How to Add Highlights to Black Hair


Adding highlights to black hair can give your hair color contrast, depth and dimension. There are quite a few things you’ll need, as well as many steps to take when adding highlights to black hair. Make sure to follow all steps thoroughly and completely and read through them before beginning.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves, 2 pair
  • Hair drape or old towel
  • Hair coloring bowl
  • Hair coloring brush
  • Foils
  • Bleach or other lightener
  • Developer or activator
  • Hair coloring applicator bottle
  • Toner coloring product
  • Toner developer or activator

Put on gloves and use the hair drape or old towel to protect the skin and clothing.

Mix your bleach or other lightener with its developer or activator in the hair coloring bowl with the hair coloring brush. Mix it until it is the consistency of yogurt.

Using small and thin sections of hair, put the foil directly underneath the hair and paint on the bleach mixture with the hair coloring brush. Put another piece of foil directly on top to protect the bleach-coated hair from the rest of the hair. Repeat this step, working from the back of the head toward the front, and then again on the sides of the head. Be sure not to use too much bleach on the hair. Otherwise, it could leak out and cause bleach spots on the rest of your hair.

After all of the hair has been bleached and processed, rinse the hair, shampoo and towel dry. You can peek inside the foils to see how the hair is lightening. You’ll watch it go through a red phase, then an orange phase. When it gets to a yellow or pale yellow phase, that's when you will rinse the bleach off. This could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

Mix the toner along with the toner developer or activator in the color application bottle. Then apply the toner all over the hair, making sure to thoroughly saturate all strands of hair. Allow the toner to process for about 20 minutes and then rinse.

Tips & Warnings

  • Choosing a toner with an ash base, like light ash brown, according to, will help to counteract any brassy tones you may encounter when lightening black hair. Having a friend highlight the hair for you may be better, since someone else might be better able to see where to place the foils.
  • Do not skip using a toner when highlighting black hair. It is an essential step in making the highlights look the proper color.

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