What goes first hair color or highlights? Can you do both in the same day?

with aluminum foil

  • Simple answer is color goes first; then, you could add the highlights. For example, if you dye your hair to cover gray hairs, you should dye your hair before getting highlights. Doing the highlights first doesn’t make sense because the dye would change your new highlights’ color.
  • No matter if you’re dyeing your hair yourself or at a salon, you can dye and highlight your hair on the same day.


Recently, a client asked me this question.

Which should I get done first, hair color or highlights?


It’s a tricky question because traditional highlights are applied to virgin hair.

  • If you naturally have black hair, the highlights are applied directly to your black hair.
  • If your hair is brown, then your brown hair is highlighted. And so on.


But what if you have dyed hair and want to get highlights?


If that's the case, you should first dye your hair and then highlight it.

 For example, if you dye your hair every two months to cover grey hair and want to add some lovely highlights, you should do the base color first, then add the highlights. 


In other words:


Let’s go over a specific example to highlight the point.


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When should hair color be applied before highlights?

I already mentioned a client who asked if she should get her hair dyed or highlighted first. She’s named Lola.


Lola, who was around fifty, dyes her reddish-brown hair every month to cover grey hairs.

After a while, she decided she wanted to add a bit of life to her hair. Not only that, she was bored of dyeing her hair the same color every month. But she wasn’t looking for a dramatic change.

To add some lightness and movement, she thought of adding some highlights to her regular hair color.

What do you think I recommended she do? Color or highlight her hair first?


If you said to dye her hair first, you’re right.

  Lola should dye her hair first, just like she does every month, and then apply the highlights./su_highlight]

Of course, she could do both on the same day. That exactly how salons do it.


For Lola, we first applied her regular color.

Depending on how long your hair is and your hairstylist’s skill level, it can take about 40 minutes to color your hair at a salon.


After rinsing and drying her hair, we started to do the highlights.

There are a few different ways to apply highlights. The most popular methods use aluminum foil or a highlighting cap. How long your highlights take depends on which method is used.


But just to give you an idea, the color and highlights can take from three to four hours at most.


Why the base color goes first?

And the answer is simple: if you dye your hair after highlighting it, you’ll ruin the highlights.


As you probably know, highlights involving lightening strands of hair with bleach.

If you dye the recently bleached strands, you’ll lose the effect.

The bleached strands will absorb the pigment and end up the same color as the rest of your hair.

Therefore, it’s best to dye your hair first and then apply the highlights.


Should you touch up the dye or highlights first?

The base color should be redone every month and the highlights every other month.

  • So, touch up both the highlights and color at your first visit.
  • For your second visit, you'll only need to touch up the color. And so on.



And, dear readers, that's all for today.

And there you have it.

  • If you’re thinking of adding highlights to your virgin hair, you don’t need to change your base color.
  • On the other hand, if you want to add highlights to colored hair, make sure you dye the base color first and then add the highlights.

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