Lowlights are a popular hair coloring technique that involves dyeing sections of the hair darker than the natural base color. The purpose of lowlights is to add dimension and depth to the hair. But do lowlights actually make your hair appear darker overall? The answer is not so straightforward.
What are lowlights?
Lowlights refer to strands of hair that are colored darker than the natural base shade. They are the opposite of highlights, where strands are lightened. The most common techniques for adding lowlights are:
- Foil lowlights – Sections of hair are separated and coated with dark dye using foils
- Balayage lowlights – Dark dye is hand-painted or swept onto sections of the hair
- Ombre lowlights – Hair is gradually transitioned from dark at the roots to light at the ends
Lowlights are positioned strategically throughout the hair to add dimension. They can be concentrated heavily through the bottom layers or woven subtly throughout for a natural look. The ideal placement of lowlights depends on your base color and desired result.
How do lowlights darken your hair?
Lowlights make some sections of your hair darker. But do they actually result in an overall darker hair color? Here are the key factors that determine whether lowlights will darken your total look:
Your natural hair color
Those with light to medium blonde hair will notice a more significant darkening effect from lowlights. If you have dark brown or black hair, lowlights will blend more subtly and won’t make the overall color much darker. The lighter your natural shade, the more dramatically lowlights will lower your level.
The amount of lowlights
The more lowlights you get, the darker your hair will become. If you only add a few scattered lowlights throughout, they will add depth without noticeably decreasing your lightness. But if you lowlight most of the hair, the overall shade will become significantly darker.
The contrast of the lowlights
How much darker the lowlights are than your natural hair also impacts the darkening effect. Subtle chocolate brown lowlights on medium brown hair won’t change the overall color much. But stark black lowlights against light brown hair will definitely bring down the lightness.
Does hair type matter?
Your hair’s natural melanin level and texture can also influence how dark lowlights will make your hair:
|Hair Type||Effect of Lowlights|
|Fine or thin hair||Can look more dramatically darkened|
|Thick or coarse hair||Lowlights tend to blend more naturally|
|Straight hair||Darkness is more visible from roots to ends|
|Wavy or curly hair||Blends and softens the lowlight contrast|
The thickness and texture of your hair impacts how prominently the lowlights will stand out. Those with fine, straight hair will notice the lowlights the most.
What effect do lowlights have?
Here are some of the effects you can achieve by adding lowlights to your hair:
Add depth and dimension
By breaking up solid blocks of color, lowlights introduce more depth and dimension. Sections of darker hair contrast with lighter pieces to add visual interest.
Create a natural look
Subtle, face-framing lowlights around the hairline can look beautifully natural. This technique mimics the way hair naturally darkens from sun exposure.
Warm up your hair
Choosing warm brown lowlights can introduce tone and warmth to your look. This brings vibrancy to otherwise cool shades.
If highlights have resulted in brassy or orange tones, lowlights can help neutralize those unwanted warm pigments.
Soften your face
Strategically placed lowlights around the face can softly frame your features. Darker shades minimize areas you want to downplay.
How to care for lowlighted hair
Lowlights require some special care to keep them looking rich and shiny:
- Wash with sulfate-free shampoo to prevent fading
- Use a color-protecting conditioner to hydrate
- Apply a hair mask weekly to boost shine
- Use heat protectant when heat styling to prevent damage
- Gloss treatments can refresh color between salon visits
How long do lowlights last?
The longevity of your lowlights depends on several factors:
- Your natural hair color – Lowlights fade faster on light hair
- Your hair type – Faster fading on fine vs. coarse strands
- The products you use – Sulfate-free extends color
- Hair maintenance – Heat/sun exposure speeds fading
- The contrast level – Subtle lowlights last longer
On average, expect lowlights to last 4-6 weeks on light hair and 6-8 weeks on dark hair before a touch-up is needed. Proper at-home care can extend the vibrancy.
Should you get lowlights?
Here are some things to consider when deciding if lowlights are right for you:
Your natural color
Do you want to darken and add depth to light hair? Or warm up and enhance dark hair? Your starting shade impacts the effect.
Your stylist’s expertise
Opt for a colorist experienced in balayage and foiling techniques to ensure seamless results.
Your maintenance level
Understand that lowlights require more frequent touch-ups than all-over color.
Lowlights can complement casual, edgy, or boho styles beautifully.
While lowlights don’t drastically darken your overall hair color, they can add depth and dimension. The amount and contrast of the lowlights will determine how much darker the end result appears. Take your natural shade and styling needs into account when considering lowlights. And consult a professional stylist to determine whether incorporating this technique is right for you.