20+ Differences Between Highlights And Lowlights  (Explained)

Yes, LOWLIGHTS is an actual term. The key difference between highlights and lowlights simply lies in the technique itself.

Lowlights are the darker dyed section of your hair, while highlights are the lighter bleached ones. To fully understand the difference between the two, scroll below. 


Key differences of Highlights:

  • For lightening your hair
  • It can last up to 2-3 months 
  • Takes 2 hours to finish
  • Gives dimensions 
  • Can enhance your skin tone
  • Better than full coverage 
  • Comparatively high-maintenance

Key differences of lowlights:

  • For darkening your hair
  • It can last up to 3-4 months 
  • Takes 1-3 hours to finish
  • Gives textures to your base color
  • Can work as a color corrector 
  • Better than highlights 
  • Low maintenance 

Comparison Between Highlights And Lowlights

ParametersHighlights Lowlights
AimIt refers to the segment of your hair that is enhanced by brightening It refers to the segment of your hair that is made look thicker by dying it a shade darker
Who needs itThose who are looking to add dimensions Those who are looking for texture and depth
Benefits Enhance your single-dimensioned hair
You can decide where you want to color
Give a natural look 
It can be used as a color corrector 
Duration of process2 hours 1-3 hours
Touch-upsAfter 2-3 monthsAfter 3-4 months
Damaging agent More damaging than lowlightsLess damaging than Highlights
Color examples Pastel BlorangeWarm HoneyStrawberry blondeLavenderRed wineMauveCoffee brownAsh-blondeCopperMidnight blue 

Major Difference Between Highlights And Lowlights

What Are the Highlights?

Highlights refer to the section of your hair that you would like to lift up. Choosing a light color than your natural hair color will enhance your dyed hair and give your hair an overall enhanced appearance.

Looking for either a subtle or a dramatic effect, highlights can offer you both easily. 

You should go for getting highlights when you are ready to add dimension, brighten up your color or provide movement to your base hair color.

If you have a brunette hair color, then you can either opt for lighter brown or simply blonde. If you are blonde, try going for lighter blonde shades. 

Basically, the method of highlighting will give you a perfect result if you go for a shade lighter than your actual base color. 

What Are the Lowlights?

Lowlights are basically the darker version of highlights. This method which includes bleaching a darker shade than your base color creates an illusion of depth. If you have fine hair but wish for thicker locks, lowlights will definitely work for you. 

Lowlights are the perfect technique for you if you have light brown hair or a natural blonde.

However, if you naturally have a dark base color, for instance, dark brown or black, then lowlights might not give you any result as the lowlights require a shade darker than your base color for effect. 

So, to put it in simpler terms, if you are looking for depth and contrast or to simply darken your lighter hair, then lowlights will work fine for you. 


The origin of highlights and lowlights:

  • The origin of hair highlighting probably begin early in 4 BC. 
  • At that time, the Greeks would apply a special ointment to their hair and rest under the sun. 
  • These special ointments contained olive-oil or gold flakes
  • After 1400, people started using chemicals for the coloring purpose
  • Some people would create a mixture of honey and lemons and then mix it up with sulfur
  • A hat would be used to put the color intact on the head  
  • It was in the 1980s when the highlighting technique actually evolved and gained popularity 
  • This offered people to decide what segment of hair do they want to color
  • Further, it also allowed people to decide the shade of colors, which was the beginning of highlights and lowlights. 

Contrast Between Highlights And Lowlights


  • Highlights – Highlights are done to get a lighter or brighter segment of selected hair. Usually, a lighter color is chosen than your natural base hair color to make out your bleached hair stand out. 
  • Lowlights – Lowlights are done to get a darker section of your hair. For lowlights, a darker shade of color is taken to make your hair appear thicker. 

Who should ask for them

  • Highlights – People who are looking to brighten of hair, for adding dimensions, and enhancing their natural hair color, should opt for highlights. 
  • Lowlights – If your hair naturally feels very light, then you can go with lowlights. It will help your hair in terms of contrast, the texture of color, and depth. 

Duration of The Process

  • Highlights – It depends on the technique you are using. A traditional hair highlighting will take approx. 2 hours. Meanwhile, balayage, complex highlights, etc., can take more than 2 hours to get done. 
  • Lowlights – Lowlights take 1-3 hours to get settled in the hair properly. 

Suitable for Whom:

  • Highlights- If you are new to hair color, i.e., you have never dyed your hair, then you should go for hair highlights. This doesn’t usually require you to color the root of your hair. 
  • Lowlights- If you have over-colored or over-processed hair, then lowlights can suit you. Lowlights offer warmth to the brassy strand that you possess. 

Timestamp of Color

  • Highlights- Highlights can stay for at least 2-3 months. Then you have to go to your colorists for the monthly touch-ups. 
  • Lowlights- Lowlights can easily last long for around 3-4 months before requiring any touch-ups. 


Maintenance of highlights:

  • Keep away from direct sunlight 
  • Avoid using hot styling tools for a while
  • Wash your hair with color-friendly shampoo and conditioner 
  • Use deep conditioning treatment regularly to keep your color vibrant
  • Oil your hair once in a while 
  • Go for a glossing treatment 
  • Invest in UV protectants hair products 

Maintenance of lowlights:

  • Buy a shampoo that is not harsh on your open cuticle and is non-stripping
  • You should also go for a lightweight conditioner
  • Purple shampoo and conditioner are a must for every dyed-hair
  • You can extend your hair’s glow by opting for a hair mask once a week
  • Always remember that your hair products should be sulfate-free
  • You can also invest in a leave-on cream to maintain the freshness of your color
  • Use deep-nourishing treatments for the longevity of your hair


Highlights- The benefits of highlights are as follow;

  • Highlights refer to the selected section of hair which is dyed. Highlighting only a part of your hair is much cheaper and easy to maintain than an overall dyed base. 
  • This also protects your hair from overall damage.
  • Going for highlights grants you control of the final look. You can decide whether you want full highlights or partial. 
  • A good hair highlight can enhance your skin tone. 
  • Highlighting your one-dimensional hair base can provide your hair depth and texture. 

Lowlights- Lowlights can benefit you in the following ways;

  • A few strands of lowlights will help you to achieve dimensions and textures in your hair. 
  • The maintenance of lowlights is even lower than that of the highlights. 
  • Since the formula of lowlights does not uplift or brighten your natural color, it appears less harsh on your hair. 
  • In case you ‘over-highlight’ your hair strands, lowlights can act as your color corrector. 
  • A right lowlight color will help you give a naturally enhanced look that can suit your skin shade. 

Damaging Agent:

  • Highlights – There is a slight chance of getting your hair damaged if you use highlights. As it generally requires bleaching the dark hair section to get the required brightened hair color. 
  • Lowlights – As mentioned above, lowlights require coloring the lighter strands of your hair in a darker shade. This does not need much bleach to get the color. Therefore, it is less damaging to your hair. 


Colors of highlights that you can get:

  • Pastel highlights could spice up your game if you got soft blue or lilac hair
  • Blorange highlights if you want to play with fire but still keep it safe
  • Warm Honey highlights for getting a sun-kissed shade of hair
  • Strawberry blonde highlights for basically any skin tone
  • Mushroom blonde highlights to experiment with greyish hues
  • Rose-gold highlights for getting a luxurious touch 
  • Auburn highlights for all the brunettes
  • Lavender highlights for a warm purple tone 

Colors of lowlights that you can get:

  • Midnight Blue Lowlights will give you a sultry and edgy vibe with an ease
  • Red Wine Lowlights add depth to your natural hair
  • Copper Lowlights can suit red hair the best
  • Amber Lowlights can bring natural warmth to your mane
  • Coffee Brown Lowlights is the key for you if you need a subtle hair-do
  • Mauve Lowlights will work best if you are up for taking a risk
  • Ash Blonde Lowlights help in creating dimensions for your blonde hair

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Is it okay if I get both highlights and lowlights?

You can absolutely get both of them together. Opting for both highlights and lowlights together can be a great option if you want a multi-tonal look on your hair. 

Q2. Can I do my lowlights myself?

Lowlights require precision and professionalism. You don’t want to mess up your hair, hoping to get your dream look.

It’s better to book a salon appointment to get your lowlights done. It’s better if you check your colorist’s portfolio as well. 

Q3. Are lowlights better than highlights?

To some extent, yes, they are. Lowlights usually include colors that are semi-permanent. So, this will keep your hair away from getting much damaged. 

Q4. Is it important to get highlights or lowlights?

It is NOT important to get either. If you are happy with your hair in general, you can simply not opt for them.

However, if you are annoyed by the thinness of your hair or the light color of your hair, then you can definitely opt for highlights and lowlights. 

Q5. Are highlights better than full coverage?

Yes, highlights are better than getting your full head colored. As highlights require only some segments of your hair to get colored, it would be less damaging than the latter one. 

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