What Is The Difference Between Lowlights And Highlights?

Spoiler: They're both really freaking pretty.
PHOTO: (LEFT) Instagram/chadwoodhair, (RIGHT) Instagram/brycescarlett

TBH, the first time I heard my colorist use the word "lowlights," I assumed it was just an insider-y name for highlights. In reality? Lowlights and highlights are two very different techniques and, even though they're often used interchangeably, they leave your hair with totally different vibes. So, to get a definitive answer on WTF lowlights even are and why so many people request them in the salon, I went straight to a pro for answers.

What are lowlights and how are they different from highlights?

While, yes, lowlights and highlights sound preeeeetty much the same, they're actually quite different. Simply put, highlights are dyed or bleached sections that are lighter than your natural hair color or base hair color, while lowlights are darker (think: chocolate-brown streaks on chestnut hair or dark-blonde pieces on a sandy base).

"Lowlights are a great way to add dimension to your hair color, especially if you're looking to tone down overly blonde or highlighted hair," says Meri Kate O'Connor, colorist at Tabb & Sparks Salon in Santa Monica. "They're also great for disguising gray strands without coloring your whole head."

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Can you get highlights and lowlights at the same time?

Yup! And most people do, actually. Unless you want streaky highlights with tons of contrast, there's a good chance your colorist will tone down and blend the color with lowlights, whether they're placed on your roots for volume or throughout your hair for texture. BTW: That creamy, perfectly blended blonde you see on your favorite celebs (think: Margot Robbie and Sofia Richie) is typically the result of a highlight and lowlight combo. Makes sense, right?

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Are there any hair colors that shouldn't get lowlights?

The best thing about lowlights is that they're fair game for pretty much every hair color. "As long as the lowlights are formulated correctly, they can be done on anyone with any hair color," says O'Connor. That means you two things: 1) unless you have a lotta experience, you probably don't want to attempt lowlights at home, and 2) you should def do your research before you choose a salon and colorist. Remember: Hair color is 100 percent an art, so you'll want to go to a colorist who shares your aesthetic. Look at your colorist's portfolio on Instagram, bring lots of inspo to your appointment, and talk through your vision before you get started.

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How much do lowlights cost?

As with basically every beauty service, the price of your lowlights depends entirely on your salon and colorist. That said, the going rate for lowlights in Manila is anywhere from P2,000 to P6,000 (though they can definitely exceed that). As always, do your research before you book your appointment and make sure your salon is in your budget.

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Another thing to keep in mind? Since lowlights blend fairly seamlessly with your natural hair color, they're typically more low-maintenance than highlights. That means you can expect to spend less money in the long run (think: you'll need touch-ups every two to four months, versus the standard six to eight weeks for highlights).

How do you care for lowlights?

Speaking of touchups, the best way to extend the life of your lowlights is to make sure you're taking excellent care of them at home. You'll want to use a color-safe, sulfate-free shampoo to keep your lowlights from fading when you cleanse (which, for the record, should be as infrequent as possible if you really want your color to last), along with heat protectant before you blow-dry or flat iron your hair (hot tools = super harsh on your hair color).

Final thoughts

If you're looking to add a little dimension to your natural or dyed hair color, lowlights are an excellent option—so long as you go to the right colorist. And since lowlights are typically pretty blended and natural-looking, they're a fairly low-risk trend (read: if you end up hating 'em, they'll grow out just fine). So WTF are you waiting for? Book that appointment RN.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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