How Often Should You Get Your Hair Highlighted? We’ve Got The Answers!

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If you’ve ever stared in the mirror, channeling your inner Gwen Stefani with your grown-out streaky situation and wondered “Wait, when was my last highlight appointment again?”, this one’s for you.

As someone who’s been blessed with getting regular highlights for over two decades (and the occasional tragic lapse in maintenance), I’ve become quite the connoisseur on all things highlight timing and regrowth control. Because we’ve all been there – looking a little too lived-in, roots peeking through, wondering if we’ve hit maximum highlight integrity. And let’s not even talk about when the grays start showing up too.

No more guessing! I’m pulling back the curtain on my highlight routine and sharing all the factors that determine when it’s really time for a touch-up. From the general recommended timelines to the curveballs like hair condition, color goals, and stylist skills that can throw those ranges way off.

Consider this your ultimate guide to keeping your brighter, dimensional locks fresh without turning into a burnt-out, brassy mess. Highlights are an investment – let’s make sure you’re protecting that money piece (literally). Keep reading for all my hard-earned hair wisdom!

How Often Should You Get Your Hair Highlighted?

Below are the basic guidelines I follow for highlight timing, but keep in mind there are lots of factors that can make your perfect schedule vary and we’ll cover those too later in the article.

For Partial Highlights

For partial highlights (think the whole top half of your head), aim to get them retouched every 6-8 weeks or so. These highlights can start looking pretty harsh and chunky once that contrasting regrowth really starts peeking through around your face and part line. The 6-8 week window helps keep them blended and prevents that dreaded line of demarcation. I usually stick to around 7 weeks.

I used to always wait too long between my partial highlights and ended up with this obvious line of dark roots framing my face – not the most flattering look! Now I’m pretty religious about getting them freshened up every 6-8 weeks without fail.

For Partial or Full Highlights

how often should you get your hair highlighted

If you get full highlights all over your head, you can usually plan on touchups every 8-12 weeks. With full highlights, the regrowth tends to look a little more blended and natural as it grows out compared to partial highlights that are concentrated up front. But you definitely don’t want to let it go much past 3 months or you’ll end up with a very obvious dark root situation peeking through.

I’ve been there – going months without a touch up because I was too busy or trying to save money. Big mistake! It’s better to get them refreshed in that 8-12 week window before the roots get too obvious. It also really just depends on how dark your natural hair is though. The darker it is, the sooner you would head in to get a touch up with this timeframe.

For Balayage Highlights

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Those gorgeous blended balayage highlight looks can actually stretch to every 3-4 months before needing a retouch in most cases. The soft, diffused application and regrowth blends so much better with this freehand hair painting technique, so you tend to get more time between appointments.

Balayage highlights are my favorites because those lived-in roots just blend right in with the highlights. No one can even really tell when the last time was that I got it done! I usually get a root smudge to cover any grays – and a toner always!

All-Over Bleached Blonde Upkeep

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And we can’t forget to talk about one of the highest maintenance highlight situations out there – the coveted all-over platinum blonde. As stunning as that bright, cool, utterly pale shade is, it requires religious upkeep.

If you’ve opted to go full-blown bleached blonde from roots to ends, you’re really looking at getting touchups every 4-6 weeks MAX to keep those bright blonde highlights fresh and your dark regrowth under control.

My friend tried the all-over bleachie for about a year, and the 4 week touchup schedule was crucial. Any longer than a month and those dark roots would start peeking through noticeably, immediately giving me a skunk-like situation up top. Not. Cute.

It is pricey getting in that often, but the cost of letting it go too long makes it worthwhile.

Side note: The tone of super bright blonde highlights can also be extremely unforgiving – even just a few weeks of warmth from shower steam or styling can leave you brassy and yellow faster than you think. That’s why those frequent bleached blonde hair lives for purple shampoo!

Because of how damaging bleach is, you might also try and do regular deep conditioning treatments and glazes in between touchups to offset the dryness and prevent excessive breakage. The upkeep is intense!

Factors That Affect Highlight Frequency

General highlight timing guidelines can vary a lot depending on your specific hair characteristics and what look you’re going for. Here are some key factors that really determine when to schedule your next highlight appointment:

Hair Growth Rate

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We all know hair grows at vastly different rates for different people based on age, genetics, medications, you name it. If your hair grows quickly, you’ll likely need those highlight touchups on the earlier side of the ranges I mentioned earlier.

My hair has always been a fast grower, so I have to be diligent about getting into the salon every 6-8 weeks for partial highlight touchups or it looks crazy. My friend Sarah on the other hand has extremely slow hair growth, so she can stretch her full highlights an easy 4 months between appointments!

Hair Condition

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Highlights are essentially controlled damage to hair from the lifting and lightening process with bleach or lighteners. If I notice extra dryness, breakage, or brassiness in my highlights, that’s a big sign I’ve pushed it too much and need to give my hair a break for a while.

I’ve learned the hard way that brittle, crispy highlighted hair is not a good look! There was a period a few years back where I was insistent on being platinum blonde, and my colorist warned me the highlighting that light each time would be too damaging even sticking to our normal 7-week schedule. I didn’t listen and ended up with tons of snap-age and totally fried my ends. Never again!

Highlight Color & Tone Goals

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The level of brightness and tone you’re going for with highlights affects timing too. Lighter, cool toned blonde highlights tend to show warmth and regrowth lines faster than someone just getting more subtle golden blonde or caramel highlights.

And if you’re drastically lifting your base color (like me!) from super dark to super light, you’ll likely need several highlight sessions spaced further apart to avoid irreparably damaging and frying all your hair off.

Going from my natural dark brown to platinum was a process that took 4 separate highlighting sessions spaced 10-12 weeks apart so my colorist didn’t have to overlap highlights on already-lightened fragile sections.

Salon vs. Box Color

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I’m a firm believer that salon highlights from an experienced colorist give you way more flexibility and wiggle room between touchups versus doing box color or highlights at home. Salon highlights create multiple tones and dimensions, with softer, more blended, seamless regrowth lines.

Whereas affordable box dye highlights often create a harsher contrast with distinct regrowth lines. Those may need touchups every 4-6 weeks tops to prevent that striped situation at your part. So while the upfront cost is lower, you end up shelling out more in the long run for those frequent touch-ups.

After a couple disasters with boxed highlighting kits in my early 20s, I learned that going the salon route is worth every penny for longer-lasting, dimensional results. As long as you go to an experienced colorist, that is! Don’t be afraid to do your research and read online reviews before booking.

Pay close attention to how your hair looks and feels to determine if you’re truly on a good highlight schedule. If your hair still looks and feels relatively healthy and shiny, with minimal brassiness or dryness when your touchup timing rolls around, you’re probably on track! But any excessive damage means it’s definitely time to adjust your highlight schedule to allow for more rest between lightening sessions.

Savvy Ways to Extend Your Highlights

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Even if you’re diligent about keeping up with highlight appointments, sometimes life gets in the way and you need to buy yourself a little extra time. Whether it’s a vacation, budget constraints, or human error (we’ve all spaced on a haircut!), there are some smart tricks for camouflaging regrowth temporarily. In fact, stretching it out further can benefit your hair even more.

As stylist Andrea Chantel recommends even stretching sessions further, ” Ideally, every 2-4 time a year. The more lived-in the result, the longer you can go between blonding sessions. Here’s a little secret: the warmer your final blonde tone, the less noticeable the fading will be as your roots grow out.”

We can’t all stretch that far – but our hair would love us if we did!

Root Sprays & Purple Shampoo

One of my favorite hair care hacks to stretch highlights is with a good root cover up product. These powders, sprays, and crayons deposit color pigment only on the regrowth area to blend it with your highlights and as a bonus it blends grays a bit too. They wash out easily but can buy you a few extra weeks if you’ve got obvious roots coming in. The Rita Hazan Root Concealer is amazing for blondes or brunettes!

Purple shampoo is another must for blondes specifically. I use it about once a week. The violet pigments in these shampoos help neutralize any warm, brassy tones that inevitably start peeking through once your highlights have been processed. It helps revive that cool blonde tone between salon sessions. My favorite is the Redken Blondage Color Depositing Shampoo (it’s tones it down without being over drying!)

If you’ve got just a subtle shadow root starting, you can also ask your colorist about doing a quick toner or gloss treatment instead of a full highlight. This deposits a translucent toner (usually purple/violet toned for blondes) to brighten up the highlighted pieces and blend the regrowth a bit. It’s a much faster, cheaper way to extend your highlights a few more weeks.

Toner and Root Smudge Options To Stretch Appointments

For an even more budget option, inquire about getting a root smudge or smudge highlight at your next appointment. This involves just freehand painting or smudging the highlight color onto your first few inches of regrowth, blending into the highlighted pieces. It gives the illusion of an all-over highlight and buys you potentially months before needing a full head touchup!

Don’t be afraid to be upfront with your colorist that you need to stretch your highlight budget. They have all sorts of creative suggestions to extend highlights and make the most of your appointment. Anything is better than letting them get wildly overgrown!

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s all about balance – keeping your highlights vibrant yet healthy. With some strategic timing and the right products, you can avoid the dreaded skunk hair while staying on budget. Here’s to fresh, blended brightness all year!

Book that highlight appointment, grab some toning shampoo, and prepare to be wowed by your sun-kissed dimension again.

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