Highlighting Hair on Dreadlocks

Singer Naima Adedapo rocks high-contrast highlights.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Rocking a head full of dreads doesn't mean you're forced to flaunt your natural hair color. Be bold and mix up your look by adding a few highlights. Go for sun-kissed sections or a wild pop of color. The process and general pitfalls of highlighting dreaded hair isn't exactly the same as with free-flowing locks, but the end result is just as fabulous.

Why Highlights?

Highlights are a great way to give your hair a brand new look without committing to a full-on dye job. They brighten locks and add dimension to flat looking color. Unlike a dye job, highlights require minimal upkeep and ultimately cost less. This is great for gals looking to mix up their look on a tight budget. Get highlights at the salon or opt to do them yourself at home. If you choose to see a professional, pick someone who knows how to work with dreaded hair.

Color Choice

For natural looking highlights, choose a color that's only one to two shades lighter than your base hair color. Dark brown hair looks great with caramel, auburn or copper highlights. Gals with light brown hair can feel free to go a little golden. Blondes look like they've spent the day at the beach with pretty platinum streaks. Looking for something a little more alternative? Choose highlights that have a higher contrast to your base shade. Beware though — high-contrast highlights can end up looking like skunk stripes.


Unfortunately, it's too hard to highlight individual strands of hair in your dreads. Instead, your best bet is to highlight a few locks to create the same effect. Pepper the highlights throughout, or use them to frame your face. Newly dreaded hair can't be highlighted for 10 to 12 weeks, or until it's fully locked. You don't want the highlighting process to unravel all of your hard work. Before you attempt to highlight, wash out all of the wax from your locks so the color sticks. Don't be surprised if you need to add more color than you would with loose hair — dreads are like little sponges and tend soak up dye.


Stick to shampoos and conditioners for color-treated hair. However, avoid any products that leave residue behind. Color processes dry out hair. Keep your dreads moisturized with a hot oil treatment. Skip the blow-dry and instead use a towel to squeeze the water out of your hair, rather than rubbing your dreads dry.

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