Your results will depend on your skills and tools that are available to you at the time of highlighting. DIY hair highlighting is not for everyone. Always test products on a small area of your skin first to ensure you’re not allergic to them.
It’s always a good idea to seek the help of a professional in your area if you want the best chance of achieving the results you want.
Highlighting your own hair at home is a great way to save money. If you ever find yourself without a kit, there is a way to do your own highlighting without them.
In this post, I connected with Sheylah Taina, a Licensed Cosmetologist from Newark, NJ, and asked her to share with me her best tips for highlighting hair at home without a kit.
This method uses a mixture of lightening powder and peroxide (20 vol developer). Make sure you understand the risks before proceeding with this method.
A 20 vol developer is usually good for lighten natural hair two color levels. Most hair professionals recommend using color products for color changes no more than 2 color levels lighter (or darker) than your natural color. This ensures you achieve consistent color outcomes.
Here’s How to Highlight Hair at Home Without a Kit:
What you will need:
- lightening powder (a.k.a bleach powder)
- aluminum foil (cut into small 8×10 pieces)
- 20 vol developer (6% peroxide)
- a mirror
- mixing bowl and brush
- a long tail a comb
Before you begin:
- Make sure that your hair is de-tangled and free of any debris or heavy oils.
- Wear a shirt that you don’t mind getting bleach on.
- Take off any earrings
- Part top half of hair into 3 sections.
- Mix products (powder and developer) after sectioning the hair so it does not spend time oxidizing. Make sure to follow the instructions on the labels for the mixing ratio.
- Tie up the 2 side sections of your hair and leave the middle (we call it the mow hawk area)
- Take thin sections of hair from the mow hawk section, use the tail of the comb in a zig-zag motion to slice out a thinner layer of hair. Keep this “sliced out” section in one hand and let the rest of the hair fall down.
- Take out a piece of aluminum foil and lay the hair in your hand on top of the foil.
- Paint the hair on the foil with mixture created in step 2. Use the mixing brush for even application.
- Cover the hair completely with another piece of foil or fold over your foil (depending on your foil sizes)
- Repeat throughout the entire mow hawk section until you are satisfied with the amount of hair you have in foils. You can move on to the next sections at the sides of the head or just work in the mow hawk area.
- After you’re done, follow the manufacture labels (on powder and developer) for processing time and wash-off procedures.
For DIY projects, Sheylah recommends you just do the mow hawk section because once you let the hair down, it will look like you have your full head highlighted since the hair at the top falls over the sides.
This will not look the same if you pull the hair back into a ponytail so if you want to see highlights with the hair pulled back, you will have to repeat step 4 on all sections you would like to see highlighted.
Results: What Color Should You Expect?
It’s recommended that you try the bleach powder and developer solution on a test strand of your hair first. This will give you a good idea of the end results. Everyone’s hair is different and your results may vary.
In general, here is what you should expect to see:
- Dark brown hair may turn chestnut brown hair. May also turn orange if you have large warm color molecules in your hair that are hard to break down.
- Medium brown hair may turn to golden brown hair.
- Light brown hair may turn into dirty blond hair.
- Red hair may turn orange before turning into blond hair.
- Dirty blond hair may turn to light blonde hair
- Light blonde hair may turn to white-blond hair
How to Highlight Hair at Home Without Foil
To highlight your hair at home without foil, simply follow the instructions above but replace aluminum foil with plastic wrap.
The reason why using aluminum foil to highlight hair is the preferred choice for most hair professionals is because the aluminum foil does a great job keeping the lightening solution away from surrounding hair. The foil also helps to trap heat which helps the lightening solution to work more efficiently.
Similar to aluminum foil, plastic wrap also prevents lightening solution from contacting the surrounding hair. However, it doesn’t perform well as an insulator, which means you will need more time to highlight your hair if you use plastic wrap. This may not be a huge issue for most people, however, because the plastic wrap is see-through
Plastic wrap does have slight heat retention properties. The best way to use plastic wrap for highlighting your hair is to wrap your hair as you would with foil and then wrap another layer on top. Try to leave an air gap between the layers as this will maximize heat retention.
How to Highlight Hair at Home Naturally
The best way to highlight hair at home naturally is to use chamomile tea bags and yogurt. Research done by professors at Yazd University, Iran, shows that chamomile can be used as a natural dye for yellow shades because it promotes greater light reflection. The protein in yogurt can also promote healthy hair and helps with the application of the dye.
For more on this, I connected with Dr. Anna Chacon, MD, a US board-certified dermatologist and medical writer at Zelen Life, and asked her for the best way to use chamomile for highlighting hair at home.
Chamomile Tea Bags and Yogurt Method
According to Dr. Chacon, here is what you need to do:
- Steep a chamomile tea bag in hot water. Let it sit for 30mins – 45 mins or until the tea is cooled. Start with 3.38oz (100ml) of water for the tea. You can reduce this amount depending on how much concentration of chamomile is in your tea and how bright you want your highlights to be.
- Add plain yogurt to the tea and combine them. Add just enough yogurt to create a thick paste.
- Wash your hair with regular shampoo and conditioner.
- Use a comb to spread the chamomile/yogurt mixture to clean, damp strands of hair.
- leave the mixture on the hair for 30-60 minutes.
The Honey for Highlights Method
Ghanima Abdullah, a Cosmetologist from Chicago and hair expert at TheRightHairstyles.com, says that honey and cinnamon is a gentle combo that can be used to naturally provide highlights to the hair. These 2 ingredients create a chemical reaction that produces hydrogen peroxide which can add highlights
You can repeat this process to lighten your hair a full shade.
Here’s What You Need To Do:
- Mix two tablespoons of raw honey with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
- Apply the mixture to freshly washed hair that’s still damp. Don’t use a conditioner first. If your hair is naturally dry, try adding up to a tablespoon of olive oil to the honey and cinnamon mixture.
- Leave it in your for at least 5 hours in order to see the highlights come through. You might consider sleeping in the mix with a shower cap.
- Rinse it out with warm water and shampoo and get ready for a new look!