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How I Highlight My Hair at Home for Only $20

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Going to the hair salon every 4 weeks to spend $100+ dollars on highlights?

Ain’t NOBODY got time or money for that. I started to research and experiment with how to highlight hair at home during my sophomore year of college, and haven’t looked back. However, as a college student, I can’t afford to spend so much at the salon each month maintaining my hair. It just isn’t practical. And yeah, I could have just decided to not dye my hair…but that’s no fun.

Thus, I started looking doing research on how to highlight hair at home. And let me tell ya, the number of options for hair color can be pretty overwhelming. I’m naturally a pretty dark brunette, so in this post, I’m going to tell you how to highlight hair at home – without bleach AND for way less money. Everything I use is linked below for your convenience.

How I Highlight My Hair at Home for Only $20

*If you have never dyed your hair, make sure you follow instructions and do a patch test as recommended on the box! We don’t want any allergic reactions*

How to Highlight Hair at Home – Supplies Needed:

You can get all this good stuff at Sally Beauty a.k.a my favorite store evaaa.

Optional: I use the shot glass for measuring, but you can use whatever (as long as it’s not metal).

****DO NOT put hair dye, developers or toners into any metal mixing bowl. It’ll cause a chemical reaction messing up the coloring process. ****

The L’oreal Excellence Hicolor is great because it’s made for naturally dark hair. It’ll lift your color a few levels, and doesn’t damage your hair like bleach. BOOM.

How to Highlight Hair at Home Dye Instructions:

I start by brushing my hair (obviously…gotta get the knots out) and parting my hair into four separate sections using the rat-tail comb. I part my hair the way it is naturally, so some sections have more hair than others.

Next, I put on the gloves (safety first) and mix the Hicolor Highlights with the recommended amount of developer. The instructions say to use 20-Volume Creme Developer for relaxed hair (which mine is), but I want to make sure I get the most lift without bleach, so I go with the 40 Volume Developer.

I begin by applying the mixture to my bottoms sections first, as they take longer to process. For this, I use the Super Precision Tint Brush so the highlights are evenly spaced, smaller and less chunky… (besides, the tiger stripe highlights are no longer in style). Furthermore, it gives you the ability to customize your hair to the exact style you want. For example, if you’re going for the ombre look, start highlighting further down on the hair shaft. I like my roots lighter, and my hair had grown out, so for this tutorial I just did my roots.

After painting the top of one section, I use the rat-tail comb to section my hair into small, extremely thin layers. I don’t have any pictures of me doing that, but I’ve linked a video that further explains what I mean. When parting a new section, I highlight the underside of the previously highlighted layer and the top of the new section. Again, this is using the Super Precision Tint Brush. I continue this process until the section is completely highlighted.

After completing one section, I use the same “painting” technique to finish the remaining sections. With the back of my head (since I do it myself), I usually set up a mirror facing into my bathroom mirror, allowing me to see the back of my head. If you have someone willing to help you, that’s great! Use it to your advantage.

Next, I wrap my hair up in a bun on top of my head and go over any spots I may have missed. Lastly, I use the larger brush to go over everything and “brush” out any dye spots. This is just to even up everything because my biggest fear is ending up with funky cheetah dye spots.

I let this “cook” for about 20-25 minutes before I rinse.

How to Highlight Hair at Home

Toner Instructions:

With lightening dark colors, you are essentially stripping out the color that’s already there. When you do this to darker hair (which has a lot more red tones compared to light-colored hair) you don’t immediately go from dark brown to platinum blonde. You actually go from dark brown to brassy orange.

Yuck...but DON’T PANIC! There’s a way to fix that. 

After you dye, you need to use a toner to get rid of those brassy orangey tones. Normally, I use Wella Color Charm T18 Lightest Ash Blonde Toner, but this time I tried out the Platinum Ammonia Free Toner and was satisfied with the results.

After rinsing, I towel dry and prepare to tone. I Mix the toner with the volume 5 developer as instructed. Normally, I start out by using the regular sized tint brush to tone my roots, but then I transition to using my hands (with gloves of course) to cover the rest of my hair. The goal is to make sure it’s worked evenly through to assure no spots are missed.

I let this sit for about 20 minutes and then shower. I like to deep condition my hair using It’s a 10 Miracle Deep Conditioner, and follow-up with It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner… Just because you’re not necessarily using bleach doesn’t mean that dye won’t damage your hair.

The Results:

hair highlights

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Now I know, I’m no professional, so if you decide to try this please do it at your own risk! However, I’m really happy with my results, and it only costs me around $20 dollars. Now I can spend my money on more important things…like wine.

Hope you enjoyed learning how to highlight hair at home! Have any questions or comments? Ask below.


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