How to Give Your Client Subtle Highlights


Source: Olena Yakobchuk |

How to Give Your Client Subtle Highlights

Do you ever have clients walk into your salon unsure about what kind of highlights they want while also being uneasy about going too bold? We hear you! When this happens, it’s important to comfort your client and let them know that you can create a subtle look that still elevates.

Clients could want subtle highlights for several reasons. Some clients may not be able to alter their hair too much because of work or other obligations, while others may enjoy a more low-key hairstyle that brings out their natural features without going overboard and washing them out. Subtle highlights are great for every kind of client, and you’ll probably have to create this style quite often as a stylist.

The art of giving your client subtle highlights is a skill hairstylists should master, which is why we wrote this article. When you keep reading, you’ll learn about the many different styles of subtle highlights, as well as some techniques you can use to create the perfect look for your clients.

Subtle Highlight Styles for Everybody

There are several ways to give your clients multi-dimensional hair and stunning highlights that look natural and soft. Here are some of our favorite subtle highlight styles.

  • Balayage – The balayage highlighting trend has become one of the most popular styles in recent years because it looks natural and isn’t as high maintenance as other styles. The balayage can also be built upon for a bolder look, but it usually is more subtle.
  •  Babylights – Even more subtle than the iconic balayage are babylights. By taking fine pieces of hair from broad sections, stylists can create beautiful dimensions throughout the hair. These usually don’t look like the typical highlights, but they still give clients a new and bright look.
  • Sombré – For clients who want a lived-in look that appears natural, a sombré technique could give them exactly what they are looking for. The sombré is the more subtle version of an ombré hairstyle where the highlights occur toward the bottom of the hair.
  • Dimensional – Dimensional highlights weave in both highlights and lowlights using professional hair color to create dimension throughout the hair. Because the highlights are paired with lowlights, they look more subtle and natural.

How to Create Subtle Highlights


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Depending on your client’s style, you’ll need to learn about different foil placements for highlights to ensure you achieve that subtle style. Here are some of our expert tips for creating subtle highlights that your clients will love.

  • Host a Consultation – If you have a client who is on the fence about getting bold highlights, it’s important to have a consultation to get on the same page. This is where you can provide your client with the different options they have.
  • Do a Strand Test – If you haven’t worked with this client before, conducting a strand test can show you how their hair responds to lighteners. This can also help you give your client the most subtle lights.
  • Use a Painting Technique – Rather than foiling the hair, use a painting technique that allows you to create subtle highlights. This more natural hand will create highlights that are easier to maintain.
  • Talk Your Client Through the Process – As you are creating highlights, walk your client through the process and ensure that they like where you’re placing each highlight.
  • Incorporate Lowlights – One way to balance out highlights and make them look more natural and subtle is to add in lowlights.

How to Upkeep Subtle Highlights

If your client wants to keep their highlights looking fresh, here are a few products and practices we recommend.

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  • Visit Stylist for Routine Touch Ups – Highlights require maintenance — even subtle highlights. If highlights are grown out or have developed tones that the client doesn’t like, they may need to make an appointment.
  • Use Blue and Purple Shampoo – To keep brassiness at bay, clients can use purple or blue shampoo to make their highlights look icier.
  • Deep Condition – Anytime you strip hair of its color, your hair structure will change, and it can cause breakage and dryness. To mitigate this, use a deep conditioner once a week.

You and your clients are on your way to creating and getting the subtle highlights that elevate anyone’s look. Which of these tips did you find the most helpful?


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