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Partial Highlights vs. Full Highlights: How To Tell Which Is Right For You

We’re telling you how to choose and how to take care of them.
May 25, 2022

If you’ve ever contemplated going lighter with your hair, chances are highlights are an option that have been on the table. Rather than an all-over hair color change, highlights are the perfect way to test the waters. Not to mention, they’re also a great way to add dimension and movement to an otherwise flat, uniform mane.

Once you’ve decided highlights are the move for you, you may be left with a new question — should you get partial or full highlights? Or perhaps you didn’t even realize there were different types of highlights to consider. Here, we’re helping you settle the partial vs. full highlights debate, explaining what exactly partial highlights are and sharing a few hair color ideas worth trying if you decide to give partial highlights a go.

What Are Partial Highlights? 

Simply put, partial highlights involve partially highlighting your hair. This highlighting technique is focused on one section of your hair, instead of providing all-over dimension. They can be used to create a subtle or bold look depending on where they’re placed and the amount of contrast you desire.

What’s the Difference Between Partial and Full Highlights?

Of course, the main difference between partial and full highlights is the number of highlights placed throughout your hair. That being said, the two techniques also differ in the results they create. 

If you’re looking for an all-over mane change, full highlights would be the best option. This is the ideal technique if you want to have a lighter appearance without bleaching your entire head of hair.

If you want subtle, natural dimension added to your hair, ask your colorist for partial highlights that are one to two shades lighter than your natural hair color. For more dramatic dimension, partial highlights are still the way to go — but in a much lighter shade that can create more contrast. 

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Hair Color Ideas for Partial Highlights

Whether you’re interested in partial highlights on dark hair or partial blonde highlights, there’s certainly no shortage of options when it comes to trying this hair highlighting technique. If you need some placement inspo, consider one of the following.

1. Face-Framing Highlights

One of the most popular options for partial highlights is to brighten your mane with face-framing dimension. As you can imagine, this focuses the placement of your highlights around your face to add warmth to the complexion. 

2. Mohawk

Another popular placement option for partial highlights — your colorist can concentrate your highlights on the mohawk section of your hair. This technique is exactly what you’re likely thinking — sectioning the top center section of hair and placing highlights throughout, resulting in subtle dimension. And in case it isn’t obvious — no, you don’t need a mohawk hairstyle to rock this look.

3. Top Half Highlights

For a more uniform look without committing to full highlights, ask your colorist to place partial highlights throughout the top half of your hair. This will result in distributed, even lightness. It’s also a popular option for touch-ups in between getting full sets of highlights.

How to Take Care of Highlighted Hair

Now that you know what the deal is with partial and full highlights, you may be wondering how to maintain lightened strands. Here are a few things to keep in mind for taking care of highlighted hair.

1. Beware Of Brassiness 

Bleached, highlighted hair has a tendency to become brassy over time, especially if you’re starting with a dark base color. When you notice yellow and orange tones starting to make an appearance in your highlighted mane, use a purple shampoo and conditioner. 

Consider giving the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Brass Toning Purple Shampoo and the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Brass Toning Purple Conditioner a try.

2. Keep Up With Touch-Ups

Grown-out roots are never a good look. To make sure your highlighted strands look flawless, book with your colorist in advance. In between appointments, use a root cover-up spray, like the L’Oréal Paris Magic Root Cover Up.

3. Use a Hair Gloss

Highlighted hair needs a little TLC, and it’s safe to say that no form of hair color looks good on frizzy, dull strands. Show off your partial highlights in all their glory by keeping your mane smooth and shiny with the help of a hair gloss, like the L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss. Distribute the gloss through clean, wet hair, leaving on for 15 minutes for a mane that looks healthy and fresh.

If you want to use an entire system, you can also try the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Glossing In Shower Acidic Glaze, which is another treatment that leaves color-treated shiny and smooth. To use, first shampoo with the L’Oréal Paris Sulfate-Free Glossing Shampoo, pH Balanced. After rinsing, apply the acidic glaze, and then wait one to three minutes. Without rinsing the glaze, apply the L’Oréal Paris Sulfate-Free Glossing Conditioner, pH Balanced, rinsing once the conditioner has been massaged throughout the hair. 

Next: How to Lighten Dark Brown Hair

Edited by: Shannon Stubbs, Photo Credit: Chaunte Vaughn

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