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A few well-placed highlights can subtract years from your looks, but they take time and money if you get them done at a salon. Luckily, you dont have to be a pro to highlight at home. Here's our do-it-yourself guide to home hair highlights.

“Drugstore kits have improved a lot in the last decade,” says Jet Rhys, a salon owner in San Diego. “Theyre quicker and easier to use than ever.” Here, Rhys shows you how to give your hair subtle, sun-kissed streaks without the big salon bill—or the suns damaging rays.

Choose the right kit

If your hair is light to dark blonde, look for a highlighting kit that adds pale, beige-blonde highlights, such as Clairol Nice n Easy HairPainting Blonde Highlights ($10.99; drugstores). Light-brown strands? Go for one that imparts dark blonde or caramel streaks like LOreal Paris Hi-Light Styliste in Creamy Caramel ($10.99; drugstores). If your hair is medium brown, a kit that gives light- or golden-brown highlights like Revlon Frost & Glow Chestnut Highlighting Kit ($8.99; drugstores) is best. If your hair is any darker (or red, permed, or chemically straightened), head to the salon.

Do a strand test

Follow the kits directions to mix up a small amount of the dye, apply it to a section of hair behind your ear, wait 10 minutes, then rinse, blow-dry, and check the results. “It should be about one shade lighter than your color,” Rhys says. If its too light, try again with a slightly darker kit. Not light enough? Apply more dye to the section, wait another 5 minutes, and check. Continue this process, checking every 5 minutes, until you reach your ideal shade.

woman-hair-highlight-kit
Julia Rothman
Prep Before You Begin

Gather the following supplies: aluminum foil, a clean toothbrush, a plastic hair clip, and your highlighting kit. Mix up the rest of the highlighting dye according to the instructions, then clip up the hair on your crown (A).


woman-hair-highlight-kit

Julia Rothman



Highlight face-framing sections

Separate a section of hair about the width of a shoelace at your right temple. (“You should be able to see through it if you hold it up to the light,” Rhys says.) Slide a piece of aluminum foil under the section, then use the toothbrush to saturate it with dye (B). Fold the foil around the section to keep it from touching the rest of your hair. Repeat on your other temple.

Highlight the top of your hair

woman-hair-highlight-kit
Julia Rothman

Let down your clipped-up hair, and part it as you normally would. Spread out three fingers (as if you were holding up the number 3), then lay them on the left side of your part (C); the spot where each finger lands is where you should place another highlight using the same technique as above. Repeat the process on the right side of your part. Add one more highlight centered at the back of your head.

woman-hair-highlight-kit
Julia Rothmanv
Process and Rinse

You should now have a total of nine foil-wrapped highlights (D). “Dont worry if theres mixture leftover—you probably wont use all of it,” Rhys notes. Leave dye on for the predetermined time; rinse, shampoo, and condition with products made for color-treated hair, then style as usual.
Last updated: Jun 23, 2009