How to Make Highlights & Lowlights Look Natural

by Allie Gore

Highlights and lowlights are a great way to add dimension to your base hair color. When done right, they can accentuate your face and add sparkle to your hairstyle. To make sure your highlights and lowlights look natural, go with colors that will complement your natural hair color and suit your complexion and eye color.

Step 1

Style your hair the way you will wear it most often. If you need a haircut or trim, get it done before applying your highlights and lowlights. Because natural-looking highlights and lowlights must accentuate and complement your regular hairstyle, having your hair cut beforehand will ensure your locks fall in the right way around your face.

Step 2

When choosing a color for your highlights and lowlights, always go one or two shades lighter or darker than your base color. Very light or very dark strands will stand out in your hair and will not look natural. For the most natural look, go one shade lighter and one shade darker than your base color.

Step 3

Pick smaller strands to apply your colors. For your highlights, choose thin strands from the top layer of your hair and the sections surrounding your face. These are the areas that would most often be exposed to sunlight and would look most natural highlighted. For your lowlights, choose small strands on the inner layers of your hair. Make sure your highlights are not too evenly spaced or too numerous, as this will look more unnatural.

Step 4

Once colors have been applied, keep the dyes in for no more than 30 minutes. Keeping your color in too long will make your highlights come out too light and your lowlights too dark. If hair is very fine, wash out after 20 minutes or less.


  • If possible, go to a professional salon that specializes in color to get your highlights and lowlights done. This will ensure a professional, natural-looking result.

    If doing highlights and lowlights at home, condition your hair thoroughly before applying color. Hair that is too dry and brittle will absorb color unevenly and may result in an unnatural look.

    Always have someone help you with your highlights and lowlights at home to ensure even application at the back of the head.

    To get your highilghts and lowlights exactly where you want them, trade the applicator wand that comes in the home kit and use a Q-tip instead.


  • If you've had your hair colored recently, wait approximately two weeks before getting highlights or lowlights to make sure they take evenly.

    If using a home kit to color your hair, always read the instructions carefully and follow the indicated wait times.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

About the Author

Allie Gore is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over five years experience in the field. She has served as a submissions editor for Existere and a health and wellness writer for She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from York University and currently works in advertising.