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Hair Streaks vs. Highlights | Similarities & Differences

Ah, the old hair streaks vs. highlights debate. While it may seem inconsequential, knowing the difference will help you decide on a coloring method before heading to your next hair appointment. In addition, the variances between these two can provide contrasting appearances.  

So, what’s the difference between hair streaks vs highlights?

Hair streaks are larger chunks of hair with color providing a dramatic look, while highlights are small, thin pieces that blend into the hair for a natural look. 

Each coloring method has its advantages, depending on what style you want. You could spend hours reviewing different photos to see which option might be best for your hair.

However, you can save yourself precious time and help out your stylist by going into your next appointment with all the information from this guide to make the right decision. 

After reading, you’ll understand:  

  • The differences between hair streaks vs highlights
  • The advantages of each coloring method
  • Which route will be better for you

What Are Hair Streaks and Highlights?

Adding color to your hair is a terrific way to accentuate your face and add dimension to your cut. However, when comparing hair streaks vs highlights, you will find: 

Hair StreaksHighlights
Larger sections of hairThin pieces that blend into hair
Typically bolder colorsSubtle additions
Use more productTake more time
Require decent upkeepCan easily grow out without upkeep

Hair Streaks 

For a piece on hair highlights vs hair streaks, a woman getting a hand-painted dye applied to her blonde hair

Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Hair streaks are a terrific way to change up your style and make a bold statement with color. Your stylist will use larger sections of hair and space them apart for a dramatic effect. In addition, the hair sections will be thicker, so you cannot see through them to the hair underneath. 

Although streaks can be natural hues, like blonde or auburn, some people choose a more daring route and use bright colors, like blue or purple. So, streaks are the way to go if you want to add playful colors to your hairstyle.


Woman getting highlights in a salon with foil and a brush for a piece on hair streaks vs highlights

Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

Years ago, people would turn to plastic caps with tiny holes to pull small hair sections out to create highlights. Although some stylists still use this approach, others use foils to separate these small pieces of hair from the rest of the head. 

This approach puts color in many tiny sections throughout the head that blend into your natural color, adding dimension. They will typically be close together and spaced all over.

So, if your goal is to blend or hide grey hair or create a softer look to your style, highlights are subtle and perfect. Highlights are generally a lighter shade of your natural hair color. For example, your highlights may be golden brown or dark blonde if you have dark brown hair. 

The Cost of Hair Streaks vs. Highlights

Anytime you add a product to your hair, it will cost money. From the supplies you need to the aftercare products to keep it looking great.

However, prices for hair streaks vs highlights can vary significantly depending on many factors, including: 

  • The stylist’s rate 
  • The color you choose and amount of product 
  • The time you need for your appointment

The Stylist’s Rate 

How much a stylist charges will depend on several elements, including where they conduct business and their experience level. For example, a stylist in a popular salon may have a set rate based on the company’s minimum guidelines.

Private stylists working out of their homes may charge less or more than a neighborhood salon. Alternatively, some schools where individuals complete their stylist training often charge a discounted rate when you have a student complete the work under a professional’s supervision. 

Some individuals may try to perform this task at home to save money. However, if you do not have the correct tools and supplies or know how to complete the process correctly, you risk not getting the desired results or damaging your hair.

As a result, you may have to head to a professional afterward to correct your style. Because of this, we think it’s always best to leave your hair coloring to the pros.

The Color You Choose and Amount of Product

Although some colors will be relatively similar in price, others that are not as common or fall under specialty hues, like bright purple or blue, may cost more. Hair products and supplies are similar to other consumer-driven industries where purchasing items in bulk can save the stylist money.

Therefore, selecting a common color, like blonde, may be less expensive than a unique red. In addition, if you have long, thick hair, it could take more product to achieve the look you want, increasing the total price. 

The Time You Need for Your Appointment

Naturally, time is money for any hair stylist. The total cost of your hair streaks or highlights will depend on how long you are sitting in the chair for your appointment.

For comparison, someone with shorter hair looking to add highlights will need less product and have a shorter appointment time than someone with long hair that wants large colored streaks.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Read some frequently asked questions below for more information about hair streaks and highlights to help you choose. 

Are hair streaks and highlights the same color?

Typically, the colors your stylist uses for streaks and highlights will differ. Hair streaks are often bolder or brighter colors, while highlights are similar hues to blend into your natural hair color tones. However, you can use the same colors for both techniques, but each will yield a different look overall.

Does adding hair streaks or highlights damage your hair?

Unfortunately, anytime you add color or treat your hair, there’s a possibility of creating some damage. However, semi-permanent dyes aren’t as harmful as bleach or permanent color. Your hair should be fine if your stylist uses high-quality products and follows proper procedures.

Are hair streaks and highlights still in style?

Yes, many people will sport beautiful hair streaks and highlights in various hairstyles. Unlike some trends, like frosted tips, these coloring trends are still very popular. People of all ages and many hairstyles continue to add streaks and highlights to their hair.

Are highlights the same as lowlights?

Although these trends use the same technique, they will use contrasting colors. These methods will use alternating hues to blend into your natural color. Highlights will be a few shades lighter than your base color, while lowlights will be darker. Many people will choose to get highlights and lowlights to add dimension and volume to their hair.

How can you take care of hair streaks or highlights?

Once you receive streaks or highlights, it’s critical to use the proper shampoo and conditioner for color treated hair to keep it protected and moisturized. If your hair dries out or does not have protection from the elements, the color can fade or alter, giving you a look you aren’t expecting.

So, What Is Better, Hair Streaks or Highlights?

Deciding on hair streaks vs highlights can be a challenge. So, to make it simple, choose highlights if you want a subtle way to accent your face, hide grey, or add dimension to your hair. On the other hand, selecting streaks will be the way to go if you want a dramatic, bold look.