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The Countdown: How Long Does It Take to Get Highlights?

Updated: Sep 1, 2023


gorgeous hair with highlights

How long does it take to get highlights?


Have you ever found yourself wondering: just how long does it take to get highlights? We're here to shed some light on this hair-raising question. Let's jump in!


1. The Science Behind the Highlighting Process


To get started, let's put on our white lab coats and uncover the science behind how long it takes to get highlights. First we need to delve into the anatomy of our hair. Hair is composed primarily of a protein called keratin, and it's the structure and distribution of melanin within the keratin fibers that determine your natural hair color.


Lifting the Natural Color


When going for lighter highlights, your stylist will apply a lightener or hair color to your strands. This product contains an alkaline agent, often ammonia, and an oxidizing agent, typically hydrogen peroxide. The alkaline agent works to open up the cuticle layer of the hair, allowing the oxidizing agent to penetrate the hair's cortex where the melanin resides.


Once inside, the oxidizing agent works to dissolve the melanin. This process is often referred to as "lifting" the hair color. The longer the product is left on, the more melanin is dissolved, and the lighter the hair becomes.


Time and Processing


It's crucial to monitor the processing time closely. The amount of time needed can vary depending on several factors, such as the desired level of lightness, the original color, and the condition of the hair.


For example, dark hair contains more melanin and thus requires a longer processing time to achieve lighter highlights. Alternatively, someone with lighter hair would require a shorter processing time. Generally, it can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes for the hair color to lift to the desired level.


Customizing Your Color


If you're looking to customize your color further, toner can be used after the lightening process. Toner works by adding different color molecules back into the hair, which can neutralize unwanted hues (like brassy yellow tones in blonde hair) or add a particular color tint.


Caring for Your Hair Post-Process


Remember, lifting the hair color changes its internal structure, so it's important to give your locks a little extra love after the highlighting process. Deep conditioning treatments can help restore moisture and protein to the hair, keeping your highlights looking their best.


The science behind hair highlights is a careful dance of chemistry and timing. But rest assured, our professional stylists have the knowledge and experience to master this process, ensuring you get the desired results while maintaining the health of your hair.



1. Different Highlighting Techniques, Different Timelines


Highlighting isn't a one-size-fits-all process. Different types of highlights demand varying amounts of time. Let's dissect some of these highlighting techniques:


Foiled Highlights


When you think of highlights, foiled highlights probably spring to mind. This classic technique can take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on your hair length and thickness. Blonde highlighting or transforming dark hair into light might take longer due to the extra processing time needed.


Cap Technique


If you're seeking that 90s, nostalgic look, cap highlighting is your best bet. The time invested here is generally less than foiling—around 1 to 2 hours. However, it's typically best for short to medium length hair and may not be suitable for very long hair.


Partial Highlight


Need a quick pick-me-up? A partial highlight focuses on specific areas such as the hair framing your face or the crown. This can typically be done in less than an hour and is perfect if you're in a time crunch.


Each of these techniques requires a varying amount of time, so when you're booking your appointment at the hair salon, plan your day accordingly.


Rushing Isn't Worth It


Hair highlighting is an art that requires time and patience. It's a meticulous process involving careful application of hair color, precise wrapping of short hair or longer tresses, and a patient waiting game during the processing time. To rush your stylist would be like asking Da Vinci to hurry up with the Mona Lisa — except we're talking about your hair!


Throw in a deep conditioning treatment or hair mask for good measure, and you're looking at an additional 15-30 minutes. But trust us, your hair will thank you for it. You might even end up with some much-needed me-time at the salon!


3. Let's Talk About Your Day


Yes, getting highlights can be time-consuming. But hey, good things come to those who wait, right? Here's what you can expect: your stylist will examine your hair, discuss the type of highlights you want, and then proceed with the highlighting process.


Depending on the method chosen and the thickness and length of your hair (we're looking at you, Rapunzels with long hair!), you could spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours or more at the salon. But remember, it's not just about the time—it's about the transformation!


4. Plan, Prep, and Prime


To ensure the best results, arrive with freshly washed hair and a clear idea of what you want. Consult with your stylist about what works best for your hair color and lifestyle. Remember, the goal is to enhance your natural beauty, not overshadow it.


Whether you're rocking medium length hair or sport a pixie cut, are a blonde wanting to add some depth, or a brunette looking to lighten up, getting highlights is worth every minute.


5. Maximizing Your Processing Time


Getting highlights isn't just about enhancing your looks—it's also an excellent opportunity to unplug, unwind, and savor a bit of "me time." While the hair color is setting in during the processing time, consider it as your well-deserved break from the daily hustle. After all, the salon experience is about more than just aesthetics—it's a chance to recharge your mind as well as your look.


One way to make the most of this time is to bring a good book along. Dive into an adventurous tale, immerse yourself in a different world, or finally finish that book you've been meaning to read. Your highlights aren’t the only thing developing during this time - it’s a great moment to develop your mind as well!


Another option is to catch up on social media. Scroll through the latest updates, enjoy the viral memes, or check out the latest hair trends. You never know, you might stumble upon an idea for your next hair color! But remember, no work emails. This is your sacred relaxation time.


Of course, there's always the option to chat with your stylist. They're a fantastic source of hair care tips and trend insights. Plus, it's always nice to foster a strong rapport with the person responsible for your fabulous locks.


Remember, the time it takes to get highlights isn’t just about sitting in a chair waiting for the dye to take. It's an entire experience, a chance for relaxation and pampering. The countdown to highlights doesn't have to be a countdown to boredom - make the most of it!



End Countdown, Start the Journey


To sum it up, how long it takes to get highlights depends on various factors: the highlighting technique, your hair's length and thickness, and the desired result. So, plan accordingly, set aside a good amount of time, and get ready to embrace a fabulous new look!


Ready to jump in? Contact the Abode Salon to book your appointment today, because you’re not just changing your hair, you’re about to redefine your look. Lights, camera, highlights!






Frequently Asked Questions


How long should full highlights take?


Full highlights generally take longer than partial ones due to the amount of hair involved. On average, full highlights can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on several factors.


The exact duration can be influenced by:


1. Hair length and thickness: Longer, thicker hair requires more time to apply the highlights accurately.


2. Highlighting method: Traditional foiling techniques may take longer than balayage or other freehand painting methods, for example.


3. Desired lightness: If you're going from a darker color to a lighter one, it may take longer due to the required processing time to lift your natural hair color.


4. Experience of the stylist: Skilled and experienced stylists may be able to work faster while maintaining the quality of work.


5. Additional treatments: If you choose to add services like a hair mask or a deep conditioning treatment, this will add extra time.


Remember, while it might seem time-consuming, the results are well worth it. Each step in the process is essential to ensure your highlights look stunning and your hair remains healthy.



How long does it take to get highlights and layers?


Adding highlights and layers to your hair is a multi-step process that can take several hours. Here's a general breakdown:


1. Full Highlights: As previously mentioned, full highlights can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. This process includes sectioning the hair, applying the lightener or color, allowing the hair to process, washing out the product, and toning if necessary.


2. Layering: Layering or cutting the hair can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the complexity of the cut and the thickness and length of your hair.


In total, you can expect to spend anywhere from 3 to 5 hours at the salon for both services. This time estimate is a general guide and can vary based on the stylist's speed and technique, your hair type, and the exact services you're getting.


As always, for the best results, it's crucial not to rush the process. Quality hair care takes time, and your stylist will want to ensure they're giving both the highlights and the layered cut the attention they deserve. It's recommended to consult with your stylist for a more accurate time estimate based on your specific hair and desired results.



Do highlights or full color take longer?


The amount of time required for highlights or a full color treatment can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the current color of your hair, the desired color, the specific techniques used, and the length and thickness of your hair.


Here are some general guidelines:


1. Full Color: A single-process full color treatment, where one color is applied all over the hair, generally takes about 1 to 2 hours. This includes the time for application, processing, and washing out the color. If you're drastically changing your color (such as going from dark brown to light blonde), it may take longer because multiple processes or sessions may be required.


2. Highlights: As previously mentioned, full highlights can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. This is because the stylist needs to meticulously weave sections of your hair, apply the color, allow it to process, rinse it out, and often apply a toner.


So in general, highlights tend to take longer than a full, single-process color treatment. However, this can vary and it's always best to consult with your stylist for a more accurate estimate based on your specific hair and the results you want to achieve.

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