The Definitive Guide to Hair Highlights, from Balayage to Babylights

Step 1: Take this to your stylist.

If celebrity 'dos have taught us anything over the past few years, it's that highlights can drastically differ. From sun-kissed to cool contrasts, chunky to near-invisible, these stars prove that there are virtually endless options for brightening up your dull strands.

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Dip Dye

In college, dip dyeing was a cheap and easy way to add some color to your lengths, whether a bright pastel or just a lighter hue, without having to make a big commitment. Similarly to the ombré style, dip dyeing adds a lighter or brighter color to the ends of your hair, but it's not a subtle gradient from darker roots toward light tips: It creates a bold contrast, like Lea Michele's golden ends. 

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Dip Dye

This messy bob gets a shock of blonde highlights right at the tips for some rock n' roll flair. 

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Dip Dye

Jessie J's gorgeous satiny waves highlight the stark transition from her black hair to the light brown ends.  

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Ribboned

For naturally wavy types, one of the biggest trends for this year are ribbon highlights that spiral down the hair with streaks of color. You could go the pastel route and add a streak of bright color, or add blonde tones, like Alba's caramel highlights.

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Ribboned

Jennifer Lopez brightens up her brunette waves with some honey-colored ribbons.

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Ribboned

Rose Byrne's ribbon highlights blend beautifully into her dark curls. 

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Lowlights

Basically the dark opposite to highlights, lowlights add dimension to hair by blending in strands of darker color. They're meant to recreate the effects of the sun, which means strands at the top of your head tend to be lighter, while the ones at the nape of the neck are darker.

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Lowlights

Adele's blende of blonde and brown highlights/lowlights add something extra to Adele's signature bouffant.

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Lowlights

J.Lo adds some texture to her locks with dark, chunky lowlights.

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Frosted

Frosted highlights involve bleaching individual strands of hair to achieve a multi-colored light-and-dark blonde effect. The look tends to go hand-in-hand with shorter hairstyles, and you can see how the variation adds a playful look to pixie cuts like J.Law's.

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Frosted

Charlize Theron's pixie cut contrasts dark visible roots with platinum tips.

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Frosted

You can really see the salt-and-pepper effect in Carey Mulligan's cropped 'do, which creates a cool full-headed blend.

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Balayage

Balayage, AKA hair painting, is a technique in which the colorist places color where the sun would hit for a natural-looking effect—like Jessica Biel's.

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Balayage

Joan Smalls' bombshell waves are painted with a lovely dirty blonde hue.

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Balayage

Gisele Bündchen is the ultimate beach babe thanks to this sunkissed dye job.

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Babylights

If you're like us, you're nostalgic for the natural highlights you had in the summers of your childhood. (Note to self: go outside more.) The babylights technique mimics the look with super-fine streaks that frame the face. You can see the subtle look with Miranda Kerr—her golden blonde babylights give her a natural, youthful look.

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Babylights

Chrissy Teigen's long brown hair glistens, thanks in part to her subtle bronzed streaks.

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Babylights

Karlie Kloss' bottle blonde coif looks au naturale thanks to her full head of babylights.

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Ombré

The term ombré is derived from the French word, which means shading. The style is all about a darker shade at the top and a gradual increase to super-light strands at the bottom. Essentially it's like growing out your summer beach hair. It seems the look was made for ultimate flower child, Drew Barrymore.

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Ombré

Lauren Conrad demonstrates the eye-catching powers of a dirty-to-platinum blonde ombré.

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Ombré

Khloé Kardashian's ombré amps up the sultry look.

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Sombré

Sombré is short for subtle ombré. (We know, it's a head-scratcher.) Please note: the softer the blend, the cooler the look. As seen here, Elizabeth Olsen has clearly achieved the perfect shade of sombré.

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Sombré

Beyoncé's muted highlights lead us to believe she just returned from one of her exotic, Instagram-worthy vacations.

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Sombré

We call Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's light-to-golden dye job the blonde sombré.

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Slicing

The slicing technique is all about super-thin highlights applied in choppy fashion. Ashley Benson's tiny, light-blonde streaks add depth to all of her updos.

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Slicing

Olivia Palermo's thin caramel streaks are the peak of sophistication in this pulled-back look.

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Slicing

Alessandra Ambrosio's sleek 'do looks even sexier thanks to her razor-thin caramel highlights.

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Chunky

Chunky highlights are pretty straightforward, but be forewarned: you must proceed with caution. Too much contrast in shades can lead to skunk-like consequences. Ciara demonstrates how to pull of the chunky look in sexy bedhead fashion.

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Chunky

Julianne Hough's thick highlights brighten up her slicked-back 'do.

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Chunky

Brooklyn Decker shows us how it's done with chunky blonde streaks that masterfully pair with her surfer girl waves.

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