How to Highlight African-American Hair

Actress and singer Beyonce boasts shades of caramel, blond and honey in her signature mane.

Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Whether you love the look of soft, honey hair or want to add some bold crimson or purple streaks, highlights are key for punching up your mane. Highlights add color and dimension to your hair but, like any chemical process, they can also dry out and damage your 'do. Highlighting African-American hair is like coloring any other type of hair, except that the texture is drier and particularly prone to frizz.


Check your hair to make sure it's healthy and in good condition. It should feel strong and smooth. If you've recently permed or relaxed your hair, give those tresses at least two weeks to strengthen up before you highlight them.


Brush your hair to remove tangles. It's best to highlight hair that is not freshly washed. A little natural buildup helps to prevent damage and over-drying.


Open up the highlight kit. Most kits include dye, activator cream, conditioner and plastic gloves. Mix the dye with the activator cream and shake it like crazy.


Put on the plastic gloves and drape the towel over your shoulders to protect against spillage. Dye on your favorite top is not the look you're going for.


Part your hair where you normally do. Put the tail end of the rat-tail comb at the start of your hairline, then scoop up a thin, 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch strip of hair. Turn the tip back toward your hair and scoop up another strip. It's just like stitching or sewing.


Weave the comb back toward your crown, picking up thin strips of hair as you move. Collect all the strips in one hand then slip a piece of foil under the hair and slide it up to your scalp.


Bring the hair into the center of the foil. Dip the tint brush into the dye, then brush the hair from root to tip, soaking that hair with dye.


Fold the edges of the foil in toward the center, then fold the bottom edge up to create a packet with the hair tucked inside.


Repeat the weaving and dying process on the opposite side of your part. Continue moving from side to side to create a symmetrical look. Do as few or as many strips as you'd like but take a minute to appreciate your head of foils; it's a cute look.


Allow the dye to process for the designated time period. Don't get distracted and forget about the time. Leaving dye on delicate hair for too long can cause breakage. You're going for highlights, not fuzz.


Remove and toss out the foils then rinse that dye out.


Massage conditioner into your newly fabulous hair and leave it in for five minutes before rinsing completely.


Admire your head-turning color but stay away from blow drying or heat styling. Color-treated African-American hair is dry and needs a gentle touch, so allow it to air dry and limit the use of flat irons.

Things You'll Need



3.Plastic gloves

5.Rat-tail comb



2.Highlighting hair dye kit


6.Tint brush

8.Highlighting foils


Tips & Tricks


Apply a deep conditioning treatment once a week to keep hair moisturized and looking its best.


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