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What is Negative Space Hair Color?

This subtle highlighting technique keeps maintenance to a bare minimum.
December 23, 2022

Negative space hair is a trendy hair highlighting technique — much like the low maintenance halo highlights and balayage hair color — that uses subtle highlights and lowlights to add dimension to your strands. Because the highlights and lowlights are only a few shades lighter or darker than your base color, negative space hair is easy on maintenance and forgiving on outgrowth.

If you want a simple hair routine for the new year, because let’s face it, routine salon appointments catch up with you, your wallet and the health of your hair very quickly, this may be just what you’re looking for. Keep reading to learn more about the negative space hair color technique, including three ways to upgrade your routine to maintain your new color.

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What Is Negative Space Hair Color?

A negative space hair color involves weaving highlights or lowlights throughout your natural base color, usually near your face, to create a subtle pop. The idea is to create dimension throughout your mane with hues that are typically only a few shades lighter or darker than your all over color. This keeps your hair looking natural, without the need for rigorous upkeep to maintain your color.

Negative space hair color can also be taken up a notch when paired with balayage to add even more dimension throughout your hair. As for what separates the two — because you’re probably wondering — negative space color uses traditional foil highlights and lowlights and primarily focuses on the hair surrounding your face. Balayage uses bleach that’s hand-painted on the hair to create dimension all throughout your tresses.
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How to Get a Negative Space Hair Color

If you go to a salon, bring pictures that show your stylist what you're looking to achieve with negative space hair color. The negative space trend isn’t as popular as something like balayage so pictures will help you to get your point across. If you have dark hair, ask for subtle highlights surrounding your face and if you have light hair, ask for the same thing but with lowlights. If you like the results but crave more dimension, you can always go back and add more highlights or lowlights throughout your mane to truly complement your base color.

If you prefer to DIY, grab an at-home hair highlighting kit that’s just slightly lighter than your base color to carefully brighten the strands surrounding your face. We like the tried-and-true L’Oréal Paris Frost & Design because the cap makes it really easy to pick what hairs you want to highlight and how thick or thin you want the ribbons to be. With that said, since this hair color trend is all about properly placing your highlights and lowlights, it may be one that’s best left to the pros, especially if you desire lowlights. 

How to Maintain a Negative Space Hair Color

Like all hair colors that you aren’t born with, a negative space hair color will require special care, but most of it will come from your hair routine and not regular salon appointments. Here are three ways to upgrade your hair care routine for your negative space color.

1. Use a Shampoo and Conditioner for Color-Treated Hair 

One of the most important things you can do for your updated mane is to switch to a hair care line that’s specifically formulated for color-treated hair, like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Bond Repair Shampoo with Citric Acid and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Bond Repair Conditioner with Citric Acid. This duo is sulfate-free so it won’t fade your color and it helps to strengthen weak hair so if you have any signs of damage like breakage or split ends, it’s the first step in repair.

2. Add a Glossing Treatment to Your Weekly Routine

If you want to keep salon visits to a bare minimum, adding a glossing treatment like the L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss in Clear to your routine is a must. In as little as five minutes, this toning gloss corrects lackluster and brassy color while deep conditioning strands. After just one use, your strands will rival luxurious, post-salon color without the hefty bill.

3. Always Reach for Heat Protectant

Hot tools can be damaging to your hair, especially when it’s color-treated. Before curling, flat ironing or blow drying of any kind, always prime your strands with a heat protectant. For wet hair, we suggest the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Weightless Blow Dry Primer, Heat Protectant, which smooths your style and enhances shine. For dry hair, we like L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum Leave-In, which doubles as a frizz-reducing hair serum and static tamer.

Next: 20 Fun Ideas for Black Hair With Highlights

Photo Credit: Jacque, IG/@hair.by.jacq, Photo Design: Sarah Duvivier

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