7 Best Celebrity-Inspired Highlights to Copy ASAP

From babylights to balayage, we've decoded every look with the help of your favorite celebrities. Find out the difference between ombré, sombré, babylights, lowlights, foils, ribbons, balayage, and more, here.

Hair, Face, Eyebrow, Hairstyle, Nose, Blond, Lip, Chin, Hair coloring, Brown hair,
Hair, Face, Eyebrow, Hairstyle, Nose, Blond, Lip, Chin, Hair coloring, Brown hair,
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Walk into five salons and ask for "highlights," and you'll get five drastically different looks. Because over the years, the word "highlights" has morphed into a catch-all term for every variation of hair-lightening (and even darkening) technique in existence.

So to help you describe—and therefore walk away with—exactly what you want at your next hair appointment, we broke down every kind of highlight. Check out the seven most popular styles, ahead, and be prepared to fall in love with your next lowlight, babylight, or sombré light (yup, that's a thing) look.

1. THE LOOK: Foil Highlights

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Foil highlights, like Gisele Bündchen's, are the traditional O.G. highlights you're probably most familiar with. Foils give your hair an all-over brighter, fresher look, as if you just spent a week vacationing in Hawaii. They typically require touch-ups every eight weeks.

2. THE LOOK: Balayage Highlights

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Balayage, a.k.a. hair-painting, is a technique in which the colorist places color only where the sun would hit your hair for a natural, slightly-grown-out effect, like Halle Berry's. The benefit of balayage over traditional highlights is that the brightness is concentrated on the ends, more than on the roots, so it doesn’t require consistent touch-ups as your hair grows out.

3. THE LOOK: Babylights

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Babylights are soft, super-fine highlights that are placed around the hairline and the edges of your face—like Jessica Alba's, here—to mimic the unprocessed highlights you had as a kid who spent time running around outside (some colorists even ask you to bring in a childhood photo). Think of them like tiny strips of bright tinsel, glinting throughout your hair, resulting in a subtle-yet-fresh update.

4. THE LOOK: Ombré highlights

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ombré hair is the trend that will never die, and for good reason: It’s a drastic hair change that requires no maintenance. Because the look requires only lightening the lower half of your hair while keeping your darker roots intact (see: Joan Smalls), you never need to touch it up. Just grow it out and chop it off when you’re over it.

5. THE LOOK: Ribbon Highlights

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Unlike babylights, which are placed around your roots and face-framing layers, ribbon highlights are thin strips of contrasting color woven throughout the hair, giving waves and curls subtle-looking depth and brightness. Peep Olivia Munn's itty-bitty caramel highlights for proof.

6. THE LOOK: Lowlights


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If your hair color is feeling blah and monotone, go for some lowlights, like Julianne Hough's. Essentially the opposite of highlights, lowlights add depth to one-note hair shades with strategically placed strips of dye a few shades darker than your natural color. The effect: Incredibly pretty dimension that doesn't feel drastic.

7. THE LOOK: Sombré highlights


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sombré, which is short for subtle ombré (I know, I know), is exactly what it sounds like: an even softer, less drastic take on the trend. It's especially wearable on darker hair colors, like Beyoncé's, thanks to its ultra-blended effect that obscures any harshness.

8. Pin These Highlights

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Chloe Metzger
Beauty Editor

Chloe Metzger is the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan, overseeing the editorial content and growth strategy of the hair, makeup, and skin space on digital, while also obsessively writing about the best hair products for every hair type (curly girl here; whattup), and the skincare routines that really, truly work (follow her on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes pics of that magazine life). She brings nearly a decade of writing and editing expertise, and her work has appeared in AllureHealthFitnessMarie ClaireStyleCaster, and Parents. She also has an unhealthy adoration for Tom Hanks and would like to please meet him one day, if you could arrange that. Thanks.