A Blonde’s Guide to Natural Highlights

Victoria Moorhouse
Sunkissed Hair for Blondes


Run a few (strategically placed and expertly administered) streaks of blonde through brunette hair, and you pretty much have sun-kissed, natural highlights figured out. But what happens when you have blonde hair already? If you have super-light or platinum hair, we wouldn’t blame you if you asked yourself how you could make highlights and bayalage work. But don’t worry: even if your locks are at the lightest end of the hair color spectrum, you too can look like you’ve spent time on the beach and ended up with some serious natural highlights from the sun.

Have bleached hair? You’re in a good place.

Hair looks like its been touched by the sun when it contains several different tonalities, but how can you do that when your hair is bleached to one solid shade of blondeness? “It’s easy to add color to bleached out hair—you just use a non-peroxide hair color and foil it into the hair,” says Joel Warren, Master Colorist and Co-Founder of Warren-Tricomi Salons. “Since the hair is already bleached out, it will absorb color and hold.”

Now what color to choose? Joel suggests using a golden color on very light hair to really give it that sun-kissed look.

MORE: How to Find the Right Highlights For Your Hair

Balayage and foils both work.
Those going for an ombre almost always request a balayage treatment, but is that what a blonde should choose if she wants natural highlights? In this circumstance, Warren says that bayalage or foils will get the job done—and you can actually request a little of both to give yourself an overall sun-kissed look. You can then suggest one technique (in our experience, it’s balayage) to add in additional highlights in specific areas. Warren explains that these individually placed highlights will create the summery, natural highlight you’re aiming for.

What’s the best blonde state to be in, other than bleached out?
If you’re NOT bleached out and you want natural-looking highlights, you might want to make sure your hair has a bit of gold tint to it. “It’s best to add some gold into the hue of the hair because if you don’t, it can end up looking muddy when the hair absorbs color,” he explains. To ensure that you’re getting a hint of gold, ask your colorist to mix up a color that will allow for those hues to shine through.

MORE: Subtle Summer Hair Color Ideas

Don’t discount lowlights.
When you think of summer, highlights immediately come to mind. But for a blonde, lowlights can make your already blonde hair appear amplified. Warren says that this subtle contrast causes the blonder hair to look like it’s been super sun-kissed.

To keep the blonde or lighter sections of your hair really bright, use a clarifying shampoo or a violet-toned shampoo once a week to remove any product and chemical build-up as well as any impurities which, over time, can fade or warp the color of your hair. This is especially important in preventing the dreaded brassiness; natural highlights aren’t orange, after all!

Honey hues work, too.
So what do you do if you’re at the darker end of the blonde hair spectrum? Warren says that dirty blondes should definitely look into honeyed highlights. Because honey tones hold those universally flattering golden hues (and also help reflect the light), this shade will make it appear like your hair has already spent some time out getting lightly bleached in the summer sun. And if your natural color skews more towards a very light brown? You guessed it: honeyed highlights are going to look the most natural on you, too.