Many people often mistake highlights and lowlights for being the same thing.
Although they both have the same purpose of making your hair color look as natural as possible, the difference is that they are placed on distinct head sections.
That’s why we have compiled this piece in which we detail the differences between highlights and lowlights.
We’ve broken them into color categories for five shades – brown, blonde, red, purple, and blue.
Each category has five examples of highlights and five lowlights. Enjoy!
I. Brown Hair
1. Highlights and Lowlights for Brown Hair
Let’s start with the most basic version of the highlights you can get. We’re talking, of course, about blonde highlights on brown hair. They typically serve to lighten up and sweeten the brown, making it look a bit more mellow. It is bright and very refreshing to look at.
2. Caramel Highlights on Brown Hair
Caramel is closer to your hair’s natural color than blonde, which is why many ladies prefer it. It’s also a preferred choice because the contrast between caramel and brown is not as stark as between blonde and brown. A neat and gentle style that draws out a calm and positive vibe.
3. Platinum Highlights on Brown Hair Color
When speaking of highlights and lowlights, it’s impossible not to mention platinum because it’s the start of the season. However, if you want to make your hair look as natural as possible, you need to add some middle highlights in there as well, such as caramel highlights.
4. Nutmeg Highlights on Brown Hair Color
Depending on the shade of brown you have selected, these can be almost invisible in your hair. But invisible doesn’t mean they won’t still be doing their job of illuminating your hair color and making it a lot richer.
5. Highlights and Lowlights in a Messy Bun
As far as hairstyles go, if you want to showcase your highlights and lowlights, you can’t go wrong with a swirling messy bun. It’s a fantastic solution that also shows what you have hiding underneath. Your bun can make you as classy as you can. It draws out the best in you.
6. Gray Lowlights on Brown Hair Color
Now we enter the realm of lowlights. These are gray lowlights on mushroom brown hair, the absolute perfect hair color for fall. In this case, the lowlights attract just the right amount of attention to how gorgeous that mushroom brown is. A light touch of brown is a game-changer.
7. Blonde Lowlights on Brown Hair
Understanding that blonde is such a popular color, it’s essential to see both highlights and lowlights of it on brown. Here’s what the latter looks like. A bit like golden streamers hanging through your brown hair.
8. Caramel Lowlights On Dark Brown Hair
If you have dark brown hair, it’s always a good idea to think of some lowlights that will sweeten the deal. Otherwise, dark brown can age you or make you look paler than you are in real life.
9. Red Lowlights on Mahogany Brown Hair
Mahogany was a statement color a few seasons back, so, naturally, everyone was wearing it. Since then, the trend has dwindled a bit, and the world has moved on to earthier tones of brown, but you can still try it if you’re in love with it.
10. Platinum Lowlights on Brown Hair
As far as platinum highlights and lowlights are concerned, if you’re pretty much covered anyway with the first, you can’t get platinum lowlights on just any shade of brown. Talk to your stylist and see which combination works best.
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II. Blonde Hair
11. Highlights and Lowlights for Blonde Hair Colors
It’s the most adored hair color in the world, so it was only natural to cover it in terms of highlights and lowlights. Blonde is the eternal feminine color, and finding the perfect shade to compliment your skin tone may lie in the highlights and lowlights.
12. Butter Blonde Highlights on Blonde Hair Color
You might think that it’s difficult to pull off blonde highlights on blonde hair, but that’s the genius of it. It’s all in how you nuance the shade you’ve chosen to give it extra body and sheen.
13. Manhattan Blonde Highlights and Lowlights
The base here is a regular sandy blonde mixed with some beige. The highlights, however, are a shade called Manhattan blonde, which has been all the rage among celebrities and Instagram fashionistas alike.
14. Iceberg Highlights on Honey Blonde Hair Color
Honey blonde hair is sweet enough as it is. Therefore, you might need a colder color to balance it off a little. Here is where the iceberg highlights take away some of that sweetness and add a touch of class.
15. Platinum Highlights on Gray Blonde Hair Colors
Many people don’t think that this is in the same class as all the other blondes, but gray hair does actually belong to the blonde family. This example has platinum highlights and lowlights that give it a metallic sheen.
16. Polar Blonde Lowlights on Blonde Hair Colors
This season is all about taking blonde to the extreme. Wave goodbye to your good girl shade of blonde and say hello to arctic or polar blonde. As you can see, this one has both highlights and lowlights, the focus being on the lowlights.
17. Noisette Lowlights on Blonde Hair
Noisette is one of the most beautiful shades of blonde available. It’s the French word for ‘hazelnut,’ and it describes a luscious shade somewhere between a creamy blonde and a honey brown. Wow!
18. Strawberry Lowlights on Blonde Hair Colors
If you go for strawberry blonde, it’s best that you get both highlights and lowlights. As far as the latter is concerned, try some sandy blonde ones that can take the ginger or orange edge away from the strawberry blonde.
19. Nutmeg Lowlights on Blonde Hair Color
When done correctly, nutmeg lowlights are almost invisible from blonde hair. The only thing you will be able to discern is a certain luminous quality the hair has, especially when it is in motion.
20. Paparazzi Blonde Lowlights on Blonde Hair
Here’s another contemporary shade you can try for your highlights and lowlights. Paparazzi blonde is exactly how you picture it. Pun intended. Glitzy, glamorous, white, and sparkling in the dazzling light of your selfies.
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III. Red Hair
21. Highlights and Lowlights for Red Hair
Let’s move on to red hair and see how exactly one should do highlights and lowlights here. When it comes to shades of red hair, the highlights and lowlights will always be more visible than brown and blonde because the contrast is higher.
22. Rose and Copper Highlights and Lowlights on Red Hair
The simplest solution would be to keep close to home base with some colors that stem from your original one. In this case, you have a very classic shade of red spiked with highlights in copper and rose gold.
23. Black Highlights on Red Hair
However, if you’re feeling very bold, you can go in the completely opposite direction and choose a color that’s on the opposing end of the spectrum. And what opposes red? Maybe black? This is what it looks like.
24. Metallic Highlights on Red Hair
As you probably already know, the metallic trend is here to replace the matte one. Therefore, we’re talking metallics in everything – eyeshadow, blushes and highlighters, lipsticks, and hair colors.
25. Orange Highlights and Lowlights on Red Hair
Another color that stems from red and which you can definitely use as both highlights and lowlights is orange. Or ginger if you prefer it that way. However, we advise you to let your stylist do it instead of trying it yourself at home to avoid unhappy accidents.
26. Ginger Lowlights on Red Hair
Since we’ve mentioned ginger hair, let’s see how ginger lowlights look on red hair. They are extremely subtle, but they are there to lighten up that fire you’ve got going on. Use them as a means of balancing out your hair color and your complexion.
27. Blonde Lowlights on Red Hair
One might think that adding blonde to red is a difficult thing to do. However, when you’re in the hands of a professional stylist, you can come out looking like a star. Blonde lowlights improve the quality of a dark cherry red color.
28. Vanilla Highlights and Lowlights on Red Hair
This creamy color is the perfect addition to your red hair as far as highlights and lowlights go. It’s definitely a fall color as it matches autumn shades. In fact, it looks a bit like pumpkin spice and is something you would wear on Halloween.
29. Beige Lowlights on Red Hair
You need to choose your lowlights depending on your primary color. That’s a fact. If you can’t figure it out by yourself, try to find some advice or tutorials online that can help, or go straight to your stylist.
30. Golden Highlights and Lowlights on Red Hair
This combination might just be the epitome of luxury as far as highlights and lowlights are concerned. You can concentrate the golden strands around your face so that they illuminate the color of your eyes and your skin tone.
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IV. Purple Hair
31. Highlights and Lowlights for Purple Hair Colors
Now we’re going to tackle some nonconventional colors, namely purple and blue, and how highlights and lowlights apply to them. The reason is that nontraditional colors are very on trend right now, and you need to know how to wear them.
32. Purple Highlights and Lowlights on Gray Hair Color
There are two ways in which you can do kooky colors with highlights and lowlights. The first option is to dye your hair completely and then try simple highlights such as blonde, brown, red, or gray. Or do it the other way around, and go for purple highlights, for example, of your base color.
33. Purple Highlights on Rose Gold Hair Color
We always love to see great hairstyles where two opposing colors on the spectrum have been blended up to perfection. This is a great example of that. The base color here is smooth rose gold, while the highlights are purple.
34. Iris Highlights and Lowlights on Brunette Hair Color
Here’s a more classic approach to the highlights and lowlights game. This is an iris, a shade belonging to the purple family on a natural brunette. It’s the type of hairstyle that you typically see at music festivals.
35. Purple Highlights on Copper Hair
Copper and brass are the brand-new color trends that are sweeping the nation as we speak. They even managed to take the crown away from rose gold which ranked number one for many seasons. Try them with a bit of purple.
36. Lavender Lowlights on Purple Hair
When you go for lavender lowlights on your already purple hair, the result is that you will get a beautiful pastel color without even trying too hard. To make sure things are balanced out, add some platinum lowlights as well.
37. Winterberry Lowlights on Purple Hair
The purple color family is quite extensive and has plenty of shades to choose from. This, for example, is winterberry, and you can use it for your lowlight needs if you have a darker shade of purple hair as a base.
38. Violet Highlights and Lowlights on Purple Hair
This combination is for the brave. The reason is that it’s made up of two very strong shades of purple. The violet is intended for your highlights and lowlights needs, and the purple will be the base color of your hairstyle.
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39. Gray Lowlights on Black Purple Hair
If you want a more demure look or if your office dress code says that purple doesn’t really apply to your workplace, you can always go for black and purple. It’s brunette with just a hint of violet in it. Add some gray lowlights for good measure.
40. Periwinkle Lowlights on Black Hair
Periwinkle is a very soft shade of purple that will make you look extremely feminine and delicate. Wear it in a high ponytail with a golden accessory so that you can add a touch of class to this one-of-a-kind hair color.
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V. Blue Hair
41. Blue Highlights and Lowlights
Just the same as purple, blue is a strong nonconventional color that has captured the attention of fashionistas everywhere in the past year. There are different ways in which you can wear highlights and lowlights for it as you’re about to see it.
42. Cobalt Highlights and Lowlights on Blue Hair Color
Blue on more blue? Yes, please! Many drugstore beauty brands have noticed the growing trend for kooky colors and have put out special formulas which allow you to dye your hair at home and get the shade you want without costly trips to the stylist.
43. Pastel Blue Highlights and Lowlights on Blonde Hair Color
This hairstyle has a strong 2000s vibe to it which we love because the world is having an affair right now with everything that is retro and is coming from the 80s, 90s, and the 2000s. Therefore, don’t miss out on this one.
44. Highlights and Lowlights on a Pixie Cut
Pixie cuts are still going strong as far as hairstyles are concerned, and you should get one as soon as possible. It’s the perfect hairstyle for spring and summer. The blue peekaboos make it look very fresh and clean.
45. Metallic Blue Highlights
We’ve talked about the metallic trend already, so here’s what metallic blue highlights look like, just in case you were planning on getting some. They work great on dark brown or brunette hair.
46. Iceberg Lowlights on Pastel Blue Hair
How can you make pastel blue hair even better than it already is? By adding some iceberg lowlights to it, of course. The result is this contemporary grunge look that can turn you into a veritable beauty queen if you style it correctly.
47. Cobalt Blue Lowlights on Dark Hair
We’ve featured both cobalt blue highlights and lowlights because the color is so gorgeous. It can embellish and empower any shade of hair out there. Plus, it gives it a bit of an edge that you didn’t even know you needed in your life.
48. Silver Lowlights on Blue Hair
This might just be one of the most beautiful lowlight jobs we’ve ever seen. The combination between silver and blue is outstandingly perfect, with the shine of the former bringing out the richness and depth of the latter.
49. Aqua Blue Lowlights on Natural Hair
If you love your natural hair and are opposed to dyeing it entirely but still want to jazz it up a little, then how about some aqua blue lowlights? They will only show when you put up your hair in a bun or a ponytail.
50. Blue Highlights and Lowlights on Purple Hair
The highlights and lowlights combination on this one is fantastic. You have an entire plethora of blues, purples, and lavenders melting into one another and creating a special type of rainbow in one note.
Ready to Change Your Look?
Highlights and lowlights are typically easy to mix up.
Things get even more confusing when you learn that there are also under-lights, babylights, and peekaboo highlights.
However, as we’ve used five different colors as examples in this article and broken them all down into categories, we hope we have shed some light on the differences between highlights and lowlights.
Let us know what you think in the comment section below!
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Betty has over 15 years of experience in writing and editing for hairstyle publications. Her career started soon after graduating, leading her to winning many awards and opening her own salon at a very young age. She specializes in hair coloring techniques and hair care. In her spare time, Betty enjoys running outdoors, learning new languages, and occasionally binging a Netflix series.