Getting highlights in your hair is a terrific way to change up your look and get noticed. In this post, we’ll be looking at how to keep highlighted hair healthy and beautiful.
The thing I like about highlights is that they make your locks more light-reflective and adds depth and glam to your hair.
They also allow you to look chic, flattering, and uber fashionable.
But highlights do come with their fair share of cons, and hair damage is the biggest one.
While it might not deal the same amount of gut-wrenching, destructive damage as bleach or permanent hair dye for your entire head, it still weakens your strands.
It gets a bit tricky, too, since not every lock of hair is highlighted and damaged.
So how are you supposed to deal with your hair when it looks stylish and gorgeous but feels rough and brittle because of your new highlights?
I’m here to tell you what to do every step of the way.
What Happens To Your Hair When You Get Highlights?
Coloring your hair in any way, shape, or form deals at least a degree of damage.
Highlights fall into the coloring category, so damage is inevitable and something you should keep an eye out for.
But the amount of damage is proportional to how intense your highlights are.
If you’ve gone for something more subtle, like babylights, the damage won’t be too bad.
It may just be some locks of hair that feel rough and dry in a sea of soft, smooth hair.
But if you’re going for something heavier, like a paint-on balayage, you may be in for more dryness and breakage.
Either way, highlights will alter the structure of your hair.
It can make it dry, frizzy, and rough to the touch, as with all chemical processes.
And if you bleach your hair before getting your highlights painted on to make the color more vibrant, you’re in trouble.
Bleach tends to leave your hair shaft super weak and porous after it lifts the cuticle to eliminate your natural pigment.
This process makes your hair very fragile and dehydrated.
Now, the good news is that not all your hair is damaged – only your highlighted areas are.
But if only your highlighted locks are unhealthy, they’ll feel strange, like those synthetic hair clip-ons that you used to play with as a child.
It’s a weird contrast to your undamaged hair that is still smooth and luscious.
How To Keep Highlighted Hair Healthy
However you look at it, highlighting your hair – no matter how subtle and even when it’s bleach-free – still falls under chemical color-treating.
And all chemical processes done to your hair will always leave in its wake some form of hair damage.
That leaves you with the task of nursing your hair to health while you enjoy your beautiful new locks.
The rules are simple:
- Don’t stress out your hair
- Nourish it with a balance of moisture and protein
Don’t wash your hair with shampoo every day
It’s common practice not to wash your hair two to three days after a chemical process, whether it’s relaxing your hair or getting highlights.
Shampooing your hair soon after getting highlights can wash out that vibrant color from your locks.
But it’s also good to try and avoid washing for as long as you can moving forward.
Shampoo can dry out your hair, which can make your damage worse.
Instead, condition your hair when you rinse it.
This provides some cleaning power, but the main benefit it provides is making your dry, highlighted hair moisturized and silky again.
This is especially helpful if you had to bleach your hair before highlighting it because it’s probably in dire need of conditioning.
When you condition your hair, it’s also a great time to detangle any knots in your locks.
You can use your fingers or a wide-tooth comb for this.
Get rid of sulfates in your routine
Sulfates are the harsh detergents in your shampoo that make it lather and foam up.
It’s super satisfying to see those suds, but they’re also responsible for stripping the natural moisture off your hair, making your tresses feel even more damaged and dry.
Using sulfates will also hasten the fading process of your highlights’ color, so it’s best to avoid it.
Switch from your ordinary shampoo and conditioner to sulfate-free ones.
This gives your hair the best chance at becoming healthy again.
Give up hot water in the shower
This one might be challenging because we all know how relaxing and soothing hot showers are.
But it’s important to opt out of your usual scalding hot showers to care for your highlighted hair.
Hot water opens up the hair cuticles, which can wash your color away fast.
It also leaves the hair a bit dry, as opposed to cold water that seals the cuticle to make it smooth and touchable.
In the weeks after your highlighting session, try tolerating the cold water for your hair’s sake.
Use a leave-in conditioner every day
When your hair is damaged from highlighting, you need to hydrate it as much as possible to restore its moisture levels.
A trusty leave-in will help replenish your thirsty locks of this so that your hair can look and feel soft and smooth again.
Leave-ins also protect your hair from environmental stressors, like pollution and chlorine from swimming pools.
Nutrients from the leave-in will fill up gaps and holes in your damaged hair shaft, protecting them from nasty contaminants building up on your hair strands.
Pamper your hair with nourishing treatments
Use hair masks and hot oil treatments to replenish your hair with moisture or strengthen it with protein.
A moisturizing deep conditioner will transform your hair from rough and dry to smooth and silky.
You can either use one from your favorite brand or do a DIY oil masque at home once a week.
You can use your favorite hair oil from coconut to Jamaican black castor oil for oil masques.
Every other week, fortify your damaged hair strands with a protein treatment.
When you highlight your hair, natural proteins in your locks are broken down.
This makes your strands weaker and less plump.
Bring bounce back with a protein treatment in place of your deep conditioner every other week.
Protect your hair from heat damage
Whether it’s from the sun’s harmful UV rays or high heat levels from your curling wand, heat damage is a huge red flag when you have highlights.
Heat can incur even more damage to your hair, stripping it of hydration and leaving it dry and straw-like in texture.
So before styling your hair with hot tools or going out under the sun, make sure to spray a high-quality heat protectant with SPF all over your hair.
The heat protectant will absorb the heat from your hot tools instead of your hair strands taking the brunt.
Heat protectant also helps your hair retain moisture so that your locks can remain smooth and luscious all day.
It can even fight against humidity so that your locks don’t go wild and frizzy in the wind.
How To Minimize Damage Next Time You Get Highlights
Since highlights are super fashionable and ultra-flattering on any hair color, there’s a big chance you’ll want to come into the salon for touch-ups and toning in the following months.
If you plan on going in every month or two, do everything in your power to minimize damage.
See a stylist
The first thing you should do is book a consultation with your stylist days before your highlighting session.
Let them assess your hair health and decide what type of highlighting is best for you.
They’ll check your hair to see if it’s healthy enough to take on very light tones that require bleach.
If not, they can give you their opinion on what medium-tone highlights will be flattering on you.
When you schedule your appointment for highlighting day, make sure it’s spaced out by a ton from your last session.
Two to three months between sessions is fantastic.
It gives your hair enough time to heal and recover from the last.
“Strengthen” your hair before highlighting
Make sure your hair is extra fortified and strong on the day of your highlighting session.
That means treating your hair to deep conditioners and protein treatments in the weeks leading up to it.
When you’re in the salon chair to get those pretty highlights, ask your stylist to first give your hair a bond-sustaining treatment to strengthen your strands and minimize damage from the dye.
Trim hair after highlighting
After you’re all done and see those beautiful, light-reflective streaks in your hair, ask for a quick trim.
This gets rid of the possibly damaged and overprocessed ends you have.
A trim reduces split ends and breakage while allowing your hair to feel fresh and new.
The key to keeping your tresses healthy after livening them up with highlights is simply to nourish your hair with the proper moisture and proteins while giving it a break from stress.
This allows it to build itself back up, so it’s more resilient against further damage.
It might get uncomfy at first, what with most of your hair being healthy and only the highlighted strands feeling rough and straw-like.
But with enough care and attention, your hair can go back to being one in terms of lusciousness and softness.
So, if you’ve been wondering how to keep highlighted hair healthy, take some of the tips in this article and your hair (highlights and all) will be back in shape in a jiffy.