There are highlights, lowlights, ombré, balayage, splash lights and baby lights. Enough to make you blow a fuse and wish there was a special dictionary just for these hair terms, right? There are new techniques with tricky names hair experts are coming up with daily and it can be difficult to keep up. Taking the plunge to get highlights can be quite daunting, especially since they cannot be reversed easily if you don’t like the way they look. For all the cautious Carols who want to do a bit of research first, here is everything you need to know about what is hair toner and how to use it. 

What are highlights?  

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Hair highlights are sections of your hair that are dyed a lighter shade than your natural hair colour to add dimensions and depth. They brighten the overall appearance of your hair – as well as your complexion – and can be regarded as ‘makeup’ for your hair. Some hair artists are also known to ‘contour’ your hair with strategically placed hair highlights and lowlights (where sections are dyed darker). This means they will lighten and darken sections of hair to draw attention towards or away from certain facial features. Hair contouring also can make certain facial features look thinner or sharper.  

How do you choose hair highlights and lowlights?  

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Pick a highlight or lowlight colour that is not more than three shades lighter or darker than your natural hair. Go too light or dark and it can look unnatural and very stark. 

What is a hair toner treatment? 

A hair toner is something that helps you personalise or correct your hair colour. If you wish to get more natural or visible tones, you get this treatment done after you have applied your hair colour treatment. This helps to enhance your colour’s vibrancy. 

What hair highlights suit Indian skin tones?  

Understanding your skin tone and undertone is important when choosing hair highlights. It is better to work with the natural hair colour you have, rather than trying to change it altogether. There are a few  colour families that are suitable for Indian skin tones, and if you are a newbie to getting hair highlights, then follow these guidelines and you can’t go wrong. 

1. Brown Hair Highlights  

Comprehensive Guide to Hair Toner woman brown wavy hair

This is a safe option for Indian skin tones. It is important to understand your skin undertones to choose the particular shade of brown. Those with cooler skin undertones can pick brown highlights with ‘ashy’ tones and warmer skin tones can pick brown highlights with ‘golden’ tones. 

2. Burgundy Hair Highlights  

Comprehensive Guide to Hair Toner woman long bob burgundy highlights

Hair highlights in burgundy shades will look good on girls with olive and neutral undertones. Burgundy is a purple-red and looks particularly good on Indian skin tones. A personal fave of RnB icon Rihanna, this hair colour will always be in vogue. Why? It is the right kind of deeply pigmented shade that creates a signature look.  

3. Red Hair Highlights  

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These are trickier to work with, with coppery highlights suited for lighter skin tones and blue-based reds working well with deeper skin tones. If you are the kind of girl who burns easily in the sun, or if you are prone to redness, stay away from getting red hair highlights as they will add to the overall ‘redness’. 

4. Light Brown Hair Highlights  

There are many shades to differentiate between all the light brown shades. Call them honey, caramel or maple, stick to the rules we mentioned earlier: your hair highlights cannot be more than three shades lighter than your natural hair colour and keep in mind your skin tones while choosing the exact shade of light brown highlight! 

Comprehensive Guide to Hair Toner woman long wavy brown hair highlights

5. Black Hair Highlights  

Comprehensive Guide to Hair Toner woman long wavy brown hair highlights

A good colour for adding lowlights to your hair and cover grey in the meanwhile! Black is a very stark colour to wear on your hair and needs to be carefully done, as it’s tricky to reverse. Consult with an experienced technician before you take the plunge 

Hair Color Highlighting Techniques  

Comprehensive Guide to Hair Toner woman highlights on red hair

Now that you have chosen a hair highlight colour, here are five popular highlighting techniques you can choose from... 

Balayage 

This is a French term, which means ‘to sweep’. True to its name, this hair highlighting technique involves the technician sweeping a highlight colour along the surface of your hair, freehand. The technician will not saturate entire sections of hair (as is done in foil highlights) but instead will give you a natural-looking gradient that is easy to grow out. 

Foil technique 

Here a highlight colour is applied to entire sections of hair and it is folded in foils. This technique of highlighting the hair gives better control over the placement and multiple colours can be applied at the same time. 

Dip-dye 

A blast from the past, the dip-dye highlighting technique takes not one but two colours to get the desired look. There is the darker root shade that is closer to your natural colour and the lighter tine for the tips. If done right, your hair will look like it has actually been dipped in dye and fished out! 

Colour melting 

The colour melting technique uses multiple shades to acquire the smooth, blended highlights that are so distinctive to look at. The technique focuses on blending highlights with the base colour of your hair to get rid of any harsh lines or clear distinction between the different colours. 

Ecaille 

Also known as tortoiseshell, this hair colouring technique looks stunning on darker Indian hair tones. Creating a soft blend of gold and chocolate tones through the hair, this technique adds a slight gradient of darker colour at the roots which warm up to honey tones at the ends. 

Post-Colour Care  

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Okay, so now you've got hair highlights. What next? 

Post-colour care is very important to maintain the vibrancy of the colour and hair texture. If you do not take care of your coloured hair, it may soon become dry and start looking dull. So, keep these points in mind! 

  • Wait 2-3 days before you wash your hair as you risk washing off the dye if you wash within 48-72 hours of colouring  

  • Use shampoos and conditioners meant for colour-treated hair as they will get you more mileage of your hair highlights 

  • Colour gradually washes off with frequent washing, so limit shampoos to about 2-3 times a week 

  • Air-dry your hair as much as possible. The hair colourant would have dried your hair considerably and using a blow drier or heat styling equipment will only make things worse 

  • Get frequent trims – any hair colouring process will dry your hair, leading to split ends so get regular trims to minimise breakages 

FAQs Regarding Hair Toner  

What is the difference between streaks and highlights?  

Streaks are bold colours that are designed to stand apart from your natural hue, whereas highlights are meant to seamlessly blend with your own hair.  

Can highlights cover grey hair?  

Highlights are not recommended to cover grey hair as they can turn them brassy and yellow. Instead, go for lowlights, as they look much more natural and can be customised to match your natural colour. 

How can you remove highlights/toner from hair?  

There are two ways of removing highlights from your hair - you can either let them grow out, which can take several months, or opt for an immediate fix like applying another colour on top. 

Is it possible to tone down highlights?  

Yes, it is possible to tone down your highlights. Your stylist can use a toner treatment, or you can apply a purple shampoo to counterbalance gold or brassy highlights.