Can You Use Regular Hair Dye to Make Highlights?

BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Changing the color of your hair can give you a completely different look. Some people prefer to change the color of their whole head of hair, while others prefer to add a different color in addition to their normal color. HIghlighting your hair means that you add some lighter portions to soften the overall effect of your hair.

Hair Dye

While many people choose to use bleach to highlight their hair, using hair dye also can produce a highlighting effect. However, hair dye is typically thinner when it is mixed and it can be difficult to apply it only to the parts you want to highlight. Bleach kits have a thicker paste that stays where you want it. If you only have hair dye available, use it to give your hair a highlighted effect.


Bleach removes pigment from your actual hair, allowing you to lighten any color hair numerous shades. The longer you leave the bleach in place, the lighter your hair gets. Hair dye, on the other hand, only has the ability to change hair to a certain degree because it adds pigment. For instance, if you have dark brown hair, you cannot dye your hair with light blond highlights with regular dye. But you can lighten the shade a few degrees for a more subtle effect.


If you choose to use regular hair dye to create highlights, apply it carefully. Hair dye is meant to color all of your hair, not just a small portion. Once you select a portion to color, keep it separate from the rest of your hair in the area. Wrap the dyed hair in foil to keep it separated. When you rinse the dye out of your hair, avoid letting it run through the other portions of your hair if possible.


One of the biggest differences between highlighting your hair with bleach and dye is the length of time it lasts. Because bleach is removing pigments from your hair, it is more permanent and stays until your hair grows out and you cut it off. However, with most hair dyes, it will eventually wash out. If you are not sure you will like the result, hair dye is a better option because it will not last as long. Different types of dyes, such as semi-permanent and permanent, also vary in longevity.