When we hear the phrase "chunky highlights," we think of the late '90s and early 2000s, not chic 2020 hairstyles, but that's about to change. This year's biggest hair color trends are pushing boundaries, and the results are looks that will turn heads and make a statement (see: drenched hair color). If you are not ready to take the plunge on anything too drastic but still want to revamp your look, George Papanikolas, colorist and Matrix brand ambassador, is making a case for the chunky-highlights trend.
"I don't mean Kelly Clarkson '90s stripes, but rather taking balayage and dialing it up," Papanikolas said. "To keep the look current, stylists should blend them seamlessly. The best way to achieve this is by doing the highlights more delicate at the roots, gradually getting thicker and heavier toward the ends."
Highlights are the easiest way to change your hair color without dyeing your whole head, making them a lot more maintenance- and budget-friendly, but these aren't your regular old highlights. "It really comes down to strategic placement. There should be more depth at the root area so that there is absolutely no zebra effect, with the highlights framing the face, and spaced out throughout the hair to give lots of contrast."
Before you go booking your salon appointment, Papanikolas cautioned that this hair color trend doesn't work on all hair types; it looks best on those with longer, curly, or wavy hair. "Curls especially benefit from this trend as opposed to fine, delicate highlights that can get lost in the hair," Papanikolas said. On the flip side, it can create harsh-looking lines on baby-fine or straight textures.
In terms of the color, the same general highlighting rules apply: stay in the same shade family as your natural hair color, and don't go too light. "Keep the highlights no more than four shades lighter than the base color. Going lighter than that can look harsh," Papanikolas said, before adding that you can always break the rules if you want to be playful. The chunky-highlight trend is a great way to experiment with brighter, more vivid colors if you're looking for a bolder contrast.
Scroll for more chunky-highlight color inspiration ahead.