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12 Different Types of Highlights (To Ask Your Stylist About)

Let’s talk about the different types of hair color highlights!

Have you ever spent hours looking at hair color ideas, only to freeze when the stylist asks, “What type of highlights are you thinking?” 

It’s a moment that calls for inspiration—but what are the right type of highlights for you?

From subtle babylights to bold money pieces, the world of hair color techniques is vast. 

In this ultimate guide, we’ll explore the different types of highlights and help you find the perfect option for you personal needs.

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12 Different Types of Hair Color Highlights

Full Highlights vs. Partial Highlights

Understanding the difference between full and partial highlights is essential for achieving your desired look.

A full head of highlights involves coloring the entire head, from the roots to the ends, creating a more dramatic and all-over effect. 

On the other hand, partial highlights add subtle pops of color to certain sections of your hair.

Foil Highlights

Gorgeous foil highlights on medium straight hair.
📷Credit: @shannonalbritton

Foil highlights are a tried-and-true technique beloved by hairstylists for its precision and versatility. This technique pieces out sections of hair with foil, which contains the hair color to certain strands. It’s commonly used for blonde highlights on dark hair.

This method allows for controlled saturation and heat application, resulting in evenly lifted strands with distinct contrast. 

Foil highlights are ideal for achieving vibrant, uniform color effects, whether it’s a natural look or bold, colorful hues. 

The foil’s insulation properties also help intensify the lightening process, making it particularly effective for darker hair shades.


Balayage, originating from the French word meaning “to sweep,” is a freehand hair coloring technique known for its effortlessly chic results. 

Unlike traditional highlights, the balayage technique involves painting color onto sections of hair, typically starting from the mid-lengths. The color is brought down to the ends in a sweeping motion, hence the name. 

This creates a soft, natural-looking gradient effect, with lighter pieces seamlessly blending into the base color. 

Balayage highlights offer a low-maintenance alternative to traditional highlighting. The best part is that this look grows out beautifully without harsh lines or noticeable regrowth, perfect for those who want low maintenance.


Gorgeous babylights on mid-length wavy hair.
📷Credit: @ulasetike

Looking for a whisper of color?

If you’re into subtle highlights, babylights could be your jam. This delicate hair coloring technique mimics the natural, sun-kissed look of children’s hair. 

These ultra-fine highlights are applied to very small sections throughout the hair, creating a soft and natural-looking effect. 


Gorgeous multidimensional highlights on long wavy hair.
📷Credit: @colorbymarina

Lowlights add depth, dimension, and richness to the hair by incorporating darker shades or tones. Unlike highlights, which lighten sections of the hair, lowlights are about applying darker color to select strands of hair, creating a multidimensional effect. 

Ombré Highlights

Ombré highlights are characterized by a gradual transition from darker roots to lighter ends, creating a striking gradient effect.

Unlike traditional highlights, where color is applied uniformly throughout the hair, ombré highlights achieve a seamless blend from a dark hair at the roots to a lighter shade towards the tips. 


Gorgeous sombré highlights on on long wavy hair.
📷Credit: @tural_color

Sombré hair, short for “subtle ombré,” is a hair coloring technique that offers a softer, more subtle version of the traditional ombré look. 

This technique typically uses tones closer to the natural hair color, resulting in a more understated and lived-in appearance. 

Chunky Highlights

Chunky Y2K highlights involve thick hair sections that are lightened or colored to create distinct, noticeable chunks of color. 

Unlike more subtle highlighting methods, chunky highlights are characterized by their larger size and higher contrast with the base color.

Think Kelly Clarkson circa 2003.

Peek-A-Boo Highlights

Gorgeous peek-a-boo highlights on on long wavy hair.
📷Credit: @huybstyling

This playful hair coloring technique involves vibrant, contrasting colors strategically placed underneath a top layer, creating hidden pops of color that peek out when the hair moves. 

This technique emphasizes the element of surprise, as the colorful highlights are subtly revealed, adding depth and dimension to the overall look. 

Face-Framing Highlights

Gorgeous face-framing highlights on on mid-length wavy hair.
📷Credit: @ali_theartist

As the name suggests, these types of highlights accentuate and enhance the features of the face.

Strategically placed around the hairline and framing the face, this technique brightens the complexion, adds warmth, or creates a more youthful appearance.

Money Pieces

This trendy look involves bold, face-framing highlights strategically placed around the front hairline, framing the face from the temples to the chin. 

Money pieces are usually lighter than the rest of the hair, creating a striking contrast that enhances the overall look. 

These types of highlights are designed to add brightness and dimension to the hair, drawing attention to the facial features and creating a focal point. 


Gorgeous splashlights on long straight hair.
📷Credit: @taotam_official

Splashlights are a distinctive look that creates a horizontal band of color across the hair, resembling a splash of light. 

This technique typically involves applying a concentrated strip of color horizontally across the mid-lengths of the hair, from ear to ear, while leaving the roots and ends untouched. 

The result is a bold and graphic effect that adds contrast and dimension to the hair.

Multidimensional Highlights

Gorgeous lowlights on long straight hair.
📷Credit: @hairnnownyc

Multidimensional highlights are about incorporating various tones and shades to create depth, dimension, and richness in the hair color. 

Unlike traditional highlights, which typically involve adding one uniform color throughout the hair, multidimensional highlights utilize multiple shades to mimic the natural variations found in hair. 

By blending lighter and darker shades together, multidimensional highlights can enhance the natural texture and movement of the hair. This makes the hair appear to be thicker and can even complement the individual’s skin tone and features.

This creates a more vibrant and visually interesting hair color that appears multi-faceted and dimensional.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts Icon

Exploring the diverse world of hair color highlights reveals many options to suit every style, preference, and personality. From the precision of foil highlights to the soft, blended effect of balayage, there’s a technique for everyone.

Whether you want subtle sophistication or bold statement-making looks, the different types of highlights offer endless possibilities.

By understanding the various techniques available and working with a professional colorist, you can achieve the best highlights to illuminate your hair.

Until next time,

Hollee Wood Headshot


Hollee is a licensed cosmetologist with over nine years of professional experience in the hair industry. With her unique insight and versatile experience, she’ll help you discover the latest hair trends or even crush your next DIY hair project.

Learn more!

🌟 Your Turn: What do you think about these different types of hair color highlights? Which technique is your favorite? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below!👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

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