How To Highlight Hair At Home [The Beginners Guide]

The sun-kissed vibes of beautiful blonde highlights will never not make us happy. If you’re here wanting to know how to highlight hair at home, you’ve come to the right place!

A fresh new head of lights can make your eye color pop and your skin look bronzed. But when it comes to creating the summery, shimmery look at home, you can risk ending up too bright and too brassy if you don’t do it carefully.

We’re here to give you the lowdown. In this post you’ll find out how to get the sun-kissed style, what shades will look great on you, and advice for looking after your hair to make them last for longer.

We’ll even help you decide if attempting to do them at home is really for you! And give you some essential top tips if you do.

So without further ado, let’s find out how to get this luscious look in your life!

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What are blonde highlights? 

Highlights are a hair lightening technique that adds streaks of blonde to a darker base hair color. 

From strawberry blonde, ash blonde, caramel blonde, dirty blonde and even platinum blonde, there are a wide variety of tones and colors to choose from.

You’ll find a shade to match every skin tone too. So whether you go for cool blondes or warm blonde colors, you’ll find a shade to suit you.

Best of all, they suit any style – long waves or short bob, crazy curly hair or poker straight hair.

Whether you go bold with a full head, half head or chunky streaks, or soft and subtle with a half head of babylights, the options for sexy blonde lights are only as limited as your imagination…

Check out the latest on-trend blonde highlights looks on our Pinterest board for ideas and inspiration.

blonde highlights hair color collection pinterest board

Can I highlight my hair at home?

Well, it’s a specialized technique and there’s a reason professional colorists need to be trained to do it!

So we’d always recommend talking to your hairdresser first about whether they would suit you and what shades they would use.

Home hair color technology is so advanced these days that there are some great kits out there that can give you good results and help you master how to DIY highlights at home.

The biggest difference between salon and at-home dyeing is that in a salon, the professional colorist will expertly mix different shades and ratios to create a totally bespoke color blends that suit you perfectly.

In a box kit, you get what you get—one color tube and a bottle of developer!

So the results won’t be as good as you’ll get from a salon!

If you’re unsure – start by giving yourself some face-framing highlights around your hairline and temples and see if you like the result.

Start with subtle highlights until you have the confidence to attempt a full head.


Mix it up – opt for a mix of blonde shades to add depth and dimension to a warm or cool base.

Enhance your natural coloring – If your natural hair color is already light blonde then just go straight in with a color 2 levels lighter.

If your hair is already dyed – start by going a shade lighter and be careful of warmth or hot roots.

Thinner highlights look more subtle and natural – chunky highlights will look stripier.

Get toning – To avoid any brassy tones, be sure to tone your hair with a purple shampoo regularly.

Can I highlight my own hair by myself?

With a little bit of time and patience, you can do your own highlights yourself at home.

However, it is a time consuming process so you can also get a friend to help and save your aching arms. They’ll also be able to highlight the back of your hair easier than you will be able to.

The key is to start with a small section of hair and use a highlighting kit that is specifically designed for doing at-home highlights.

We recommend the foil highlights technique as the easiest way to begin. You might want to opt for doing a half-head of highlights or T-section highlights first before attempting to highlight your whole head!

Once you’ve mixed the highlighting solution according to the color kits instructions, carefully apply it to your hair using the provided color brush.

Then, wait the recommended amount of time before rinsing it out. With a little practice, you’ll be able to achieve salon-worthy results without even stepping foot outside your door.

How to highlight hair at home.

You will need:

  • DIY comb applicator 
  • Mixing bowl
  • Gentle lightening formula 
  • Tinting brush (or old toothbrush works too)
  • Plastic gloves
  • Conditioning after-treatment
  • Full instructions
  • Aluminum foil strips (optional)

You can also purchase a complete hair dye highlighting kit that comes with everything you need.

You’ll also need:

  • An old towel to protect your clothes and surfaces
  • Vaseline to apply to your ears and hairline to stop the dye getting on your skin
  • Some hair clips to hold back sections of your hair to apply the lotion more precisely.

And don’t forget to do a strand test before you begin so you don’t end up orange!

How to highlight hair at home step by step (with foils).

Step 1: Start with clean, dry hair.

You don’t want to highlight dirty hair because the color won’t take as well.

If your hair is freshly washed, you can start right away. If it’s not, make sure you shampoo and condition it first.

Step 2: Section off your hair.

To get even highlights, it’s important to section off your hair before you start applying the color.

Use a comb to divide your hair into 4 sections: two on the sides of your head and two in the back. Then, use clips or salon ties to keep each section separate and avoid any tangles.

Step 3: Apply the color.

Now it’s time to start applying the color!

Starting with one of the back sections, use your brush or tail comb to weave through the hair that you want to highlight. Place this hair on top of a piece of foil.

Apply the color evenly down the hair from root to tip. Concentrate on the ends of your hair that would be naturally lighter.

Once you’ve covered all of the hair in that section, fold and wrap it tightly in the strip of foil and move on to the next section. Work your way around to the top section last.

Repeat until all of your hair has been colored and the foils are grouped in layers.

Step 4: Wait for the color to process.

The amount of time you’ll need to wait for the color process will depend on the brand of highlights you’re using and the shade you’ve chosen.

Check the instructions that came with your kit to find out how long you should wait.

Step 5: Rinse and shampoo

Once the processing time is up, shampoo and condition your hair according to the instructions in order to remove any leftover color deposit.

Step 6: Apply a toner (optional).

If you want your highlights to be even more pronounced, you can apply a toner after the color has processed.

This is optional, but it’s a great way to really make your highlights pop. An ash toner can also tone down blonde highlights to stop them from being too bright and neutralize any brassiness.

Step 7: Style and Admire!

And there you have it—highlights that you can be proud of, all done in the comfort of your own home!

Just remember to follow the instructions that come with your highlighting kit carefully, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional if you have any questions.

Watch and learn: How to highlight your hair at home.

Here’s a great video that shows you how to highlight your hair at home using foils and some of the best tips and tricks to getting it right.

Which is the best blonde highlight kit?

The problem with the kits you can buy to use at home is that sometimes they won’t lift your hair up to the desired color.

If you are a brunette or your hair naturally contains red and warmer pigments, you could end up with bright orange hair!

The best way to avoid this is to only go for a shade specifically labelled for your current hair color (i.e. “for light brown hair“) rather than the color you want to achieve. 

The general rule is to choose a kit that’s only one shade lighter than your base color. If you want to go lighter than this, it’s best to head to your salon to avoid being tangoed.

There are a load of lightening and bleach kits that will help you get the right look at home. Here are a handful of our tried and tested!

Read more about each one in our Best home highlight kit reviews.

Best blonde highlight kits at a glance

KitLooks likeBest for Buy it now
Garnier Nutrisse Bleach Hair Dye.

Garnier Hair Color Nutrisse Ultra Color Nourishing Creme, PL2 Ultra Light Platinum (Mascarpone Crème) Permanent Hair Dye, 1 Count (Packaging May Vary)

Platinum blonde effects.
Schwarzkopf Live Intense Lightener Schwarzkopf Live Color XXL Max Blonde 00B by LIVE XXL
Achieving medium-blonde shades like caramel blonde.
Clairol Nice' n Easy Crème, Natural Looking Hair Dye, Light Ash Blonde. Clairol Nice'N Easy Creme 9A Light Ash Blonde (Pack of 3)
Ashy tones.
L'Oreal Colorista Effects Bleach Lightening Kit L'Oreal Paris Colorista Bleach, All Over
Extra lightening fast results.

How can I highlight my hair at home without foil?

There are multiple ways you can highlight your hair without using any foil!

You can use what’s called the Babylights technique, which is similar to traditional foiled highlights but uses much thinner sections of hair and doesn’t require any foil.

Another option is balayage, a freehand highlighting technique that can be done on both virgin and previously colored hair.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even try out one of the new highlighting trends, like halo highlights.

Whichever method you choose, just be sure to follow the directions carefully and use good quality products to avoid damaging your hair.

With a little time and effort, you’ll be able to achieve beautiful, natural-looking highlights at home.

What are balayage highlights?

Balayage highlights are a popular hair coloring technique that involves painting color onto the hair to create a natural, sun-kissed look.

Unlike traditional highlights, which are usually applied in foils, balayage highlights can be applied in any number of ways.

The most common method is to simply brush the color onto the hair, but some stylists may also use combs or other tools to create more precise highlights.

Balayage highlights can be applied to any hair length or type, but they are particularly well-suited for those with long, straight hair. Because the highlights are painted on rather than applied in foils, they tend to look more natural and less like “traditional” highlights.

They’re actually pretty easy to do at home. All you need is a balayage kit (available at most beauty supply stores) and some patience. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:

  1. Section off your hair into four quadrants.
  2. Starting in the back, take 1-inch sections of hair and apply the balayage highlighting kit according to the instructions.
  3. Once all of your hair is highlighted, let it sit for the recommended amount of time (usually around 30 minutes).
  4. Rinse out the highlights, then shampoo and condition as usual.

And that’s it! With just a few simple steps, you can achieve salon-worthy balayage highlights right at home.

Can dark hair have blonde highlights?

The short answer here is yes, most definitely!

If you’ve got dark hair and want to give your locks some lighter tones, it doesn’t matter what shade of blonde your natural base color is.

People often have difficulties highlighting black hair, dark brown hair, or red hair because the natural pigments in these colors made them harder to lighten.

If you have dark hair, it’s not impossible to bleach it. It just means you may have to lighten your hair more than once to get the right lift.

Do highlights damage your hair?

The truth is, yes, highlights can damage your hair!

The chemicals used to lighten hair are incredibly harsh, and they can strip away natural moisture and leave locks feeling dry and brittle.

The ingredients used like hydrogen peroxide can also burn and damage your scalp if the formula is too strong or left on your hair for too long.

Plus, bleached hair is more vulnerable to breakage, so you’ll have to be extra careful when brushing and styling.

Nevertheless, highlights can be totally worth it!

Just be sure to use a deep conditioner once a week to help repair some of the damage. And don’t forget, highlights are only temporary, so you can always go back to your natural color if you want.

How can I get natural blonde highlights?

If you’re looking for a more natural highlighted look and don’t want to spend hours in the salon. There are a few ways you can lighten your hair naturally.

The best ways to naturally lighten your hair.

  • Lemon juice – Put some neat lemon juice in strands of your hair where the sunlight naturally hits.
  • Honey and cinnamon – Mix 3 tablespoons of honey and 3 teaspoons of cinnamon together with your usual conditioner and leave it on as a hair mask to develop.
  • Vitamin C – Crush up a Vit C tablet and make a paste with water to apply to your hair in sunkissed places.
  • Salt water – mix up a salt water solution a spray it on your hair when you hit the beach.

How long do highlights last?

Well, it depends how you look after them!

The more often you wash your hair and use heat tools such as straighteners and tongs (and the higher the temperature), then your highlights will fade much quicker.

Highlights can last anything from 6-12 weeks when treated well.

If you’re a fan of the blonde hair with dark roots look, you can give yourself some extra time in between salon trips. Just let your natural root growth show through!

In fact, it’s this root growth that will determine when you need to brighten your hair again rather than any color fade.

How can I look after my highlights?

After you’ve achieved the fabulous look you love, you’ll want to deep condition your hair regularly to replenish lost moisture and avoid a lot of heat styling if you can.  

Your hair will be fragile and more prone to breakage and split ends or flyaways for a couple of weeks. When you do heat style, use a hair heat protectant spray every time.

You’ll also need to use specially formulated silver and purple shampoos and conditioners to keep the color in tip top condition.

Purple shampoos clean your hair just like regular shampoos but they contain purple toning pigments that help to keep yellow undertones at bay.

They can also darken highlights that are too bright and brassy.

Parting words.

So there you have it, everything you need to know about how to highlight hair at home.

Highlights are a great way to change up your look without committing to an all over color.

You can go as light or as dark as you like, which means there are endless possibilities to spruce up your look once you know how to do it yourself successfully at home.

It’s also a lot easier on your wallet than going to the salon for something that will probably fade out in two weeks anyway!

This article was written and reviewed by:

  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
    Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!

  • Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant
    Hair Stylist & Color Consultant

    I’m Enza Piazza, your go-to hair stylist and color consultant with over 23 years of professional salon experience bringing vibrancy and life to hair of all hues. My Italian roots from sunny Sicily infuse passion into every snip and color, a passion that’s been recognized with top honor awards including bridal and party hair at the National Hairdressers Federation’s Championships. After training in Surrey, UK’s most prestigious salons including Head Master Academy, I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and set up Enza Hair Styling, offering tailored hair care for 13 years, and treating each client like family. Away from the salon, I cherish moments as a proud Nonna to grandson Joseph and as a playful companion to my Jack Russell, Bo.