Does Highlights Damage Hair?

If you want to add some pizazz and dimension to your mane, one easy way to do it is with highlights. But whether you’re sporting those notorious 90s chunky highlights or opting for more of a natural and luxurious balayage, one question always creeps up – “Do highlights damage hair?”

Unfortunately, highlights will cause some level of damage to your natural mane. That’s because coloring of any kind will always be damaging to your natural strands. However, the amount of damage depends mainly on the chosen color, how many highlights are applied, your natural hair type, and how they’re cared for.

Are you considering dabbling in highlights but want to know about the potentially damaging effects? Then keep reading, girl. Below, I’m “highlighting” how highlights can damage your mane and the best ways to prevent damage (or at least some of the damage).

Pin that perfect hair you found on Pinterest for later, and check these facts on highlights and hair damage!

Does Highlights Damage Hair? Things to Consider

To be perfectly blunt, yes, highlights are going to damage your mane. The level of damage can be minimal, or it can be pretty prevalent. Many things can determine how much damage will incur from highlights. Let’s take a closer look.

1. How Many Highlights Are Applied

The first thing to consider is how many highlights are applied to your natural mane. The more highlights applied, the more damage will likely incur. 

That said, someone going for highlights all over will have more damage than someone tossing in a few subtle highlights for a “sunkissed” look. 

2. The Color of the Highlights

The next thing to consider is the color. The lighter the shade, the more damage will occur. That’s because bleach breaks down the pigment molecules, allowing the lighter shade to enter. However, it simultaneously dismantles natural fatty acids in the hair shaft, weakening the strands.

With that in mind, it’s clear that those going for ultra-bright blonde, platinum, or even white highlights will end up with more damage than those opting for sandy blondes or light browns. 

3. Hair Texture

There are two types of hair textures that are more prone to damage from highlights: fine and curly.

Curly hair is naturally frizzy and dry. So, when a lightening agent is applied to the strands, the tresses become even drier. Over time, this can result in undesirable effects such as breakage and excessive frizziness.

On the other hand, fine hair is weaker than “normal” hair as it has fewer cuticle layers. Without the extra layers of defense, lightening agents can more easily impose damage to the strands, resulting in dryness and breakage.

4. Unprofessional Application

I get it – you want to save money and figure you can probably get the hair of your dreams on your own. And I don’t doubt you, babe. You can probably become a color-changing wizard in the comfort of your own home. But that doesn’t mean you should.

Although the color might come out great, you’ll likely end up with more damage than you would if you had gone to a professional hairstylist.

But why?

Simply put, hairstylists have the experience and the knowledge to reduce the risk of damage. The product they use is top-tier and designed to prevent damage. They also know the correct application and timeframe required for highlights, leaving you with a stunning mane free of damage.

How to Prevent Damage From Highlights

All of this can sound scary. After all, the last thing you want is for your new, beautiful highlights to destroy your hair in the process. But don’t panic, hon! Although there will likely be some level of damage, you can prevent the bulk of damage by doing the following:

1. Always Have Highlights Applied by a Professional

Always, always, always have your highlights applied by a professional and experienced hairstylist. I know your friend may have done her highlights a million times, but I wouldn’t risk it. Instead, take her out for a drink after you have your highlights applied by a professional!

Having your highlights done by a professional will guarantee two things. For one, they will be able to minimize the level of damage by using the correct products and proper application. They’ll also know when to wash the lightening agent off and how to care for your locks afterward.

The other bonus? They’ll know whether or not you need more than one session. When it comes to hair coloring, “slow and steady wins the race.” That said, your hairstylist likely won’t take your very dark hair directly to bright blonde, as this would be far too damaging.

2. Use Conditioners Religiously

When people think of bleached hair, they think of dry hair (that looks oh-so-fabulous, of course). Well, babe, you don’t want to be one of those people. So what should you do instead? Use conditioners religiously.

You can opt for a conditioner in the shower after your shampoo. However, I highly recommend using a leave-in conditioner such as Redken Extreme Bleach Recovery Cica Cream. This leave-in conditioner will hydrate generously, deterring damaged locks.

3. Cut Down on Washes

Let’s be real – you’re probably washing your hair way more than you need to. It’s not necessary, hon! In fact, you only need to wash your hair twice – maybe three times – a week. And this is especially true if you have highlights.

Overwashing can cause two major problems. For one, washing too regularly depletes your hair of natural oils, which are critical for protection, chiefly when you have highlights. Secondly, too much washing can alter your colored strands, leaving them dull and lackluster. Who wants that?

Cut down your shampooing to two or three times per week. If your hair feels greasy in-between shower sessions, you can always opt for a dry shampoo. If you want to take a shower, put your hair in a shower cap or tie it up into a topknot.

4. Ditch the Hot Styling Tools

Heat + hair strands = disaster, even if you don’t have highlighted locks. That said, we can only imagine how devastating they can be for highlighted tresses. 

Try to avoid using hot styling tools as much as possible. 

If you absolutely need to use your beloved curling wand or straightener for a special occasion, make sure you apply a heat protectant and use the lowest setting possible.


Highlights can be damaging, but there are plenty of ways to prevent damage. If you want to learn more about this fun topic, I have added a few must-see, frequently asked questions. 

Do highlights cause hair loss?

If your hair is strong and healthy, you should not worry about highlights causing hair loss. However, if your hair is already in trouble healthwise, adding color can generate adverse effects, such as breakage and hair loss. Your hairstylist won’t apply hair color on hair that’s in poor condition, so it isn’t something to be overly concerned about.

Is it good to highlight your hair?

Highlights are a great way to add depth and vivaciousness to your mane without completely removing your natural hair color. So, if you want to spruce up your ‘do without going overboard, highlights are an exceptional option.

Does your hair go back to normal after highlights?

Technically, yes, hair goes back to “normal” after highlights, but you’ll need to wait until your hair has fully grown out. 

Highlights Can Be Damaging, but Excess Damage Can Be Prevented

Any type of hair coloring – including highlights – can cause damage, especially if you’re going for a full-blown makeover rather than a few subtle and soft highlights. However, you can minimize damage by having them applied by a professional, using conditioner, and not using hot tools.

How do you ward off damage after getting highlights put in your hair? Do you have any comments to add to this post?

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