The great big guide to highlights

The great big guide to highlights

If you’re unfamiliar with highlights, the concept can be a little overwhelming. And just as there are thousands of shades of red lipstick, the different results you can achieve with highlighting are countless. With so many choices, where do you start?! To help you get the exact look you want, we asked RAW Salon Hair Colour Director Stella Greenwood for a rundown on highlights.

From dark to light and everything in between, here’s what you need to know before you book that appointment.

Figure out what works

Colour trends are forever changing, and with new names popping up (ecaille tortoiseshell ombré, anyone?), it’s important for stylists to educate their clients about what is going to suit them best. “Every day, I give advice to my clients in the chair on which colour tones suit them best; depending on their skin tone and what complements them”, says Stella.

It’s a good idea to bring in photos of what you like and don’t like – just be sure they don’t get mixed up! Lastly, consider your cut before your colour. After all, you want your colour to work with your cut. Plus, what’s the point of chopping all that beautiful new colour off?!

Salon etiquette

Skip the root concealer touch-up on the day of your appointment. Trying to cover up any regrowth or greys hinders the colourist more than it helps. They need to see the true base colour so go on, put your roots on show. Don’t worry too much if you arrive with dirty hair, but be kind to your colourist and skip the post-gym sweatiness. Salon etiquette is real, people. 

What to do in between visits

It’s important to keep your hair in the best possible condition between salon visits, so listen to your colourist! Blondes, try not to overdo it on the purple shampoo. Do, and you’ll be responsible for over-toning your hair, and dulling the pretty flecks you worked so hard to achieve in the first place. Anyone with balayage needs a cocktail of products: something to give the roots volume and lift, and a conditioning treatment to repair the ends.

bh recommends: Oribe Bright Blonde, Redken Colour Extend Magnetics Deep Attraction, ELEVEN Australia’s 3 Minute Repair Rinse Out Treatment


Foil highlights are more noticeable than balayage, specifically at the roots and middle part of the hair. But despite what most people think, they’re not just for blondes or those wanting to go a lot lighter. Stella says they’re the most popular variation of highlights, and can be applied to any hair colour (even fiery reds!): “Every client is different, but you can still keep your natural hair colour which will look softer once it grows out.” 


Hair-painting, balayage, ombre… Call it what you want, but it’s extremely popular and ideal for girls with a low-maintenance approach to their hair. It creates an effortless sun-kissed look with lightness on the ends of hair, so growing it out isn’t an issue. And if life gets busy and you forget to book in a colour appointment for a little while, that’s fine too. This is the look that made regrowth cool.


Also known as ‘tortoiseshell’, this is the ‘it’ hair trend of 2015. “The foils give soft lightness that frames the face, and then blends in with the lighter sun-kissed ends. It’s a combination of doing both foils and balayage together,” says Stella. And if you need convincing, just turn to the likes of Blake Lively, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Gisele Bündchen.


Stella says highlights are the way to go for blondes. She suggests opting for two to three different shades of blonde: a slight cool tone and a warm tone for “beautiful contrast.” “I find they complement one another and leave you with a shimmer though your hair”. 


Ecaille is a no-brainer for brunettes. It’s a tortoiseshell look with highlights around the face for that honey-biscuit tone, and balayage on the ends. While ombré is really heavy on the ends, ecaille brings the lightness higher as well as around the face for a softer effect.


As for redheads, Stella says to play up strawberry and peachy tones. To break up the block red colour, go for soft highlights throughout your mane, or balayage for a natural finish.

Dark Hair

As a general rule, dark hair has an underlying red pigment that comes through when the hair is lightened. Play up these warmer tones, because they already suit you best. “If you’re dark and don’t mind visiting the salon every four weeks, then go for gold”, says Stella. It works especially well on olive skin tones.

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