"Midlights" Are the Answer to Natural-Looking Highlights

Getty/Edward Berthelot
Getty/Edward Berthelot
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  • "Midlights" is a hair-color technique coined by hairstylist Matt Rez.
  • It's considered an "in between" shade that connects your base color to your highlights.
  • The look helps create a seamless blend so highlights don't look stripe-y.

Is there anything better than that "just got back from vacation" look? Bronzed skin, sun-kissed highlights, salty waves — ahh, we can see it now. While a year-round tropical vacation isn't realistic for everyone, there's always the option of faking it with self-tanner and artfully placed hair color. Making it appear entirely natural, however? Not as easy as you'd think. That's why "midlights," a hair-color trend that promises cohesive, sun-kissed highlights, might just be your best bet.

Not traditional highlights and not traditional lowlights, midlights are in a class of their own — a method that promises to seamlessly blend your base color and your highlights. The term was coined by celebrity colorist Matt Rez, whose hands have touched the heads of Hailey Bieber, Angelina Jolie, and Chrissy Teigen, to name a few. (He's the man responsible for Teigen's brand-new red hair.)

Below, Rez is sharing all the details on midlights, from what there are to how to ask for them at the salon and maintain the look at home. Keep scrolling to learn everything to know about the color technique.

What Are Midlights?

"A midlight is the 'in between' color that connects your base color to your highlights," Rez says. "They are woven and placed in tandem right below a highlight foil packet." The technique helps to create a seamless blend so that highlights don't look stripe-y, and so you can have maximum dimension in your hair color. Typically, a midlight is no lighter than two levels of your base color and no darker than two levels of the highlight color, and it's done using a weaving foil technique.

While highlights lighten the hair and lowlights darken the hair, midlights are a midway point that adds a sun-kissed tint without using bleach. "To achieve the lift of a midlight, color is used; not lightener," Rez says.

If the technique sounds like something you'd like to try, the good news is that midlights work on all base colors and hair textures. "All hair colors and hair types can look enhanced and more seamless with a secondary color and tone for dimension," Rez says. "Those with permanent base colors can achieve 1-1.5 levels of lift since bleach is not used; so just make sure highlights are not more than two levels lighter than the midlights for cohesion." The only caveat, Rez says, is that those looking for an ashy end result, like what you'd see with the "smoky brunette" trend should opt for something else. "Midlights help create a sun-kissed effect that is not cool in tone by nature."

When you're ready to visit your colorist, in order to get the look just right, it's important to arrive with inspiration photos in hand. Rez says that you can ask your colorist directly for midlights, but if they don't know the technique by name, they should do research into how to achieve the look. Again, this is where photos will play a huge part in making sure you get exactly what you want.

How to Maintain Midlights at Home

When it comes to in-salon maintenance, midlights are fairly low-key. "Most of my clients can go three to four months in between highlighting sessions, as their grow out is seamless; especially with a shadow root." However, in order to keep your color looking as fresh as possible for as long as possible, Rez says that using color-safe products is key. Our current favorite color-safe conditioner is the Living Proof Full Conditioner ($32), and for shampoo we love the Drunk Elephant Cocomino Glossing Shampoo ($27). Also, if you're someone who frequently uses hot tools, you'll want to make sure you use a heat protectant each and every time you do your hair. We've been loving the Drybar Hot Toddy Heat Protectant Mist ($29).

Midlight Inspiration

If you're ready to call your colorist, keep scrolling for inspiration photos you can bring with you to your next salon appointment.

Midlights on Red Hair

Midlights on Brown Hair

Midlights on Curly Hair

Midlights on Blond Hair

Midlights on Auburn Hair

Midlights on Dark Brown Hair