How to Highlight Your Hair at Home

March 14, 2022

As we headed into spring, there’s a renewed type of energy in the air. It’s invigorating in many ways, including giving your hair game a jumpstart. After a season of hat hair, you’re ready to try something new and show the world your tresses.

So, how do you up the “wow” factor without a radical change?

It’s as easy as highlighting your hair at home.

But before you treat your tresses to a makeover, you need to know how to achieve salon-quality results from the comfort of home.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to highlight hair at home with foil, without foil, and how to touch up roots on highlighted hair, and more stylist-approved tips with the AGEBeautiful instructions from one of our favorite product lines. 

Let’s get started!

Find Your Hue

It’s a given that highlights are lighter than your base tone, but there are still some rules to follow. For starters, if you already have hair that is color-treated, and you want to go lighter, you will only be able to do so with a bleach, like Age Beautiful liquid crème lightener, or Ultra-Bond lightener. Otherwise, you can get an uneven effect that’s more jarring than eye-catching. 

You should also consider the undertones of your hair. Dark, cool brown tones may pair better with equally cool shades, like ash or mushroom brown, rather than warm caramel or honey. If you are going from dark to light, it may be necessary to tone your highlights to further neutralize or counteract the warm tones. Age beautiful toners will help accomplish this, and you will need to allocate time for this second step.

If your hair is not already colored, you can lighten with a lighter shade of permanent haircolor, or a hi-lift shade and skip the bleach. Check out our Color Consultation tool to try on different shades before you dye! You can also reach out to one of our licensed stylists for pro-color-matching tips to nail your perfect color combo. 

Get Ready to Highlight

There are multiple options for highlighting hair at home. You can go with foil or without, and it’s really a matter of skill and time. Whichever option you choose, we suggest scheduling a free afternoon, so you can fully dedicate your attention to your highlights.

How to Prepare, Plan and Section Hair for Highlights

Before you use any product to lighten your lock – or bust out the aluminum foil, you have to plan, prepare and section off the hair for dyeing or lightening. To feel super comfortable, we suggest a strand test in advance (we explain this below).

Stylists section hair for highlights depending on the effect they want to create. No matter what approach you choose, some hard-and-fast rules apply when it comes to preparing your hair for highlights.

  • Use a rat-tail comb and ensure you have plenty of plastic clips (that you aren’t afraid to get dirty!)
  • Focus on the front face frame area or fringe and top of the crown. Think where the summer sun would hit!
  • Section off the area where you don’t want the highlights to appear to keep it out of the way.
  • Divide the area you intend to highlight in to separate , smaller sections depending on what look you want to achieve.
  • Make sure you have the product you need on hand and protect clothing (think old shirt!) and work area from product splashes or spills that may occur.
  • Double check you have everything you need close at hand, and don’t mix product until right before you are ready to begin!

How to be Sure you Will Get the Highlight Hue you Want?

Before creating your crowning glory, you need to do a strand test and protect it from the untreated hair with foil. However, make sure your foil stays in place, especially with bleach. Since strand tests can bleed, you’ll want to open the foil slowly to peek inside. If using a bleach, track how long it takes to get the hair lightened to the shade you desire. This can be your guideline to use for how long it will take to process. If you are using a haircolor to lighten, process according to the directions.

Pulling the test strand out may get tangled with your hair, causing a lot of unnecessary hair drama. However, once your strand passes the test, it’s onto foiling or painting lightener on in a technique called balayage or using a highlighting cap!

After you section the hair, you’ll wrap the strands you intend to highlight (with color or lightener) in foil to process.

If you’re using AGE Beautiful Color or Lightener (which we recommend!) and developers, you can mix the blend using a non-metallic bowl according to package directions. 

How to Highlight Hair at Home With Foil

Separate out and lift a small section of strands that you want to lighten using the rat tail comb ( don’t go thicker than a quarter of an inch at a time). If you want a chunkier highlight, you achieve this by placing the next strand close to the first, versus bunching too much hair into one piece. If you put too much hair in one foil, you risk uneven lightening or color.

Apply product to thoroughly saturate the strands and wrap in foil after you have painted them, then set the timer and wait. If using lightener, check an easy to see strand frequently to watch for when it lifts to the desired undertone. Follow timing guidelines indicated by strand test and package directions.

Rinse thoroughly, towel dry and apply an after-conditioner. Rinse again after it’s set, and towel-dry your hair before styling. Don’t forget, toners can be used as a second step if desired.

How to Highlight Hair at Home Without Foil

If you don’t have foil, you can still learn how to highlight your hair with a cap. Highlighting caps are easy to use and great for beginners, especially if you’ve never done your own highlights before.

How to Highlight Your Own Hair With a Cap 

  • Brush and de-tangle your hair thoroughly.
  • Secure the cap over your head and then pull sections that you’d like highlighted through the holes.
  • Mix your color or lightener with developer according to instructions.
  • Apply the highlights from the bottom-up, front to back.
  • Set your timer. When the processing time is complete, remove the cap and rinse your hair thoroughly. If lightening with bleach, check an easy to see strand frequently to watch for when it lifts to the desired undertone.

How to Highlight your own Hair with Paint On Highlights “Balayage”

  • Section off the fringe and crown of your hair. Pull the remaining hair out of the way and secure it in place.
  • Mix the product and apply/paint on a small section at a time, leaving space in between. Focus on the strands that frame the face and top layer of how the hair naturally falls around the crown. Work the entire area, artfully placing on small sections at a time. Paint/apply the product vertically down the strand to create an illusion of length, or if you’re growing out your hair and want to create more dimension.
  • As you work, be sure to pull hair away from the face rather than towards it.

How to Touch Up Roots on Highlighted Hair

Applying touch-ups to your roots is even easier than regular highlights. We suggest waiting until you see some significant growth, as this makes it easier to apply touch-ups without affecting the rest of your hair’s color. Merely apply your usual shade just to the root area, being sure to not overlap onto the mid lengths and ends, avoiding coloring over your lightened strands.

The easiest way to apply the dye to your roots is to split your hair directly down the middle. This creates a T-shape parting that is easy for you to dye without touching the rest of your strands.

You can also use the applicator bottle to apply the dye to your roots after sectioning your hair into four parts. Take your time, and move with a steady hand and medium pressure.

Applicators can be more difficult to use than a brush as it requires greater precision, so keep that in mind before opting for a bottle.

All Your Hair Questions Answered 

Zotos Professionals has licensed stylists available for support anytime you have questions. Contact us via our LiveChat or hotline anytime for emergency hair help, DIY tips, or general advice on the right color or style for you.