Chunky Highlights Are Back — But They Look a Different Than Last Time

The 2.0 version of the hair coloring technique is cool and modern.

Person with long hair and chunky highlights
Photo: Instagram @claracampara

For those of you who are growing bored of balayage, you're in luck. There's a new, bolder hair coloring technique in town. Its name? Chunky highlights. You may recall the hair trend from the late-'90s and early '00s, repped by celebrities from Xtina to Lindsay Lohan. However, whereas the original chunky highlights were thick, stark stripes today's version is a bit more subdued. In fact, Kerry Washington, Ivanka Trump, and Serena Williams have already been seen embracing the fun pop of hair color. To learn more about the trending style, we tapped celebrity hairstylist Sunnie Brook.

Keep scrolling for our complete guide to chunky highlights, plus our favorite celeb-inspired looks.

Modern Chunky Highlights

"Ribboning is a modern take on chunky highlights," says Brook. The 2.0 version features big panels of color that pop out from underneath the hair, she tells us. Despite being a hair coloring technique, ribboning still checks that low-maintenance box, adds Brook. "Over the past year, a lot of people have been taking a step back and taking less risk with their hair — but ribboning is a way to still have a low-maintenance routine but with a new, 'aha' moment."

Another take on chunky highlights focuses on combining them with additional coloring techniques, such as babylights or face-framing highlights. For a natural-looking finish, ask your colorist for highlights that are a level or two lighter than your base color — but no more than that. For those of you who want to make a statement with your chunky highlights, while still looking fresh, may we suggest money-piece hair?

Who They're For

Perhaps the best part of modern chunky highlights — as compared to their predecessor — is that anyone can pull them off. We're talking about all hair types and textures. While the Y2K rendition was worn stick-straight (#flatironhappy), the updated version really works its magic on waves and curls to which highlights add dimension.

Aftercare and Maintenance

Chunky highlights are relatively low maintenance, but like any time you're dying your hair, you'll need to invest in properly taking care of your new color. To preserve your chunky highlights and avoid any brassiness, make sure to use a purple shampoo once or twice a week. Brook recommends the Biolage ColorLast Purple Shampoo ($23) for best results — and yes, even brunettes can benefit from it.

Our Favorite Styles


JLo with wavy hair and chunky highlights

@chrisappleton1 / Instagram

Does JLo ever have a bad hair day? We think not. And she has her stylist, Chris Appleton, and colorist, Tracey Cunningham, to thank for that. Just check out these feathery chunky highlights of hers. The mashup of the '70s and '00s trends gives birth to a unique contemporary hybrid style.

Half-Up, Half-Down

Kylie Jenner with chunky highlights

@kyliejenner / Instagram

Kylie Jenner reps chunky highlights à la half-up, half-down style. The look is fun, versatile, and highly covetable.

Long and Curly

Backside of Lizzo with long, curly hair with chunky highlights

@lizzobeeating / Instagram

Performing in Amsterdam, showwoman Lizzo had her head-turning mane on full display. Its butt-grazing length and curly texture really allowed her chunky highlights to shine.

Smooth and Sleek

Bella Hadid with chunky highlights

@bellahadid / Instagram

For her first foray into chunky highlights, Bella Hadid experimented with a bold, bright orange hue. But her latest rendition is rather toned down, albeit super stylish. We consider it a modern take on a classic color combo: brown hair with blonde highlights.

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