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Getting highlights can be a pretty big deal because it can completely change how you look. However, they really don't have to be that drastic or that nerve-racking. If you choose the right color and place the highlights in the right positions, your dark locks will look fabulous and sun-kissed. Doesn't sound too difficult, right? If you think you can achieve that salon look, you can even go with a do-it-yourself kit and attempt the process at home.
Choosing a Color
Choosing the right color for highlighting dark hair can be the difference between a beautiful head of hair and a shocking nightmare, or even worse, hair breakage. Mike van den Abbeel owner of Mosaic Hair Studio in Orlando, Florida, says that if the color desired is more than five levels lighter than your natural hair, you might be better off getting hair extensions. He says that some problems you can encounter with lightening dark hair is getting unwanted brassy gold undertones. Abbeel recommends using a color only two to three levels lighter than your natural hair color. Celebrity and editorial stylist Gad Cohen says that hair color should act like makeup to the skin. He says that it's very important to stay within the palette of natural tones. David Todd, color director at Red Door Salon and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona, says that a great way to choose a color is to look for one that complements the eyes. "Darker eyes with cool skin tones works nicely with cool reds and very cool brown tones. Hazel eyes and light brown eyes can look nice with tans and warmer reds. Blue or grey eyes look great with cooler blonde tones," says Todd.
All hair experts agree that the placement of highlights can be as crucial as the color you choose. Cohen says that highlights have no business being where the light doesn't naturally hit. He says that when framing the face, avoid highlighting the strands of hair right next to the face because this can wash out the skin, especially for brunettes. Todd says to keep the highlights off the hairline because it softens the regrowth and looks better against the skin. Alan Gold, creative director of the Haig & Co. salon in Philadelphia, says stylists strategically place highlights to broaden the face, to raise a hairline and to bring the focus on the eyes. He says that highlights placed correctly can make hair look thicker, creating the illusion of more height or narrow a face by keeping the highlights off the hairline.
Do It Yourself
Cohen says to forget do-it-yourself kits all together because getting the mistakes that will probably happen fixed will be more costly than having the highlights done professionally in the first place. Rick Welllman, co-owner of the Patrick Melville Salon in New York City, says to try buffering home highlighting kits down by adding water or natural coconut oil to the developer for a gentler process, resulting in less lift. He also recommends substituting the "magic applicator wands" that you may find in the kits with a toothbrush for better detail. Wellman also gives a secret to mimic professional results: "Seal and blend the highlights in with a non-peroxide, non-ammonia light brown cool glaze after the highlighting process."
So you can't find the time away from the work desk to get to a salon ever few weeks, and heck, it is pretty expensive, so what's a girl to do? Paige Lewis of Hairs to You Salon in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania says that another great way to lighten up dark hair without being too drastic is by using the ombre or balayage technique. He says that with those techniques, the stylist will "lighten just the midshaft to the ends of the hair, creating a gradual lightness toward the bottom for that natural 'I laid on the beach all summer look.' ''