a nice sunkissed look, while lowlights give a bit of drama and depth

Can You Mix Lowlights With Highlights? 

Believe it or not, most of the hairstyles you see on your favorite celebrities come from mixing lowlights and highlights. Most hair colorists will decide to mix these two to get an even better texture and add volume. 

Full, Partial, and Dimensional Highlights – Main Differences

Partial highlights are those that are placed around the face. They are sometimes referred to as face-framing highlights or as hairstylists like to call them ‘half head of highlights.’ They are great for everyone who wants to protect their hair. 

They are more affordable than any other type of highlights, and they look more natural. Just like the sun has naturally lightened your face and hair.

Full highlights are usually those that we see most often. Your hairstylist will decide to color all the parts of your hair, whether to lighten or darken your base hair color, and they can look both subtle and dramatic.

Dimensional highlights are simply adding a bit of dimension to your hair. Whether you decide to use lighter or darker shades, you can always count on dimensional highlights to provide you with texture and volume. 

Balayage Vs. Highlights

When it comes to choosing balayage and highlights, it depends on how you would like to see your hair looks afterward. 

Balayage is a French word meaning sweep. It is a technique where random hair sections are swept. Because of this, you get a natural, sun-kissed appearance. If you prefer a more structured look, you should opt for traditional highlights.

The most significant difference between balayage and highlights is in the application. While highlights are applied with foils and the dye is painted precisely, that is not the case with balayage. After balayage, your hair will appear natural, blended with your natural hair color. 

On the other hand, highlights will enhance that contrast between lighter highlights and darker natural hair shades. 

Balayage lasts longer than highlights. You can go months without needing a touch-up. However, you can only go a couple of months with highlights since the root will start growing. 

Conclusion: What Color Highlights Should I Get?

All those different highlighting techniques might seem a bit confusing. However, the key is to pick the right shade. Hopefully, after reading this article, it will be easier.

Determining your skin tone and undertone is crucial for deciding on highlight color. Once you do that, you can experiment with highlights, lowlights, babylights, or balayage.

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