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Lowlights or highlights? A stylist explains hair-coloring techniques

A expert hairstylist explains the difference between the coloring techniques of highlights and lowlights. Find out which is right for you.
/ Source: TODAY

What's the difference between highlights and lowlights? Which is best for my hair color and skin?

Many women I see over-highlight their hair. Highlights should complement your natural color, so I often use lowlights to tone them down and temper the frosted look. Lowlights help create a vibrant hair color that brings out your skin tone and eye color. Your hair color should never detract from your complexion, and too many highlights can make your skin look faded. I recommend adding lowlights every third time you get your hair highlighted. They will help blend your highlights with your natural color, and you won't have to run to the salon with dark roots every six weeks.

Shutterstock / Dmitry Kalinovsky

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Which is right for you?

Women with dark hair should not go more than three shades lighter than their natural color with highlights. In terms of lowlights, tones of red and tortoise (a blend of copper and gold) colors work best. When brown hair lightens naturally, it has to go through shades of red first. Thus red lowlights make highlights look much more natural on brunettes.

Natural blondes have more range in terms of highlights and don't have to adhere firmly to the three-shade rule. Gold and copper lowlights are best, especially for blondes with very fair skin. They prevent the color from becoming brassy and won't wash out a pale complexion. When mixing highlights and lowlights, the colors should be well blended and natural. Also, don't have the back of your head highlighted too heavily. The sun naturally lightens the front of your hair, so highlighting too much in the back will detract from the natural feel of your color.

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Generally, going a little darker in winter is best. Darker lights are better for skin that is often paler in winter and won't drain the color from the face. In summer, try a lighter color of highlights. It's best not to attempt highlights and lowlights at home. Unlike single-process color, it's a customized process. Each shade must be carefully blended to enhance your hair color and complement your skin tone.

This article was originally published on Feb. 25, 2013 on