Get Bomb Curly Highlights With These Expert Tips

It's a bit of a different process than dyeing straight hair.

Curly Hair Highlights
Photo: Getty Images

If you have a curly crown, adding color to your hair may seem daunting.

Apart from the damage permanent dye can do to your curl pattern, the placement of highlights may be different from people with straighter hair types.

Highlights look fire on curly hair and add beautiful depth and dimension, but before you race to your stylists' chair, make sure that you are committed to taking extra care of your curls post-color.

To understand how to highlight curly hair and keep up the look, we spoke to two hair colorists who specialize in curly hair.

Why Is Highlighting Curly Hair Different Than Straight Hair?

"The technique is different — if the highlights are too small there's a chance they could get lost in the hair," says Philadelphia-based hairstylist, Tori McCutcheon. She adds that curly hair reflects light differently than it does on straight hair, which can make some colors appear slightly different than they actually are.

What Should I Consider Before Highlighting My Curly Hair?

Essentially, you need to consider how much effort you're willing to put into maintenance.

"Will you condition and mask your hair regularly? Will you gently detangle your hair? Are you the 'wear a bun for a week at a time without combing your hair out and re-moisturizing' type of person?," asks Jaxcee, a New York-based colorist and founder of The Coily Collective. "If you're not prepared to maintain your hair at home, I don't see highlights in your future."

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What Should I Ask My Colorist Before Getting Highlights?

Before anything else, make sure your stylist is well-versed in coloring curly hair. Once you've picked your colorist, McCutcheon says you should ask them if your hair can handle the color process to avoid damage. "You should also ask what upkeep will be like and what maintenance will be like," she says. "Coloring your hair is a commitment — you need to know what you're getting yourself into and if you're realistically ready for it."

Lastly, she suggests bringing an inspiration picture for your stylist's reference. "Choose a picture of someone whose hair looks closest to your own to ensure a more realistic expectation," she adds.

How Often Should I Wait In-Between Highlight Appointments?

"Curly hair tends to be more forgiving when it comes to the grow-out process," says McCutcheon. Because of this, she says you can stretch out your salon appointments longer than people with straight tresses.

However, it's all about your personal preference. "It depends on how rooty you're okay with," she says. "If you enjoy a more polished look, get your highlights retouched every two to three months. If you love a more grown-out look, wait four to six months in between appointments."

What's the Best Way to Maintain My Curly Highlights?

Jaxcee recommends using bond-building treatments such as Olaplex No. 3 ($28, and K18 Leave-In Mask ($75, to keep your hair strong and healthy. Additionally, she recommends using a conditioning mask on the regular, such as the Kérastase Discipline Anti-Frizz Mask ($62,

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