What Color of Highlights Are Best for Black Hair?

The lighter, or brighter, the highlights, the more contrast against your black hair.

Photo: Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images

Looking to add some sass to your ebony tresses? Highlights are always a fun way to take your solo hair color to the next level. While black hair rarely has much in the way of natural highlights, you can add subtle, or bold, color to add contrast and depth.

Natural Shades

While there really is no highlight color that's going to look like it was naturally put in your black hair, if you're more conservative you'll at least want to stick with a color that occurs in nature. To keep it real, stick with a shade that's no lighter than a level four. This way it won't look like skunk streaks in your black hair, and you can just use 30-volume developer instead of having to bleach. The 30 volume developer will lift you up to three levels and get you exactly where you need to be.

Cool vs. Warm Highlights

Don't be tone deaf (or in this case, blind) when it comes to your highlights. The shade you choose should depend on your own skin tone so you don't end up looking washed out. If you have a cool skin tone you'll want to keep excess reds or gold out of your highlights. Use an ash color and go for a neutral medium brown color. If you're a warm gal, do the exact opposite. Look for browns with a hint of red or gold to complement your skin tone.

Funky Streaks

For those who want to make a bold statement with their highlights why not really go big? Think a wild streak of vivid red or pink. Or how about a slash of deep purple? There are loads of punk hair colors that are bright and can provide some seriously dazzling streaks of color to contrast your inky locks. The key to getting these in-your-face splashes of color is to pre-lighten the highlights with bleach to remove as much pigment as possible.

Pre-Lightening

Pre-lightening, or bleaching, your hair light enough to create punk-colored streaks is not for the novice hair colorist. You'll need bleach and 30 volume peroxide and you'll have to lighten those highlights past palest yellow stage and onto an almost white blonde. Once you get there, you'll rinse off the bleach and apply the bright punk color over the top. While it can be done, on healthy hair, you do not want to try this trick on hair that is already dry or damaged. That's just a one-way ticket to the dreaded chemical hair cut.

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