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How to Add Depth to Lightened Hair: 3 Methods

Adding depth to lightened hair

Gone are the days of constant foiling! Nowadays clients aren’t typically looking for a sleek platinum blonde look, but rich depth, dimension, and color contrast. And while maintaining natural depth is always the preferred method to create a natural brightness, sometimes it’s just not possible.

Hair can easily be over-lightened either by stylists, the sun, or multiple lightening sessions where formulas overlapped. As a result, more and more clients are looking for ways to prevent their hair from looking blurred and one-dimensional.

When it comes to hair, “depth” refers to the lightness or darkness of hair that creates a varied appearance of shadowing. This effect can seem impossible for those with lightened hair, but there are several methods and techniques you can use as a stylist to achieve this look.

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3 Methods To Add Depth To Lightened Hair

1. Use the Grow-Out Method

One of the easiest ways to add depth to a client’s lightened hair is recommending the grow-out method—allowing color treated hair to grow out without touching up the roots. Using the natural color at the root is an excellent way to create more depth and contrast to light hair. This “lived-in look” has become increasingly popular in recent years, and it looks like it’s here to stay!

To many clients, this might be a scary request, considering the harsh lines that may occur. Growing out hair color can be a self-conscious, and even embarrassing, process. For single-processed hair, the temptation to touch up dark roots can occur around 4 weeks, and about six to eight weeks for highlighted hair. However, your client doesn’t need to endure this practice to achieve this type of look.

Natural root

2. Apply a Shadow Root

If your clients want these natural looking results right away, another method of providing depth is adding a shadow root. Similar to a root smudge, a shadow root is a color melting technique where a stylist goes over highlights or lightened hair with a shade closer to its natural color. This diminishes the lines of demarcation between the lightened hair and the natural.

When performing a shadow root, it’s important to remember that the hair must be shampooed, rinsed, and left slightly damp. This ensures that there is no leftover lightener that might otherwise cause a shift in the base.

Adding a shadow root is a wonderful way to give someone depth that doesn’t necessarily need a low light. While this technique works well for any hair color, brunette or blonde tones tend to want a more “rooty,” or darker crown look. It’s a more natural and low maintenance approach that can flatter any skin tone, ease the grow out process, and make maintenance much smoother.

Shadow root

3. Add Lowlights

One of the more common ways to add depth to lightened hair is adding lowlights. To add lowlights, stylists take various strands of hair and paint a darker color than the base hair color to give greater contrast. Lowlights can fade warm or make things more difficult to lift through, so formulating properly for a lowlight is really important.

For brunettes, a cooler lowlight is generally better since they tend to fight more brassy tones. Blondes on the other hand, benefit more from a warmer formulation to keep things bright and reflective. However, whatever color hair you work with, it’s important to remember that lowlights process the same amount of time as lightener. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure the formula you’re using is appropriate for the long processing time.

Another thing to keep in mind is your clients’ varying hair structures. Since the porosity is generally higher in blondes, it’s recommended to use a warmer formulation which typically prevents the hair from grabbing too cool. Even if your client’s goal is more warmth, the desired end results may require a stronger type of warmth than gold. This is because lowlights are often added to hair that’s over-lifted, meaning porosity will be an issue. A simple gold isn’t enough to balance this.

When working with lowlights, it's best to add wide/thick sections to create purposeful dimension. A common mistake many stylists make is simply weaving sections that diffuse the coloring too much and make the hair appear darker without actually creating depth. Placement is really important when applying lowlights. Remember that depth pushes light, so when placed properly it can really make a face frame pop!


Make Maintenance Easy

In the end, the main goal of any of these techniques is to create depth that looks natural. Since these methods focus on blurring root lines and adding color variations, your clients generally won’t need to come in as often to maintain their results. So, while it costs more to add these services, in the long run it’s going to save your clients from multiple appointments.

Clientele can expect to come in every 3-4 months for a “lived-in” looking color. High lift blondes, traditional foils, or root retouches require much closer appointments, which can be as close as 3 weeks.

Looking to take your clients’ hair to the next level? Consider using these techniques to create more depth and definition that will produce effortless results.

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