How Long Do Highlights Last? – Expert Advice

If you’re considering getting highlights for the first time or have had them before, one question that may come to mind is how long do highlights last? The answer depends on a few factors, including the type of highlights you get, your hair’s natural color and texture, and how well you take care of your hair after the coloring process. In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of highlights, including their lifespan, maintenance, and more.

What Are Highlights?

Highlights are a popular hair coloring technique that involves adding lighter shades to specific sections of your hair. This technique is used to create contrast and dimension, giving your hair a multi-dimensional and sun-kissed appearance. Highlights are typically applied to sections of hair that frame the face or are strategically placed throughout the hair to mimic the natural way the sun would lighten your hair over time.

The process of getting highlights involves bleaching or lightening certain sections of your hair to a shade lighter than your natural or base color. This contrast between the lighter and darker tones adds depth and movement to your hair, creating a visually interesting and vibrant look. Highlights can vary in intensity, from subtle and natural-looking to bold and dramatic, depending on the desired outcome.

Types of Highlights and Their Lifespan


Balayage is a French technique where the hairstylist hand-paints highlights onto the hair. This method creates a natural-looking, sun-kissed effect, perfect for low-maintenance hairstyles. Balayage highlights can last anywhere from three to six months, depending on the shade and texture of your hair.

Foil Highlights

Foil highlights use foils to separate and lighten strands of hair. They tend to give a bolder, more noticeable contrast than balayage highlights. Foil highlights typically last anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on your hair’s growth rate and the speed at which your hair color fades.


Ombre involves a gradual fade from one color to another, with the lighter shade starting at the mid-shaft and gradually getting lighter towards the ends. Ombre highlights can last up to six months or longer, depending on how well you maintain them.


Sombré highlights are similar to ombre highlights but create a softer, subtler transition between colors. Sombré highlights can last anywhere from six to twelve months, depending on your hair texture and how frequently you wash your hair.


Babylights are tiny, subtle highlights that mimic the natural sun-kissed highlights that babies have. They can last up to eight weeks or longer, depending on your hair growth rate and how much contrast you have between your natural hair color and the highlights.

reasons why hair color fades over time

  • Washing Frequency: Each time you shampoo, some of the color will be washed out, causing the color to fade over time. Consider washing your hair less frequently or using color-safe dry shampoos between washes.
  • Shampoo Ingredients: Many traditional shampoos contain sulfates, which are strong cleansing agents that can strip away color. 
  • Hot Water: Washing your hair with hot water can open the hair cuticles, allowing the color molecules to escape more easily. 
  • UV Exposure: Sunlight contains UV rays that can break down the chemical bonds in hair color molecules. This leads to color fading and a loss of vibrancy. 
  • Heat Styling: Excessive use of heat styling tools like flat irons, curling irons, and blow dryers can weaken the hair’s cuticle structure. 
  • Chlorine and Saltwater: Chlorine in swimming pools and salt in ocean water can both strip away color molecules from the hair. These substances can be particularly damaging to colored hair, causing the color to fade and become dull. 
  • Hair Health: Hair that is damaged, dry, or porous has a harder time holding onto color. When the hair’s cuticle is compromised due to damage, color molecules can escape more easily. 
  • Color Choice: Lighter shades tend to fade more subtly, while vibrant or bold colors can become more muted as they fade. 

Maintenance Tips for Long-Lasting Highlights

Now that you know the lifespan of different types of highlights let’s talk about how to maintain them so they last as long as possible. Here are some maintenance tips to keep in mind:

Use Color-Safe Shampoo and Conditioner

Using a color-safe shampoo and conditioner is essential for preserving the life of your highlights. Regular shampoos tend to strip the hair of its natural oils, which can cause the color to fade faster. Look for products specifically designed for color-treated hair, and avoid washing your hair every day.

Avoid Heat Styling Tools

Heat styling tools like straighteners, curling irons, and blow dryers can damage your hair and cause your highlights to fade faster. Try to air-dry your hair as much as possible and limit your use of heat styling tools when you do need to style your hair.

Protect Your Hair from UV Rays

Direct sunlight can fade your hair color over time, so it’s important to protect your hair from UV rays. Wearing a hat or using a UV-protectant spray can help prevent color fading caused by sun exposure.

Get Regular Touch-Ups

Getting regular touch-ups is crucial for maintaining your vibrant highlights. Depending on the type of highlights you have, you may need to schedule an appointment every few weeks or months.

Don’t Overwash Your Hair

Washing your hair too often can strip your hair of its natural oils and cause your highlights to fade faster. Try to space out your hair washes as much as possible, and use dry shampoo in between washes to keep your hair looking fresh and clean.


  1. Can I dye my hair after getting highlights? Yes, you can dye your hair after getting highlights, but it’s important to wait at least two weeks after the highlight appointment. Failing to do so can cause your hair to become dry and brittle, which can lead to breakage and damage.
  2. Is it possible to add highlights to naturally dark hair? Yes, it’s possible to add highlights to naturally dark hair. However, it may take longer to achieve the desired result, and you may need to have multiple appointments to get the look you want.
  3. How long does the highlight appointment take? The length of the highlight appointment depends on the type of highlights you’re getting and your hairstylist’s skill level. Generally, you can expect the appointment to last anywhere from one to four hours.
  4. Do highlights damage your hair? Highlights don’t necessarily damage your hair, but they can cause some dryness and breakage if you don’t care for your hair properly after the coloring process. 
  5. Can I get highlights if I have curly hair? Yes, you can get highlights if you have curly hair. But, you should find a hairstylist who has experience working with curly hair so they can create a look that complements your natural texture instead of working against it.

Final Thoughts

So, how long do highlights last? The answer depends on many factors, including the type of highlights, your hair color and texture, and how well you care for your hair after the coloring process. By following the maintenance tips outlined in this article, you can help your highlights last as long as possible and keep your locks looking vibrant and healthy.

Remember to use color-safe products, limit heat styling tools, protect your hair from UV rays, schedule regular touch-ups, and avoid overwashing your hair. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy your gorgeous highlights for months to come.