Getting highlights creates a world of difference. It makes you look chic and helps your mane look dimensional.
When done right, they can even reflect more light than the rest of your hair, making it look glossy and healthy.
Many people are super picky about where they get their highlights done. Some spend hundreds of dollars just to touch up their highlights at a swanky salon.
But as long as you have good control and an eye for coloring your hair, you can do it in your own home.
Most people feel intimidated by the idea of giving themselves highlights.
There’s so much to learn about, like sectioning your hair into little strips of foil.
Luckily, there are ways around the foiling technique that will still give you gorgeous highlights.
In this post, we’ll be looking at how to highlight hair at home without foil.
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Why Do Stylists Use Foil When Highlighting Hair?
Highlighting your hair is the process of taking some locks and lightening up their shade to add depth and dimension to your mane.
This can transform your hair from flat and one-dimensional in shade to fashionable and elegant because of the lighter tresses.
One of the most common ways to get highlights is with the foiling technique.
This is a process that involves sectioning your hair, dyeing it, and then wrapping it in individual foil strips.
That makes it easier to organize your hair sections while you work on them.
The foil also helps your dye to process more effectively.
It traps heat in your hair, allowing the bleach and dye to work faster in your strands.
The strips of foil also help ensure that none of the chemicals touch the rest of your hair that you intend to keep as is.
Foils are traditionally placed near the scalp to give you root-to-tip highlights.
Because the foil covers up your hair sections, you’re less likely to accidentally spread the bleach onto your hairline.
That’s a huge help if you’re a beginner in at-home highlighting.
Foiling is perfect for ladies who don’t mind a high-maintenance hair color.
Since foiled highlights start at the roots, it’s very noticeable when they’ve grown out.
That means having to do touch-ups every couple of weeks.
But for others, foiling can be a hassle.
This is especially so when you’re doing at-home highlighting.
It’s another step you have to learn and master.
If you mess it up, your highlights won’t come out the way you were planning.
So some try to do their highlights without foil.
How To Highlight Hair At Home Without Foil
One popular alternative to using foils when doing your highlights is the highlighting cap.
This is a terrific option for beginners who need extra help dividing the hair into sections in an organized way.
A highlighting cap is a plastic cap that has tiny holes perforated all over.
All you have to do is place the cap over your head, pull out sections of hair through the holes with a hook, and then focus your bleaching and dyeing in those sections.
The great thing about using a highlighting cap is that you can customize how thick you want your hair sections to be.
You can either pull out tiny locks or bigger chunks, depending on how bright and dramatic you want your highlights to be.
Good For First-Timers
While it can be challenging to check up on your hair’s color when it’s wrapped in foil, it’s much easier to see how well your dye is processing if you use a highlighting cap.
That makes it a terrific choice for those highlighting their hair for the first time.
Using a highlighting cap is very useful for those with short and medium-length hair because foiling those can be quite tricky, especially if you’re doing your highlights on yourself.
They come as an inclusion to many highlighting kits from renowned brands, so they shouldn’t be too hard to find.
The best thing about a highlighting cap is that they’re affordable.
If you end up buying a highlighting kit with no cap, you can just buy one from the beauty aisle of practically any drugstore.
That beats paying hundreds of dollars for an appointment at a fancy salon.
Watch out, though!
Using a highlighting cap isn’t perfect.
Those with thick, curly hair might not benefit from using a cap.
This is because it might be too hard to pull hair out of the cap.
Another con of using a cap instead of foils is that it can be difficult to highlight the lower part of your hair, like the strands by your nape.
How To Highlight Your Own Hair With A Cap
Sounds easy to work with a highlighting cap, right?
Try it out for yourself!
You can use your own bleach, developer, and toner if color your hair regularly.
But for beginners, a highlighting kit will be way more convenient and easier to follow.
The first step is to pick out a highlighting kit that includes a cap.
Technically, you can buy a dye kit and the cap separately, but you’ll save more money if you buy them as a set.
One kit that I highly recommend is the L’Oreal Paris Frost and Design Cap Hair Highlights Kit.
It comes with a high-precision highlighting cap that allows you to pull through hair easily, leaving you with even, professional-looking highlights when you’re done.
The kit comes in two colors: Champagne which is perfect for blondes, and Caramel for brunettes looking to lighten up their color.
The dye comes in L’Oreal’s non-drip cream formula that makes it less messy to work with.
You’ll also have the cap, some gloves, and a mixing tray to put together your dye.
Aside from these, the set includes a toner to help you get rid of brassy tones in your highlights when you’re through.
It also adds extra shine to the hair for a healthy-looking mane.
Already know what highlighting kit you want to use?
Then it’s time to get going. Here’s a step-by-step guide to giving yourself cap highlights:
Get rid of tangles
Brush your hair to get rid of all the tangles.
It’s important to make sure there aren’t any knots in your locks before applying color, or else you run the risk of a streaky application.
Part your hair
Part your hair the way you normally do and then place the cap on top of your head.
If the cap comes with a ribbon, tie it under your chin to hold the cap in place.
Pull locks of hair
Using the hook that comes with the kit, pull locks of hair through the small holes in the cap.
Be careful when doing this so you don’t break strands of hair.
If you want a lot of dimension, pull out hair in every hole on the cap.
For babylights, take out only a few thin sections.
Mix bleach and developer
Mix the bleach and developer together on a tray or bowl.
Using a brush, start applying the mixture to the sections of hair peeking out from the cap.
Let it process
Allow the mixture to process in your hair for the amount of time directed in the kit’s packaging.
Check up on the color from time to time to see if it’s gotten to the shade you want.
This is when your strands will start to lighten.
Rinse the bleach out
Hop in the shower and rinse the bleach out of your hair.
You can use a gentle shampoo and hydrating conditioner for this part.
When you’re done washing your hair, style as desired and enjoy your beautiful new highlights!
What Other Types Of Highlights Don’t Require Foil?
If you don’t like the super structured look you get with cap highlights, you can also consider giving yourself a balayage.
This trendy highlighting style comes from the French word for “sweep”, referring to the method by which the highlighting process is done.
All you have to do is literally paint the bleach or dye onto your strands with freehand.
No need for foils here!
When doing a balayage, the bleach is painted more on the mid-lengths and tips of the hair.
Because of that, regrowth isn’t a problem.
Because the color is painted on, a balayage looks more natural than traditional highlights and even an ombre, which already looks gradual.
It never leaves behind streaks and stripes, making your hair look effortlessly dimensional.
This method is perfect for those who want to get highlights but hate that intense and bright look you might get from foil and cap highlights.
Why Go For A Balayage Instead Of Traditional Highlights?
One of the biggest advantages of going for a balayage instead of foil highlights is that maintenance won’t be a big problem.
Balayage highlights are known to be super low-maintenance because you seldom have to get any touch-ups.
Since a balayage typically starts in the mid-lengths of your hair and isn’t very structured, it will leave no demarcation line as you would usually get with traditional highlights.
Your hair will still look good after many inches of regrowth.
Instead of touching up every few weeks as with foil highlights, you can go up to half a year without any touch-ups!
You’re not even technically required to get any touch-ups unless you want to maintain your balayage in the long term.
Another reason to go for a balayage is that it’s highly customizable.
You can call the shots in terms of where in your hair length the balayage will start, as opposed to root-to-tip foil highlights.
You can even choose to use your balayage to frame your face in a way that brings out your best facial features.
Prepping For An At-Home Balayage Session
The balayage is kind of a difficult technique to master, which is why women all around the world pay big bucks to have an expert stylist do it for them.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself!
There are tons of easy highlighting kits nowadays focused on giving you a balayage effect.
You can save hundreds of dollars when you choose to do your balayage at home.
Plus, you’ll have more freedom to customize your balayage however you want.
However, opting for an at-home balayage isn’t that simple.
You still have to prep your hair properly before doing it.
Get A Trim
The first thing you have to do is get a trim a week or so before you plan on doing your balayage.
If you cut off your dry, split ends, your color will look way fresher.
Avoid cutting your hair after you do your balayage; it changes the way the highlights sit on your hair and can mess up all your hard work.
Deep Condition Your Hair
You’ll likely be using a good amount of bleach or dye in your hair, even if a balayage is meant just for highlights.
And as we all know, these chemicals can damage the hair and make it dry and brittle.
It would be a wise idea to fortify your hair before you highlight it, just to lessen the damage.
A few days before you plan on giving yourself a balayage, try to do a deep conditioning mask.
This can be as simple as doing a coconut oil pre-poo on wash day.
But if you want to elevate it and strengthen your hair the best way possible, nourish your locks with a protein treatment.
The Mielle Organics Babassu & Mint Deep Conditioner is an excellent, protein-rich hair mask for moisturizing and strengthening the hair simultaneously (and you definitely need both before bleaching it!).
It’s formulated with babassu oil and palm fruit extracts to hydrate the hair and scalp.
There’s also a blend of wheat and soy amino acids in the mask, which helps to strengthen your strands before being exposed to bleach and other harsh chemicals.
This 15-minute protein treatment helps reduce the amount of breakage even in damaged hair, so it’s perfect for building up your hair bonds before getting a balayage.
Don’t Wash Your Hair
On the day you give yourself a balayage, be sure not to wash your hair.
The natural sebum from your scalp will coat your hair lightly and serve as extra protection against the harsh chemicals of your chosen dye.
How To Give Yourself A Balayage At Home
Because a balayage is less structured and meticulous than foil highlights, you can do them at home.
The key is to pick out a highlighting kit that’s made specifically for the balayage style.
It should also have a non-drip formula and a brush in the package to sweep the bleach across your hair with.
The Clairol Nice’n Easy Balayage Permanent Hair Dye is the perfect kit to use when doing an at-home balayage session.
Because everything you need is included in the set, you don’t have to stress about purchasing separate developers or toners.
The dye comes in Clairol’s signature crème formula that feels luxurious and is easy to apply and distribute in the hair.
The set comes with an expert brush with soft bristles that make it a breeze to paint dye into your locks.
Doing your own balayage can be very intimidating, especially since many stylists spend so long perfecting the art of painting highlights on hair.
But don’t worry – we’ve got you!
Here’s how to give yourself a balayage at home, step-by-step:
Mix your highlighting powder and dye according to the instructions in your kit.
If you’re more comfortable using your own bleach and developer, you can do that too and then just tone your hair after the entire balayage process.
Section your hair
Section your hair into two parts: top and bottom.
Clip up the top half of your hair so you can focus on the lower area first.
“Paint” the hair
Dip your brush into the dye mixture and run it through your hair, starting from the mid-lengths and working your way down.
You can start wherever you want, whether it’s a few inches from your roots or way down to half of your hair length.
Just make sure your ends are more saturated with the dye.
Make sure you start your applications with thin strands first, working your way to make larger chunks if you feel you need to coat more sections of hair.
Be mindful to paint some of the hair underneath for an even distribution of highlights.
Blend it in
To blend your balayage in nicely with your hair, paint on the dye in different areas.
Run your brush further up in some areas, and closer to the middle of your hair in others.
This will give you a gorgeous blend of highlights and your base shade.
Unclip the top part of your hair and do the same thing. Make sure you’re extra conscious of where you paint in this area of your hair since it’s more exposed to the eye.
Shampoo and Condition
Leave the dye to process in your hair for the suggested amount of time on the highlighting kit package. Afterward, wash everything off with shampoo and follow up with a nourishing conditioner.
If using bleach, follow up with toner
If you’re using straight-up bleach, follow up with a toner to remove brassiness and give you the color you want for your balayage.
You can do so with a professional gloss or toner, or simply use a purple shampoo for an ashy tone.
Hop out of the shower and style your hair as desired.
Look in the mirror and admire your gorgeous new balayage!
How Often Should You Highlight Hair To Avoid Damage?
If you start painting on your balayage in the mid-lengths of your hair, you technically don’t need to touch up your roots unless you want to move your highlights upwards.
But if you did your highlights from your roots down, it’s another story.
Some people wait until they can see an inch or so of regrowth before touching up their roots.
Others calendar their touch-ups religiously every month.
But when you should do touch-ups to your highlights really just depends on how strong your hair is and how well it can take on bleach and dye.
Getting highlights even just once can cause hair damage.
And if you do it again and again, your hair can get more fragile.
So before doing another round of highlights, always assess your hair health.
If it’s insanely dry and brittle, you should wait a few weeks before getting another balayage.
But if we’re talking about a specific time frame for root touch-ups, around the 6-8 week mark should be healthy enough.
It gives your previously highlighted strands some time to recover and repair before you go at it again.
How Long Should I Wait To Wash My Hair After Highlights?
After you’re done giving yourself a balayage, it’s best to wait two to three days before shampooing your hair.
This is to prolong the lifespan of your tone and shade.
When you color or bleach your hair, your cuticles are opened wide to let your natural pigments out.
In the days following your treatment, those cuticles will still be gaping open.
If you wash your hair with shampoo, it will be extremely easy for the dye and toner to wash out of your locks.
When you wait 72 hours before washing your locks, you’re giving your cuticles enough time to close shut.
When that happens, your color is safely locked in your strands.
And when you’re finally allowed to wash your hair, always make sure you find a shampoo and conditioner that’s designed for chemically-treated locks.
Sulfate-free products are best so as not to strip off your new color and tone.
The Love Beauty and Planet Murumuru Butter & Rose Shampoo and Conditioner is an excellent shower duo for people with color-treated and bleached hair.
Both formulas are vegan and formulated without sulfates and parabens.
Parabens are harsh chemicals that can strip your highlights’ color and tone.
This shampoo and conditioner are infused with coconut oil and murumuru butter to moisturize the hair deeply.
They also work to enhance your color, making your highlights look fresh and bright.
The formulas even add some luminous shine to your locks.
If you’ve been wondering how to highlight hair at home without foil, you now know that you have options.
Whether you go for the super convenient cap highlighting or try your hand at the more challenging balayage style, you can do your highlights at home without stressing out about foils.
As long as you follow the steps and precautionary measures above, you’ll still end up with beautiful, highlighted locks.
It’s also important to remember our tips on when and how to wash your highlighted hair to ensure that you can keep your highlights for as long as possible.
So gather up your bowls and brushes and get cracking!
Soon, you’ll have pretty highlights that look like they’re fresh out of the salon even if you just did them at home.
And the best part is that you didn’t need to use complicated foiling techniques!