Personal Hair Advisor: Unlike all over hair color, highlights and lowlights are spot color processes. They can be used over permanent color or on virgin hair. Highlights use bleach mixed with peroxide to bring your color "higher," or lighten it. Lowlights use color to bring your natural shade "lower," or deepen it. They can be used separately or together. When used together, highlights and lowlights create a rich, natural color that brings out the best in your hair and skin tone.
Many women I see over-highlight their hair. Highlights should complement your natural color, so I often use lowlights to tone them down and temper the "frosted" look. Lowlights help create a vibrant hair color that brings out your skin tone and eye color. Your hair color should never detract from your complexion, and too many highlights can make your skin look faded. I recommend adding lowlights every third time you get your hair highlighted. They will help blend your highlights with your natural color, and you won't have to run to the salon with dark roots every six weeks.
Women with dark hair should not go more than three shades lighter than their natural color with highlights. In terms of lowlights, reddish and tortoise (a blend of copper and gold) colors work best. When brown hair lightens naturally, it has to go through shades of red first. Thus red lowlights make highlights look much more natural on brunettes.
Natural blondes have more range in terms of highlights and don't have to adhere firmly to the three-shade rule. Gold and copper lowlights are best, especially for blondes with very fair skin. They prevent the color from becoming brassy and won't wash out a pale complexion.
When mixing highlights and lowlights, the colors should be well blended and natural. Also, don't have the back of your head highlighted too heavily. The sun naturally lightens the front of your hair, so highlighting too much in the back will detract from the natural feel of your color.