Highlighting is a process of colouring one’s hair strands to create an illusion of many colours in the hair. The coloured strands are known as highlights. These can be of natural or unnatural hues and shades. These can be created using chemical dyes, bleach or natural lighteners. They can easily be done at home with non-expensive, natural ingredients. Highlights create an appearance of large volume and fuller, thicker hair. Highlights have been high in vogue for years now, due to its visual appeal. The two-toned colour makes hair more stylish and trendy. The rate of unnatural highlighting colours has increased over the years as they give an unconventional look. However, the high rate of natural colour highlighting has remained constant throughout the years. Colours like brown, burgundy, blonde and black are very commonly used for highlighting. There are many ways to achieve a similar effect at home with economic and damage-free remedies. These keep the hair protected from harm and damage and also nourish the hair further.
20 home remedies- how to do highlights at home
Lemon + Sunlight
Lemon is the best known natural bleach and lightener. Along with sunlight, it opens up the hair cuticles while lifting the colour off. The citric acid helps remove the colour from materials, thus lightening them quickly.
- Take equal amounts of lemon juice and water and mix it.
- Apply it evenly to the strands you want to highlight.
- Sit in the sunlight with this in your hair and wash off after 30 minutes.
You can also use lemon juice with other lightening agents like honey and olive oil. It is more effective when used in concentrated amounts or in combination with other agents.
Coffee powder acts as a natural antioxidant while producing different hued highlights. The highlights created by coffee are different on different hair colours:
- Blonde hair- Orange-ish- red hue
- Brown hair- Dark brown
- Black hair- Brown
- Red hair- More saturated red colour
As it is a natural antioxidant, it does not cause any damage to your hair. It also softens and smoothens hair and gives it a natural shine.
- Add three tablespoons coffee powder to half a cup of water.
- Mix well and fill this into a spray bottle.
- Partition your hair into groups of about 50-60 strands. Spray this onto alternating groups.
- Leave it for 30 minutes before washing off.
Another way to use coffee powder is to add it to your hair conditioner and applying to your hair. Leave this on for 30 minutes before washing off.
Cinnamon has many beauty and health benefits for the hair and skin. It lightens hair colour without causing any damage. It also helps nourish the hair while stimulating hair growth.
- Add the cinnamon powder to your conditioner and apply to alternating parts of your hair.
- Leave this on for 30 minutes before washing off.
Another way is to apply it is in combination with olive oil and honey. Leave this mixture on for about 20 minutes before washing off.
Cinnamon contains high nutrient providing elements. It very gently lifts colour to provide natural highlights.
Honey contains traces of hydrogen peroxide with is a hair lightening agent. The iron present in it oxidizes oxygen free radicals that are released by hydrogen peroxide. These lighten hair colour to provide natural looking highlights.
- Take one tablespoon honey and squeeze half a lemon into this.
- Add one teaspoon cinnamon powder and mix well.
- Apply this on some parts on the top of your hair and leave for 30-40 minutes before washing off.
Chamomile tea contains three flavonoids called apigen, quercetin, and azulene. These help lighten hair colour gradually. If you have a darker hair colour, it may take several weeks to see results.
- Take some Chamomile tea, which is preferably 100% pure.
- Boil hot water to concoct the tea.
- Put this concoction in a spray bottle.
- Spray this evenly all over and leave for 30 minutes before washing off.
(only some parts of your hair retain the colour, creating highlights)
Henna or mehendi is a natural colouring agent used during weddings and to colour hair since ancient times. It changes hair colour after just one use.
- Mix half a cup of henna powder with a quarter cup warm water.
- Mix well to create a paste.
- Partition your hair into parts you want to highlights and parts you don’t want to.
- Apply this to the hair you wish to highlight and leave it on for approximately 30 minutes.
- Wash off and use shampoo to cleanse.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw apple cider vinegar creates reddish brown highlights in the hair. It also cleanses and nourishes your hair naturally.
- Mix half the total amount of distilled water and half of the vinegar.
- Spray all over or apply in areas with a cotton swab. Only some areas change colour at a time.
- Let it be for 30 minutes before rinsing off with water.
Olive oil is an excellent agent that ensures hair lightening and brightening along with nourishment. It softens and moisturizes hair.
- Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil with one tablespoon honey.
- Apply this to parts of your hair that you wish to highlight and leave for 30-40 minutes.
- Wash off
- Use this about twice a week to achieve effects sooner.
Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical agent that helps bleaching and lightening hair to produce subtle highlights. It is used to create natural highlights depending on the concentration and quality of materials.
- Take some hydrogen peroxide solution on a cotton swab or in a spray bottle and distribute on the strands you want to highlight.
- Let it be on for 30 minutes before rinsing off.
Rhubarb roots can be used as an excellent agent to lighten and brighten hair colours. It helps brighten hair strands in lighter coloured hair. The oxalic acid present in it acts like a fixative, so it lasts longer.
- Take ¾ ounce rhubarb and immerse it in 4 cups water.
- Simmer this and let cool.
- Strain out the liquid and use as a final rinse after washing hair.
(Only some parts get coloured at a time, causing clear highlights)
Baking soda is the chemical compound Sodium carbonate- NaCO3. This breaks down the hair strand to absorb more colour and lighten hair colour.
- Take 2 tablespoons baking soda and add three tablespoons water.
- Mix well and apply on the hair you wish to lighten.
- Leave on for 30 minutes before washing off.
The citric acid in vitamin C tablets helps lift the colour from hair and brightening hair strands. It is considered one of the simplest and healthiest home remedy.
- Crush 15-20 tablets in a bowl.
- Add some anti-dandruff shampoo and make a paste.
- Massage this paste through damp hair and wash off after leaving it on for some time.
(Weaker hair strands get lightened first, creating highlights)
The salt in ocean and sea water affects your hair in many ways. It creates beachy waves along with brightening hair colour. This is why after you visit a beach, your hair looks very different. This agent is the most natural way of lightening hair.
- Go for a swim in the ocean or sea.
- Take one tablespoon of sea salt (available in markets).
- Add this to one cup of water.
- Leave this in your hair for 20 minutes and sit in the sun.
- Rinse off.
(Weaker sections of hair get discoloured more)
Hibiscus/ Jamaican sorrel
The hibiscus is a plant that bears red flowers. This gives hair a bright red colour or lighter red highlights. Sorrel is a plant called Roselle, which is native to West Africa.
- Take one cup of sorrel, dried or fresh.
- Add this to a saucepan with one cup of water.
- Add one teaspoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon powder.
- Boil these together and let it rest for 2-4 hours.
- Use this as a final rinse after washing your hair.
(Only some parts of your hair get affected)
Beer contains certain elements which help lift hair colour. When exposed to sunlight, these elements get activated to lighten hair colour.
- Take half a cup of beer (preferably flat) and mix with one tablespoon honey.
- Add one teaspoon of lemon juice and mix in.
- Apply this on the sections of hair you wish to highlight and stay in the sunlight for 15-20 minutes.
- Wash off.
Shikakai helps strengthen and darken hair colour. It protects natural colour too. When applied to the hair, it creates more prominent highlights and better contrast.
- Take half a cup of shikakai powder and mix in with one tablespoon honey.
- Squeeze the juice out of 2 lemons and mix well.
- Keep adding water, till you obtain a smooth paste.
- Section your hair into several groups and apply on alternating ones and leave in for 30 minutes before washing.
Sunlight helps break down hair cuticles to lift hair colour. If you stay out in the sun for long periods of time, you will notice a prominent change in hair colour. This is also healthy to restore Vitamin D. Weaker hair changes colour more drastically, causing highlights.
Tomato juice is very useful in removing darkness and tans. It can thus be used to remove dark colour from your hair. It is completely natural and vitamin C bleaches and nourishes hair at the same time.
- Cut a tomato in half and rub the open end on the portions you want to bleach.
- Let this rest for 30 minutes before washing off.
As mentioned earlier, salt enables discolouration of hair. Common salt can be used too, if sea salt is not available.
- Take 3 tablespoons salt and half a cup of water.
- Mix these well and leave the mixture on in some parts of your hair, to create highlights.
- Wash after 30-40 minutes.
If you notice, whenever you eat beetroot, it leaves a deep pink tinge on your lips. It has the same effect on hair. It can be used to brighten red tones and also create pink tones on light coloured hair.
- Extract the juice out of 1-2 beets, depending on the amount of hair you want to colour.
- Use this as a final rinse after washing your hair.
(Weaker hair retains colour, causing highlights)
What are the health risks & side effects associated with it?
Highlighting hair at home naturally can have some side effects like:
You may not always get the colours you expect:
Different materials bleach the hair differently. Every person’s hair is different, so these agents affect different hair types in varied ways. On weaker hair, highlights show more prominently. Stronger hair takes time to show the colour. The colour can turn out different. For example- using beetroots on dark coloured hair will not show same results as on blonde hair.
Spoils hair quality:
Most of these agents work by breaking down cuticles. This damages the hair strands and sometimes strips away natural nutrients.
May cause greying:
Some of these agents, if not used properly, can cause excessive bleaching of the hair. This can cause premature greying.
Can cause hair fall:
If some of these elements touch the scalp and hair follicles, they weaken the strands. This causes breakage, thinning and hair fall.
Can cause patchy colour:
If these elements are not applied evenly, it causes patchy colours after washing. This gives a fake and untidy look to your hair.
What are the precautions?
We must take some precautions before using these agents, like:
- While using hydrogen peroxide solution, the concentration must not exceed 3% or it will cause damage to your hair. If you’re creating the solution at home with solid hydrogen peroxide, it must be diluted to very less chemical concentration.
- Always use raw products (like honey and lemon juice) to achieve better results without causing any damage.
- Never leave these products on for a very long time as they can cause allergies, rashes, itching and infections.
- Always dilute or combine the agents. The natural concentration and strength can cause immense damage to your hair.
- Do not use these on previously coloured hair without professional consultancy, as it may change the colour.
Myths and facts
Myth- Hair highlights are prominent only when done professionally and with chemical dyes.
Fact- These home remedies create prominent highlights too, but they take several weeks to appear.
Myth- None of these home remedies cause any damage.
Fact- All these home remedies can be harmful if used in wrong proportions and combinations. They can also be harmful if kept in hair for too long.
Myth- Red highlights are not possible naturally.
Fact- Red highlights can be created at home using products like beetroot and hibiscus sorrel.
Myth- DIY hair lightening products are tough to find in local markets.
Fact- These products are easily available in local markets as they are used in household activities daily.
Myth- These remedies do not work on very dark hair.
Fact- On applying about 4-5 times, the results can be seen even on very dark coloured hair.
Pros and Cons
- These remedies cause less damage to the hair and add nourishment too.
- The products that can be use are easily and widely available all over the world.
- These ingredients are much cheaper than chemical dyes.
- These processes can be carried out at home, which is very convenient.
- In most of these remedies, professional help is not required.
- With these remedies, a low range of colours can be achieved. These remedies only create certain colours and shades.
- Sometimes, depending on your hair, wrong colour highlights will be formed.
- These do not have the same effect on different hair colours and in different places.
- Most of these remedies need sunlight to get activated.
- These remedies take very long to show highlights.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do these remedies work?
Answer- Yes, these do show gradual effect in hair colour and highlights.
How long do these take to show the highlights?
Answer- Depending on the hair colour and type, it may take 2-3 uses to a few weeks to show.
Are these more effective than chemical dyes?
Answer- No. Chemical dyes allow stronger and quicker action to show highlights prominently. But, chemical dyes cause more damage.
Can we use locally available products like liquid honey and lemon juice?
Answer- Yes. In fact, these raw products are most safe and effective while creating these highlights.