How to Give Yourself Perfect Highlights

Add pizzazz to your hair by giving yourself highlights—at home.


Up next in Hair Color 101 (9 videos)

Want to try a new hair color? Learn how to color your hair at home with this Howcast video series, which teaches you how to strip hair color; use natural hair dye; give yourself highlights; henna your hair; lighten your hair naturally; bleach your hair; and much more.

You Will Need

  • A highlighting kit
  • An old blouse
  • Water
  • Conditioner
  • A towel
  • Clarifying shampoo (optional) (optional) (optional)
  • Art brushes (optional) (optional) (optional)


  1. Step 1

    Buy a kit

    Get a highlighting kit in a color that is a few shades lighter than your hair. Make sure the bleach hasn’t expired.

  2. Instead of using the brush that comes with the kit, buy two acrylic brushes from an art supply store: a flat half-inch and a flat quarter-inch. They’ll give you more control, leading to more natural-looking highlights.

  3. Step 2

    Wear something old

    Put on an old blouse just in case any dye drips on you.

  4. Step 3

    Mix the color

    Mix a small batch of test color according to the package’s directions.

  5. Use a clarifying shampoo in the days before you apply highlights, and don’t wash your hair the day you dye it.

  6. Step 4

    Do a test

    Take a small, inconspicuous section of dry, unwashed hair. With the smaller brush, apply the dye for 10 minutes; then rinse & dry. If you like the color, continue with the rest of your hair. If the color is too light, repeat the test on another section, leaving the dye on for only 5 minutes. If the color wasn’t light enough, re-test for 20 minutes.

  7. Step 5

    Begin highlighting

    Now that you’ve figured out the perfect amount of time to let the dye sit, begin painting strands of hair with your brushes, starting at the back. Do thick streaks as well as thin ones (using the two brush sizes) so you don’t end up looking like a zebra.

  8. Have a gentle touch; you want to keep the underlying hair layers darker to create depth.

  9. Step 6

    Frame face

    Highlight the strands of hair that frame your face to brighten your skin tone.

  10. Step 7

    Be conservative

    Don’t apply too many highlights: It’s easier to add more later than to remove them!

  11. Step 8

    Rinse thoroughly

    Rinse your hair until the water runs clear.

  12. Step 9


    Add a good conditioner to your rinsed hair and leave it on for ten minutes.

  13. Step 10


    Dry your hair, and style as usual. Don’t wash for at least 24 hours.

  14. Seventy-five percent of American women color their hair.