Lowlights Are the Opposite of Highlights — Here's What to Know

There are plenty of things you can do to your hair to add something extra without getting a major cut or double-process color change. For example, hair-color techniques like lowlights, balayage, and highlights are a few options to consider. Still, while the latter two have become go-tos for people who want to spice up their color without completely committing to something new, there's a little more confusion around lowlights and what they really are.

For the sake of not sounding like a hair novice — and, most importantly, not ending up with something you don't want — at your next color appointment, we're taking it upon ourselves to share the ins and outs of the coloring technique. Because despite the fact that lowlights and highlights have similar names, they are very different. To learn more, keep reading.

What Are Lowlights?

"Lowlights are when color is deposited back into hair that needs depth or contrast," Karissa Schaudt, colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, tells POPSUGAR. Hair can become flat looking, too light, or too brassy for a number of reasons, and lowlights are a great way to fix that.

Lowlights can be as subtle or bold as you'd like them to be. Your stylist will either use foils or balayage to give you lowlights using a demi-permanent color. Where your stylist puts the color will determine the look. "My preference is to highlight around the face by keeping the lowlights in the crown and underneath sections," Schaudt says.

"Like highlights, your colorist will know how to make them appear natural as opposed to stripe-y or chunky," Devin Toth, a hairstylist at New York City's Salon SCK, says. "I personally like how lowlights look when they are applied as babylights: nice and soft. Less is more."

They can help enhance your hair in different ways, depending on your natural hair texture and type, like "creating a thicker appearance on finer-hair clients or adding dimensional qualities with textured clients," Schaudt says.

The Difference Between Lowlights and Highlights

Highlights will lighten certain strands to contrast with your natural hair color, while lowlights will darken them. "Lowlights add depth and dimension to hair," Toth says. "When hair has been highlighted over and over, it eventually looks completely blond and loses its depth and dimension."

At the salon, hairstylists often add both highlights and lowlights to the hair at the same time. According to Toth, this is intentional, to create a more natural-looking effect. "Your colorist should pick whether you need either or both," Schaudt says. "You might even need midlights — which are lighter than your natural but darker than your overall — and a combination of all will give a high-end, custom look to your color."

That's the beauty in seeing a professional: you don't have to worry too much about picking which color treatment is best for your hair, as your hairstylist should be able to identify what you need.

Lowlights Maintenance

Like any hair-color treatment, there is a bit of maintenance involved to keep the style looking its best. In addition to using a color-safe shampoo, Schaudt recommended you not wash your hair more than three times a week. "If you're a regular highlight client, you may not need lowlights each appointment, but consult with your colorist to make that decision," she said.

Now screenshot these examples of lowlights to bring with you to the salon.

Additional reporting by Danielle Jackson