5 ways to rock highlights if you have dark hair

Raven-haired beauties,
we have a secret to share: highlights aren’t just for your mousey brown buddies. YOU can make them work too. We asked natural colour expert and balayage queen, Daisy Ballard, for her tips on leaving the dark side…

1. Face framing is where it’s at

Colour virgins – we get it. Switching up your shade for the first time (especially going lighter) can be a daunting experience, so starting gently with highlights is a great way to ease yourself into it. “Face framing, freehand colouring techniques – where your stylist works with small sections of hair around the face to give you a sun kissed glow (think baby hair around the face in summer) – are a brilliant option,” says Daisy. “This approach also allows you to get used to how new lightness and a shift in tone look against your skin.”

2. Opt for ombre

No, not the harsh dip dye of old! Think more naturally sun-kissed, gradually lightened ends. If you’ve flirted with deep shades before, ombre is a fantastic way to lift deposited dye from the most over-processed part of the hair: the ends. “Most of the time – due to the amount of heat styling and chemical damage it’s picked up over its lifetime – this area has grabbed onto a lot of pigment, which can have the effect of dragging down the face,” Daisy explains. “Naturally, the lightest part of hair should be your ends, so this approach is all about keeping colour away from the roots and introducing a very subtle gradient of lightness and lift throughout.”

3. Try T-section highlights 

For a small change with big impact, try introducing colour through just the top section of your hair. Any colour starting from your roots will create a very noticeable regrowth line, so with darker hair, Daisy always suggests using a colour that is just a few shades lighter than your natural hair. Plus, scattering different tones is also a good way to create depth and dimension on dark lengths.

4. Add some winter warmth

We’re not just saying it – the perfect time to start going lighter really is now ! The warm tones that typically result from lightening darker hair were made for winter, and if you do fancy flirting with fairer shades, acting now also gives you the chance to start the gradual, safe lightening process before summer rolls around. “After a few lifting sessions, the warmth will stop being so red and will gently turn more orangey yellow,” Daisy ressures us, “which will allow you play around with super-on trend ashy palettes.”

5. Focus on adding texture, not a ‘blonde’ tone

Colour can add extra personality to a hair cut and it’s amazing what a difference a small shift in tone can make to a style’s apparent thickness and weight. If you have a single length bob, for example, adding balayage highlights to the ends that gently creep up to the roots for not only allows for soft regrowth, but emphasises texture and adds the illusion of movement. Win/win!

“Remember, virgin dark hair is completely different to lengths that are holding on to years-worth of blue/black box dye,” adds Daisy. “If you have naturally dark, untouched hair, your hairdresser will probably use tint or pre-lightener. A tint will lift and tone your hair as it develops, whereas a pre-lightener will lighten your hair as much as is possible in one application and will need to be followed with a toner to neutralise some of the warm tones that will emerge as pigment is stripped from the hair.

“If you’ve succumbed to deep shades of box dye, lightening sections of the hair is more complex,” she explains. “You can only use hair strippers or pre-lightener and the results are much harder to predict. This is why most colourists will take a test strand to see what shades the hair is capable of reaching.

“Whether you are working from your natural colour or a bottle brown/black, going from dark to lighter shades is a long journey! Using green and blue toners can help to neutralise the red and orange shades your hair will turn as pigments are removed, but the most important thing is to embrace each stage, and protecting your hair condition by taking it slow. It’ll be worth it, I promise.”

Follow Daisy on Instagram – @hairbalayard – for details of how to book into her Balayage Boutique salon.