What are Lowlights?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

When you color your hair a single color, you may be covering up gray or faded color, but you’re likely to produce a hair color that looks distinctly unreal. This is because hair is not all one color. It’s usually a mix of colors, with lighter hair on top and at the ends and darker hair in under layers and toward the scalp. This is why people often choose not to just color but to have lowlights or highlights placed in the hair.

Lowlights and highlights may be done together to create a more natural-looking hair color.
Lowlights and highlights may be done together to create a more natural-looking hair color.

Most people are familiar with highlights, a lighter but usually complementary color that helps brighten the hair and may give it a fresh look. Some people skip an overall color and just choose to highlight, which can work great. Not as many people are familiar with lowlights, which instead of being a lighter color than natural or dyed hair are a darker color. These two can really make your natural or dyed color pop and seem more “natural” when colors chosen complement other colors in your hair.

Popular lowlights for brunettes may include darkest shades of brown, soft black and dark mahogany.
Popular lowlights for brunettes may include darkest shades of brown, soft black and dark mahogany.

Lowlights are especially a good idea if you have hair that has gone too blonde or that is too flat of a color after treatment. With blond hair, placing a slightly darker blonde color into the hair in selected pieces may give the hair much more depth and dimension. Even if you want super light blond hair, having some contrasting slightly darker color can make it seem like you were definitely born a blonde.

Many people opt for both highlights and lowlights, which may be called three-dimensional or tri-color treatments. Placing these so the hair doesn’t look stripy and skunk like can be challenging. Yet when they are placed correctly, they really replicate the look of natural and not dyed hair. Of course, if you want to look the opposite of natural, you can definitely create amazing color contrasts with lighter and darker colors that defy nature, like purple, pink or blue.

Some disadvantages to lowlights and highlights is that they are more time consuming, and many find them difficult to do at home and still get “salon” results. It can help to use a kit that will give you explicit directions on which strands of hair to color, and as with any coloring, do a test strand first to be sure the color chosen isn’t too great a contrast. Having a friend help may be a big assistance if you’re working with a lot of hair.

Cost of getting lowlights varies by salon. You can expect to pay about $50-100 US Dollars (USD) for a lowlight treatment only. Expect to pay more if you are having more than one color placed, or a combination of high and lowlights, and base color. It is not unreasonable in most cities to expect to pay about $150-200 USD for tri-color treatments and it may be much higher if you are having them done at a famous salon.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Blondes and brunettes looking to match their original hair color have many options to choose from for coloring and applying highlights and lowlights. However, redheads are not so fortunate.

There are many different beautiful shades of naturally red hair, but most of the shades available in home coloring kits have decidedly purple or orange tones.

As a result, it is probably a good idea for a redhead to spend a little extra for salon coloring if they are going for a natural look.

Post your comments
Forgot password?