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How to Keep Highlighted Hair Healthy | Step-by-Step Guide

Did you recently get highlights, or are you considering getting them? Do you want to bring out the best in your hair? Read on to learn some valuable tips and tricks to understand how to keep highlighted hair healthy.


Wondering How to Keep Highlighted Hair Healthy?

Woman in a salon learning how to keep highlighted hair healthy

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Getting your hair highlighted can be a great decision for many reasons. Highlights can add depth, brightness, and pops of color to your hair. They can accent your face, play up your skin tone, and creatively cover gray.

When done correctly, highlights can appear more natural than a single overall color because natural hair usually has lighter and darker portions. 

Properly-done highlights can bring out the best in your hair, giving it a natural, multi-faceted glow. Remember that highlights, like any color process, require maintenance to keep their fresh look as long as possible.

The basic overview of highlighted hair care includes: 

  1. Change Up Your Shampoo Game
  2. Embrace Deep Conditioning 
  3. Get the Right Nutrients in Your Body 
  4. Avoid Damage From Heat and Chemicals 
  5. Keep Up With Professional Care

We’ll go into more detail later, but first, let’s get more in-depth about hair highlights and how they may affect your hair. You may choose highlights because they are a less obvious change than overall color.

If you want to look like yourself, but a version of yourself that just came back from a winter stay in the tropics, highlights are the way to go.

Or you may prefer bolder, highly contrasting highlights that let you express your edgier side. The choice is yours. There are many options for highlights, including balayage, classic highlights, babylights, ombre, and more.

While these methods differ from each other in significant ways, they all have the same thing in common: portions of your hair will be chemically processed to achieve a lighter color than the base color. 

While highlighting is generally less damaging than whole-head bleaching, you will still have lightened hair that needs some extra pampering to retain its luster.

Read Next: Balayage vs. Highlights

6 Ways Keep Your Highlighted Hair Healthy

Image showing how it's necessary to use a good shampoo to keep highlighted hair healthy

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When you go through a time-consuming and often pricey treatment like highlights, you want it to last. Highlights show up best on shiny, healthy, defined hair.

Dryness and frizzing can take away the charm of your highlights and cause them to fade quickly. Luckily, there are some basic steps you can follow to prevent this from happening. 

1. Change Up Your Shampoo Game 

You will want to switch to a gentler shampoo already after getting highlights. The chemicals in many popular mainstream shampoos can strip your scalp of healthy oils and make your hair more porous, allowing your color to fade away faster.  

Try switching to a shampoo that’s free of sulfates and made specifically for color-treated hair. Your salon may have some suggestions for you, but there are many choices if you would rather buy from your favorite retailer.

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Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo has customers wowed with its ability to smooth the hair shaft and make highlights more vibrant. L’oreal Paris EverPure Volume Shampoo is a budget-friendly choice that will moisturize your hair without weighing it down. 

In addition to what you use to wash your hair, you should also re-evaluate how often you wash it.

The more washing, the more fading, which is why it’s best to wash highlighted hair three days per week rather than every day. If your hair needs some refreshing, dry shampoo is your friend. It will soak up excess oil from your hair and add a clean scent. 

2. Embrace Deep Conditioning

Color-treated hair tends to be more “thirsty” than natural hair. It needs more moisture to keep the hair shaft from breaking and frizzing. Conditioner is the added step that helps seal and lock in your hair’s moisture.

Regular, in-shower conditioners that are left on for a couple of minutes are fine, but you should also utilize deep conditioners for your highlighted hair.

These conditioners are put on wet or dry hair and left on for longer periods so that they deeply penetrate the hair shaft. When choosing a deep-conditioning treatment, don’t focus on how much protein it contains.

There is a myth that the more protein the better when it comes to conditioning treatments because protein is believed to strengthen hair.

However, moisturizing agents are the most important aspect of treating highlighted hair. Look for argan, coconut, shea, avocado, and other naturally-derived oils/emollients.

3. Get The Right Nutrients for Your Body 

Healthy hair isn’t just about what you do on the outside; it starts on the inside. Your hair will recover better from damage and look more vibrant when you’re getting the nutrients your body needs. 

There are vitamin supplements that are specially formulated to address hair needs. Nutrafol is probably the best-known hair vitamin on the market, but you can also check out other products like Viviscal or Folexin.

4. Avoid Damage From Heat and Chemicals 

Over time, excessive heat styling can fry your color-treated hair. If your hairstyling routine generally requires a lot of blow-drying and flat-ironing, it’s time for a change.

Instead, use products that allow your hair to dry naturally without frizz, and try braids, curlers, and other heatless styling methods. Harsh chemicals of all kinds can affect the color of your highlights and the health of your hair.

Experts recommend avoiding chlorine when you have highlights. Chlorine can interact badly with chemically-treated hair, making it dry and brittle. It can cause brassy or green tones in lightened hair as well. If you swim, wear a swim cap to protect your highlighted hair.

5. Use a Gentle Touch

Heat and chemicals aren’t the only things that can damage your highlighted hair. Rough combing or brushing and vigorous towel drying are hair breakage culprits few people recognize. 

Many of us are in the habit of getting out of the shower and roughly drying our hair with whatever towel is handy. This practice can cause split ends, breaking, and faded color. Instead, dry your hair gently with a microfiber towel or wrap. 

Detangling can be a challenge. You may have always been prone to getting tangles, or perhaps you find that your hair tangles more easily after having a color treatment.

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Whatever the case, you should adopt a safe, healthy detangling routine. Invest in a good detangling brush and a spray-in detangler like Honest Conditioning Detangler. Make sure to take your time to focus on small areas, working your way through the hair slowly to avoid pulling and breaking your hair. 

It may also be a good idea to start using satin pillowcases and/or head wraps. Believe it or not, hair damage can occur during sleep.

The coarse fibers that make up regular pillowcases rub against your hair at night, and your sleep movements can cause your hair to snag and pull. That’s why sleep caps have been popular in the past and are now making a comeback.

These satin protective caps keep your hair contained so it looks fresh and shiny in the morning. You can use these along with a satin pillowcase or use one or the other separately. 

6. Keep Up With Professional Care

Your at-home upkeep can keep your highlights looking great for as long as possible, but there is no substitute for professional care. If you like your highlights and want to keep them, you will need to go back to the salon every six weeks or so to have them touched up.

If you’re tempted to do highlights for yourself or to have a friend do them for you, proceed with caution. Results for at-home highlighting kits are often not what is represented on the box.

Read all box instructions and be ready to take lots of time to go through the process correctly. Also, have some toner on hand to improve your color results. You can buy toner at your local beauty supply store. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Another view of the woman learning how to keep highlighted hair healthy

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How soon can I wash my hair after getting highlights? 

The general recommendation is to wait 48 hours to shampoo your hair after getting highlights. This waiting period will help the color set into your strands and remain “locked-in.” 

Does my hair need to be bleached to get highlights? 

Yes, almost always. Highlights require some parts of the hair to be lightened, which means applying bleach and hydrogen peroxide. Depending on the hair color you have or the corresponding highlight color, the bleaching part of the process may be short.

When it’s done, a regular dye color is usually put over it. It is a multi-step process that’s best done by an experienced person.

There are also options for getting highlights that don’t require bleach, but these methods such as chamomile shampoo are gradual, with results showing up over time, and they aren’t going to be as dramatic as a process done with bleach. 

How light should my highlights be? 

Usually, stylists recommend that you keep your highlights about two levels above your base color, which adds brightness and just enough contrast to create a natural sunkissed effect.

Going three or more shades lighter can yield a striped effect that doesn’t look natural, and it can cause more damage to the hair than necessary.

Can color-conditioners help maintain my highlights? 

Yes! There are a ton of color-depositing conditioners on the market right now, and some can help you keep up your highlighted hair.

The most popular products for this purpose feature a blue or purple base color that neutralizes brassy tones in blonde highlights. They also make excellent deep-conditioning treatments.

What is the best way to grow out highlights? 

Highlights are usually easier to grow out than all-over color because there isn’t any harsh contrast between the roots and the rest of your hair. 

Some people choose to just dye over their highlights with another color, but this method doesn’t always look good, and it can cause damage.

The best way to grow out highlights is to gradually use color glazes in darker shades than your highlights. The glaze will help your highlights darken to blend with the rest of your hair. 

So, How Do You Keep Highlighted Hair Healthy? 

After reviewing all this information you should feel a little more confident in your ability to care for your highlighted hair. The takeaway is that highlighted hair, like any color-treated hair, requires a little extra TLC to look its best.

With the right products and some common-sense care techniques, you should be able to take care of your highlights with ease until your next coloring session. 

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