Home / Hair Care / Partial VS Full Highlights: Everything You Need to Know About Highlighting Your Hair

Partial VS Full Highlights: Everything You Need to Know About Highlighting Your Hair

We understand how everything about highlights can be a little intimidating. From the pressure to choose among the plethora of shades that will complement your existing hair color down to the most affordable and low-maintenance alternatives. And then there’s the million-dollar question — should you go partial or full?

If the idea of going partial vs full highlights is getting you all keyed up, you are not alone. We got you covered. And not to worry because whatever you choose between the two, highlights are generally very flattering. Not only will it give dimension and touch to your hair color, but if you choose the right placement, lightness, size, and technique, hair highlights can also define your bone structure accentuate eye color.

Here at Kalista, we want to educate you on the subject to help you make the best decision. Ahead are straight facts about partial and full highlights. Accompanied by photos, we have also included some popular hair look to go along. So dive in, let the highlights 101 begin.

What are hair highlights

Also called hair low-lighting, the process of highlighting involves layering a hair color with lighter hues. By doing so, hair sections are weave and wrapped in either a foil or separately by hand. Then a hair color or lightener is added to alter the pre-existing hair color using a hair color-paste brush.

One might ask, if highlights are all about partial coloring, then what are full highlights. How does it differ from partial highlights? To answer your questions, these two types of highlighting mainly differ in the amount of hair they color.

Partial highlights, as the name suggests, only cover partial sections of your hair whereas full highlights add color throughout your hair. As a result, partial highlights give your hair accented color and layer while full done highlights give your hair a total make-over.

To fully understand the concept of partial vs full highlights, let’s break down the two in terms of their differences

COVERAGE-Covers only section of a hair-Full heads of highlight
EFFECTS-Base color dominates rather than the highlight

-More subtle, giving that sun-kissed gradual layers but can also be bold if contrasting color is applied

-Brightens and frames the face

-Dramatically change the general appearance of the hair

-Brighter and bolder effect that results in a more textured and defined hair color

PLACEMENTS-Usually layered around the face; on the top or top-half, front sides of the hair, mohawk section-Placed all over hair; from the surface; hairline, the side all the way to the back and nape
MAINTENANCE-Lower maintenance; doesn’t need frequent re-touching as full done highlights-More coverage means more touch-ups
COSTS-Less expensive since it only requires covering a portion of hair-Will cost you more because more hair color and materials are required
ADVANTAGES-Offer more styling possibilities since it can be placed anywhere in the hair

-Less damaging to hair as it only bleaches a small amount of hair strands

-Lesser time and lesser efforts

-You can transition from dark to light hair color without bleaching

-You can turn your hair as dramatic or as natural as you like

-Highlights will always be visible in whatever hairstyle

DOWNSIDES-Most of the color will only be visible under the light or sun

-You cannot see the color at all if you put your hair up

-Requires more time, efforts and material along the process

-More retouching means more potential hair damage

Other Considerations

Hair dye or lightener?

Most people would use hair lighteners to highlight hair. Lighteners work to react with hair’s pigmentation, removing color and lightening it without the need for bleaching. Hair dye, on the other hand, deposits color instead of altering hair’s color.

If you want to lighten your already-colored hair with hair dye, you should know that it can only lift your hair to a certain degree since our hair can only take many of artificial pigments. Unless you bleach your hair first to remove the color then you can dye your hair with the desired color.

Having this said, lighteners are more convenient if you want to lift your hair color whereas hair dyes are your go-to if you are after darker highlights or contrasting colors.

It is also worth mentioning that hair dyes are meant to color most of the hair and are not recommended with partial highlights either. Still, hair dye is great for if when you cannot commit to a particular color. They are washable and don’t last as long as lighteners.

Going lighter

How light you should go is relevant to the strength of the lightener and the base color or your hair’s pre-existing color. If a natural look is what you are after, a general rule is to highlight the base with color in the same tonal family. Also, highlights should not suppose be lighter than three levels with the base color.

If you have dark to medium base color, for instance, go for buttery blonde. It’s necessary to find the right product to carry out the goal because the truth is, the market is full of junk. As such, we highly recommend  L’Oreal Paris Summer Lights Hair Lightening Gelee. This unique gel, when applied to hair gradually lightens it with every use, leaving hair with a natural sun-kissed glow.


Going darker

Darkening a previously lightened hair to a notch is very tricky. It’s easy to go way too darker than your intended color. Correcting it by re-lighting can cause damage to your hair. So if you want to highlight your base with the darker color, do it in two shades lighter than your color goal. This way, if you think its too light, you can go a little bit darker. Dying hair darker is less damaging than your hair re-lighting it.

Still torn between partial and full highlights? Why not try both?

Yes, you can interoperate both! The good thing about wearing highlights is there’s no one way. Meaning, you can play with them as much as you want. You can have full highlights for a more intense color then you can have partial highlights for touch ups. Or you can alternate between the two to see which one fits you more. The choice is yours!

To give you some inspirational look, we covered some of the most trending looks.

The Classic Blonde

With the blonde look, you are no longer forced to choose between going blonde or brunette. In this hairstyle, the perfect affair of brown and blonde shades in gorgeously tousled waves is flattering.

(In-love with the shades? Steal this look with  L’Oreal Paris Couleur Experte Express.)

Caramel Blonde

The great thing about the blonde color trend is the endless possibilities of execution. In this look, you can see how partial highlights gradually transitioned into full highlights. The rich color of caramel with blonde undertones dominate the back while subtle streaks were only placed on both of the front sides, proof that both highlight techniques can go along well.

Purple Neon Melts

Neon highlights look glossy in this brunette hair. The top is subtly streaked with indigo blue while the purple mulberry is heavily placed towards the end, giving the whole hairdo a whole lot of drama. Read also – Color melt hair.


Ash Highlights

Ash colors are a great way to lift your brunette hair instantly. This look has just the right amount of thinly sectioned ash highlights to make the hair have that seamless dimension, depth and texture.


Rainbow Head

This one is for you ladies who want a head-turner look. A highlight full of rainbow colors is enough to make anyone who sees it swoons.

If you cannot commit to such a daring highlight, why not try the ‘’peekaboo highlight’ trend, just like this hairstyle with striking rainbow lights hiding underneath. The color is not visible when your hair is down but if you are feeling a little playful, braid or put your hair up to showcase the highlights.

Frontal Highlights

See how just a few strands of nude blonde turned this brown bob cut low-key stylish? Partial highlights on the front sides of the hair are low-maintenance and are easy to apply. These face-framing lights are also what slims face, brighten the complexion and enough to make a statement without really changing much of your hair color.


Looking after your highlights

Highlights, just like regular hair color, also fades. But there are a lot of factors that can prematurely wear it down, just like pollution, water, and UV rays. A few appointments to the salon will do the trick but there are also ways you can take care of them so they’ll last you much longer. Such are choosing shampoos that are meant for highlights, just like the BIOLAGE Colorlast Shampoo For Color-Treated Hair. Also, treat your hair highlights to deep conditioning at least once a week.

Remember nothing is worse than spending too much time, money and effort on the trending highlight only to have it fade after a week just because you are not looking after them. So show your highlights some TLC and they’ll keep you more company.

Happy hair highlighting!

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  1. It’s good to know that when darkening your hair, you should aim for two shades higher than your intended color so that you don’t overshoot and cause damage through re-lightening. My sister has been wanting to change her hair color for a couple of months and is finally ready to take the leap. I will be sure to recommend she find a good hair coloring service near her and ask them for a slightly lighter hair color than she wants so that she can ensure she doesn’t go too dark.

  2. That’s cool that you could get a washable highlight in your hair. I feel like that would be a good way to make sure that you see what it would look like and decide if you like your hair that way. Then you could get a more permanent option, or if you don’t like it you could just wash it out.

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