Dyeing your hair too frequently can cause it to dry out and become damaged. On the other hand, if you wait too long before dyeing, the color fades, leaving your hair looking dull. You may wonder, does it work the same way for hair highlighting too?
So, how long should you wait before highlighting your hair again to prevent hair damage?
How Often Can You Highlight Hair Without Damaging It?
The general guideline is to touch up highlights every 8 weeks to 12 weeks (2-3 months) to allow your hair to recover from the chemical process. If you’re desperate, wait at least 4 weeks before highlighting your hair again to prevent hair damage.
However, this can vary:
High-Contrast Highlights: Wait at least 12 weeks. Touching up sooner risks severe damage.
Natural Highlights: You can get a touch-up as early as 8 weeks if hair meets quality checks for softness, shine, non-porosity, and manageability.
Alternative techniques like “root touch-up” can help avoid overall damage. The quality of products used and the expertise of the colorist are also crucial. Always consider the health of your hair before deciding on the frequency of highlighting.
Factors That Influence How Often You Highlight Your Hair
Type of Highlight
There are different types of highlights, including wide, thinner, natural, contrasting, blonde, etc.
If you have contrasting highlights whereby the dye color differs significantly from your natural base, you will need to touch them up more frequently, at least once per month. In the meantime, you can maintain the hair shine and color vibrancy by applying gloss frequently.
Similarly, wider highlights require more regular dying—after 4-6 weeks—compared to thinner highlights—up to 3 months. Natural highlights differ from your base color by about three tones, and you can wait 2 months before touching them up.
Type of Dye
Whether your hair is highlighted with permanent, demi-permanent, or semi-permanent dye determines how often you can safely reapply color without damaging your hair.
Permanent dye lasts up to 8 weeks. However, it contains harsh chemicals such as ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. Therefore, it is more damaging to your hair. Wait at least 4 weeks before applying permanent dye to your hair.
Demi-permanent hair dye is free of ammonia but contains low levels of hydrogen peroxide. It lasts 6-8 weeks. Wait at least 3 weeks before reapplying it.
Semi-permanent dyes are considered the safest of all types of dyes as they do not contain ammonia or hydrogen peroxide. However, they wash out easily and require regular touching up. You can use a semi-permanent shampoo and conditioner, such as purple or blue shampoo, once per week to touch up your highlights.
Highlighted Hair Maintenance
Highlighted hair requires specific post-treatment care to keep the color looking fresh and prevent damage to the hair. Keep it hydrated and nourished through deep conditioning. With proper maintenance, you can wait for 4-6 weeks before retouching your highlights.
Request your hair stylist to apply a toning gloss on your hair after highlighting to seal the color in and keep it looking vibrant. You can do a gloss treatment every 3-4 weeks to keep your highlights looking fresh.
It is a simple treatment that lasts 15 minutes, and you can do it at home too. Colored hair toner glosses are readily available online and at your local store at an affordable price.
Limit washes to 1-2 times a week using a shampoo suitable for colored hair. Washing your hair too regularly washes off the color, making the highlight dull more quickly. Use cold water when washing your hair. Hot water opens the cuticles, allowing the color pigments to shed.
Exposing hair to the sun for long periods, swimming without a shower cap, regular heat treatment, or using sulfate shampoos causes the hair color to fade quickly, requiring regular reapplication.
If you must use heat on the hair, set the blow dryer or flat iron at a low temperature and apply a heat protectant.
If your hair has low porosity, its cuticles are tight, making it difficult for the dye to penetrate the hair strands. Healthy hair floats, while damaged hair sinks midway through the glass or to the bottom if the damage is severe.
Therefore, the dye should be left on the hair for longer to absorb. Low porosity hair retains color longer, so you can wait 4-8 weeks before applying.
Conversely, high porosity hair absorbs color fast but also sheds it fast because the cuticles are looser. Retouching should be done every 4-6 weeks.
If your hair is damaged, hold off on highlighting it again to prevent further damage and possible hair loss. There are different ways you can tell if your hair is damaged, including a follicle test, float test, and feel test.
To do a follicle test, pluck a hair strand from the base. If your hair is healthy, the root should be bulb-shaped. If it is thin, it means that the hair is weak. For a strand test, pluck a few strands of hair and put them in a glass of water.
Finally, feel your hair between the thumb and index finger. If it is rough, it is damaged.
If your hair is damaged, wait 6-12 weeks before reapplying the dye. In the meantime, incorporate strategies to help it regain its health, e.g., regularly hydrating it with a moisturizing mask.
The frequency for touching up hair highlights depends on various factors including the type of highlight, type of dye used, and the condition of the hair.
General guidelines suggest 8-12 weeks between sessions, but high-contrast highlights should wait at least 12 weeks.
The type of dye used also affects the waiting period, with permanent dye requiring at least 4 weeks and semi-permanent dye allowing for more frequent touch-ups.
Hair condition and porosity also influence how long the color lasts and when to reapply. Proper maintenance, such as deep conditioning and using color-safe shampoos, can extend the lifespan of your highlights.