How to do highlights on short hair without cap or foil

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There are two different ways to do highlights on short hair without using either a cap or foil.


  • One of the techniques uses a comb. You apply the bleach mix with a wide-tooth comb, brushing it onto your hair to distribute the mixture.
  • The other technique is to use the squirt bottle applicator that comes with the tube of dye in a color kit. What you do is wash the bottle out, and then use it with the bleach mix instead.


Now, I should warn you that neither of these techniques are easy. I’ll tell you more about why up ahead, but first, I want to ask you a question.

Why do you want to do highlights without using either a cap or foil?


Your answer to this question is essential, and it is what will decide which technique you should choose.


Many women think that they can’t do cap or foil highlights because their short hair won’t let them, but there’s nothing further from the truth.

 Even if you have short hair, it is totally possible to do classic highlights with a cap or with foil.  


Highlights look the best on both short and long hair when you do them with foil or a cap.

So why would you use another technique?


  • Maybe you think that getting your short hair through the holes in a cap is too hard.
  • Or maybe you think that wrapping your short hair in foil is too complicated.

Let me tell you that you’re right.


Both highlights done with a cap and foil are hard to do, especially with short hair.

But let me tell you something else.


The alternative techniques to do highlights that I just named are even harder than both cap highlights and foil highlights.

 But the worst part about the alternative techniques is that they don’t get as good of results. I’d even say that the results are unpredictable at best. 


So, you have a decision to make.

  • You can do your highlights with a traditional technique, like cap highlights or foil highlights.
  • Or, you can do your highlights with one of the two alternative techniques that I’m about to tell you more about.


If you want my advice, unless you have an excellent reason, do your highlights with one of the traditional techniques. The result will be better, cleaner highlights than if you do one of the alternative techniques.


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How to do highlights with a comb

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The comb technique is very uncommon these days because it’s very difficult to carry out, and, like I said before, the results tend to be worse than other techniques.

You have to have a lot of experience with bleach and be very steady, so you don’t end up staining your hair with the bleach mix for it to work.


The comb you’ll need for the technique is a common one: a medium or wide-toothed comb, depending on how close together you want your highlights to be.

You can get this kind of comb in pretty much any store, even supermarkets.


 The result of highlights done with a comb will be very different from the result of cap highlights or foil highlights. I mean that the application method completely determines the final results. 

Let me give you a simple example.

Do you like meat?


If you’re a vegetarian, I’m sorry, but this is the best example I can think of.

If you grill meat, it is going to have a very, very different flavor than if you bake it, for example.


It’s the same with highlights.

The result of doing highlights with a comb is very different from if you do them with a cap or foil. 


  • First and foremost, when you do highlights with a comb, they are going to be wider.
  • Also, you can only do these highlights on the top layer of your hair. Why?
  • Because the mix would stain the rest of your hair if you applied it to an underlayer.


Then, there’s the purely practical issues that can affect your results.

When you do cap or foil highlights, if you move around a little bit after you’ve applied the mix, it’s not a big deal.

 But, when it comes to comb highlights, even a little bit of movement can mess up your work.  

Remember that, unlike foil or cap highlights, your hair is down and loose, so if you move a little tiny bit, your hair will also move, mixing with the other parts of your hair where you don’t want the bleach to go.


With all that in mind, here’s how to do these highlights step-by-step.


Step-by-step how-to do highlights with a comb

  • First, you should prepare the bleach mix. Mix a 30 volume developer with bleach powder in a plastic container.
  • Then, dip the tips of the comb into the mix and run it over your hair, starting at the roots and continuing to the ends.
  • Let the bleach sit for 20 minutes, then rinse.


Highlights with a squirt bottle applicator

The second way to do highlights without a cap or foil is with a squirt bottle applicator.


You’ve surely seen that color kits come with a squirt bottle.

This bottle is excellent for retouching your roots, but it can also work for this technique.

But, if you think the comb technique was hard, the squirt bottle technique is even harder.

And there’s a simple reason for that.


 With the comb technique, you can do several highlights at once, while with the squirt bottle, you’ll have to do the highlights one by one.  

You’ll also have to be very, very careful because the bleach mix is thin, so you also have to deal with the possibility that a lot of it might squirt out all at once.


The result is much messier even than the highlights with a comb, and you also can only do it on the top layer of your hair to avoid staining other parts of your hair with the bleach.

And, don’t even think about moving or reading during the application process; you’ll need to be very still.


The other issue with the squirt bottle technique is that a lot of mix can come out at once, and it might fall onto your clothes and bleach them too.

If you’re still willing to try squirt bottle highlights after all that, I’ll tell you how to do them step-by-step.


  • Prepare the 30 volume developer and bleach powder mix in the bottle.
  • Close the bottle and put the applicator on. Be sure to screw it on tightly.
  • Apply the bleach from root to tip in a line.
  • Let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse.



In my opinion, the best techniques for doing highlights are the foil and cap techniques because they allow you to have a much better amount of control over the results.

It’s possible to do highlights on short hair using either of these techniques.

If you still insist on doing highlights with one of the alternative techniques, we looked at two here.


And now, feel free to leave a comment here below.

Which technique will you end up using for your highlights?

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