I’m definitely not a risk-taker with my hair, but funds were running low last month and I needed a little pick-me-up, so I decided to try my hand at highlights.
Although I know a lot about beauty and dabble in makeup artistry, I’m a novice in hair color. I’ve only had highlights done professionally once, and they were very subtle (per my request). So when I got the itch for something new, I went to my beauty editor friend to get tips on the best DIY hair highlighting kits on the market. She insisted on Revlon Frost & Glow Highlighting Kit in honey (for my dark brown hair). For less than $12, you could buy 20 kits for the price of one salon visit!
Once the kit is purchased, take a deep breath and let the fun begin! Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: I suggest gathering pictures of people/ celebrities whose highlights you like. I did a Google search for “celebrity highlights for brunettes.” A lot of images came up and I picked my favorites and printed them out as a point of reference. I used Minka Kelly and Shenae Grimes as inspiration.
Step 2: Buy a roll of foil and cut stripes about 1-2 inches wide. The length should go from your roots to your tips.
Step 3: Throw out the hair cap and plastic gloves provided. This approach is dated and hinders precision. Please note though that “second-skin” gloves are strongly encouraged. If you don’t have those, you can risk it and use your bare hands (as I did), just be sure to wash them with warm water and soap each time you touch the formula. Make sure to moisturize your hands at the end, otherwise they will be extremely dry.
Step 4: Mix the kit exactly as directed in the instructions. Once the formula is fully mixed you should put the spatula tool aside and trade it for an unused/ clean mascara wand or toothbrush.
Step 5: Since you have to wait 24 hours to wash your hair after application, start with clean or semi-clean hair. Part your hair as you normally would and start with the face-framing strands and select a tiny section of strands. Hold the strands away from your head and apply the formula with your wand or toothbrush, starting at least 1/2 to one inch away from your roots (this is important for achieving natural looking highlights). Paint the strands all the way to the tips, putting a little more at the last couple of inches for a subtle ombre effect.
Step 6: You should still be holding the strand away from the rest of your hair. Grab a strip of foil. Hold it to where you started the highlights to the tip of the strand, and fold upwards until the hair is fully covered.
Step 7: Grab another tiny section of strands (ideally on the opposite side of your part). You don’t have to be perfectly even, but one side shouldn’t have significantly more highlights than the other. Also, I did some highlights underneath, starting at the middle of the strand. It gives a bit more of an edgy look.
Step 8: For your first time, I would suggest doing no more than a total of 8-10 sections total (keep the emphasis on the front of your head).
Step 9: Once your hair is all in foil, you must sit and wait for the color to absorb. I would check the strands after 10 minutes. This is the scary part because every person’s hair is different, so the length of time it takes to color varies. If you’ve never colored your hair before, it will be take a shorter amount of time. DO NOT exceed 60 minutes. If you have brown hair, make sure that your strands look more blonde than orange or red before rinsing.
Step 10: As you remove the foil (it took me about 20-30 minutes), rinse each strand with cold water. Then, rinse your entire head. Remember, you cannot wash your hair with shampoo or conditioner for 24 hours. Just rinse thoroughly with water only.
For some of you first-timers, the experience is rather stressful, but if you verge on the side of caution by selecting about 20 or so single strands at a time, you will be fine. If you aren’t happy, there are always temporary hair coloring kits—Clairol Natural Instincts is a beauty editor-approved product. I’m officially on Hair Hotline duty, so post a comment or question and I’ll get right back with an answer. Happy highlighting!
– LIZA COLLIS
Liza Collis is a fashion magazine editor in Manhattan and a beauty guru to her friends. She believes that the best thing about being a woman is the opportunity to experiment with beauty every single day.