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How to Protect Highlights When Coloring Your Hair? Tips From A Professional Hair Colorist

Last time you had highlights and now you are due to do your regrowth again but don’t want to ruin the existing highlights. So, how can you protect the highlights while coloring hair?


How to Protect Highlights When Coloring Hair

There is a couple of options when it comes to redoing your regrowth without ruining the highlights.

Option 1

When you want to redo your regrowth color, but wish to keep highlights, you can actually just color over the regrowth. Do this with a hair color brush very carefully.

ways to protect highlights when coloring hair

Firstly, divide your hair into 4 sections.

Secondly, paint the color onto the whole hairline around the hair, as this usually has the strongest and most color resistant hair, (and or greys), only covering just the hair that requires recoloring, not onto the last color.

Thirdly, choose one of the front sections and work your way from the center of the hair towards the ear taking sections of half a centimeter each. When you are sectioning and color like this you need to also color both sides of the sectioned piece of hair to ensure good coverage of all of the hair.

When the first front section is completed, move onto the second front section, with exactly the same method. Following the application of the front sections, move on to complete the rear sections also.

The reason you do the front first is that it usually contains the most greys and stubborn hair and color is heat activated and there’s a lot more heat to help from the back of your head and neck area. The hair color application needs to be done quickly for best results and even color.

If you’re careful and not applying hair color over the previous color, there’ll be no need to do anything further to protect highlights! Just make sure you wash your hair color out with reasonable speed. Don’t allow the new color to remain on the rest of your hair for any period of time and it will be absolutely perfect.


Pro tip:  Always go back over the outer hairline, especially if the hair contains greys. Some of these grey hairs are very strong and have a mind of their own. If they have popped out of the color you applied initially they will often not become colored. And they are very obvious!


Option 2

Another option for protecting the highlights from a new hair color application is carefully picking the highlights up with a tail comb and covering them in foil. This process is a lot more tedious.

However, if you are wanting to change the color that is around your highlights, it’s a very effective way of doing it!

tail comb

To perform this method, you need a tail comb, hair color bowl, brush, and conditioner.

Firstly, highlights are typically applied in a direction, maybe around the hairline then sectioned back, or from the front of the hairline straight back to the crown and then down the sides, there is a number of different ways to section for highlights.

However, if you can see the direction they have been applied or remember the direction they have been applied it will make picking them up with the tail comb easier!

Once you have established the direction you’re going to be going, and picking up the highlights, use your tail comb to push a bent piece of the foil underneath the hair you have picked up, paint the highlighted pieces with conditioner.

Then fold the foil over and over the highlighted hair a few times to securely hold the highlights in place in the foil. If you don’t use conditioner the hairsprings out of the foils.

Once you have picked up all of the highlights and protected them with the foil and conditioner you are free to start applying your new color.

Just remember if you are coloring all the hair in between the highlights, only use the correct level of peroxide for the part of the hair to minimize damage to your hair.


Pro tip: Using the conditioner works in 2 ways. The conditioner makes it easier to contain the hair, while also keeping the cuticle closed and protected.


Option 3

There is actually a third option that can be used to protect highlights and this is likely the most common option that is used in salons.

coloring hair

Firstly the color that is currently on the hair is visually assessed and a color that is very similar to the darkest shade currently in the hair is chosen.


Pro tip: This is always a different color to what was originally put in the hair because of natural fading, and the degree that the original color has faded because of environmental, heat, and treatments between color applications.


It will also be affected by the hair color and condition of the hair originally. The degree of fading and remaining color pigments will be different for everyone!

Once the appropriate hair color is chosen, follow the same application method as described in the first option of protecting your highlights.

However, when you apply the color instead of just applying on the regrowth only, you use a flicking method to graduate the amount of color that is applied to the hair, up to 1 cm up onto the previous highlights and color.

The idea is that you are blending your new color into your previous color so that you do not end up with a color line between the 2-colors. This method graduates the new color into the previous color and “blends” the two colors beautifully!

This method will not affect the integrity of the hair or damage the highlights, more so it actually accentuates them! The ideal way to finish this color method is with a toner to the highlights which will double up as a refresher to the highlights and a fantastic treatment that is long-lasting.


Pro tip: This method can be used a number of times before new highlights are required, depending on the look that you are after. When this method is used a number of times consecutively it starts to create an ombré to balayage type look.


Final Thought

Last but not least, always maintain the new hair color that you have invested in with good salon-quality shampoo, conditioner, and treatment to look after the health of your hair. Healthy well-hydrated hair always holds colors the best, as the cuticle is closed and traps the color pigments… enjoy!