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How Long Do Highlights Last & How to Make Them Last Longer

A cute female with a dark brown natural hair color with blonde highlights and outer bleached hair follicles.

It’s no secret that highlights are a great way to add a touch of pizzazz to your hair. What’s a little more obscure is how long highlights actually last.

So, how long do highlights last? Can you make your highlights last longer?

The answer, unfortunately, is not cut and dry. In this article, we’ll tell you how long highlights last, how to prevent highlights from fading, and more!

How Long Do Highlights Last?

Highlights tend to last anywhere from two to three months before they start to fade. However, if you take good care of your hair and use products specifically designed for colored hair, you may be able to extend the life of your highlights for a few weeks to a month longer.

It’s important to remember that there’s nothing you can do to keep your roots from growing in (and you wouldn’t want to do that anyway).

After a few weeks, your roots will be visible, and you’ll need a touch-up to keep that dreaded line of demarcation from ruining your entire look.

Young black girl with a dark brown natural color on 3B healthy hair strands dyed with semi-permanent hair color.

Types of Highlights and How Quickly They Fade

Now that you know how long highlights last in general, it’s important to note that there are different types of highlights, and some will fade faster than others.

  • Semi-permanent highlights are the safest and will pose little to no risk of damage to your hair. They’re also the quickest to fade. Most semi-permanent dyes start to fade within a month of application.
  • Demi-permanent highlights last a bit longer than semi-permanent highlights. They’re applied with a weak developer to penetrate the hair shaft and usually last between one to two months.

As the name suggests, permanent highlights are designed to last much longer than their semi-permanent and demi-permanent counterparts. They’ll look nice and vibrant for around two months – only then will they start to fade.

You’ll still be able to enjoy a faded version of your highlights for a while.

Note: Unless you went for very subtle highlights, no matter what, you’ll need to get a touch-up when your roots start to grow in.

Lady with dark hair wearing an ombre style where the outer strands are four shades lighter than the curls underneath.

5 Things That Speed Up Hair Color Fade and What to Do About It

Though all highlights will eventually fade, there are a few things that make them fade faster than average. Keep reading to learn about five things that cause hair color to fade and what you can do about them!

  1. Sun exposure: Believe it or not, the sun can bleach hair (e.g., photobleaching)! If you spend a lot of time outdoors, be sure to wear a hat or use a UV protectant spray to keep your highlights from fading too quickly.
  2. Chlorinated water: Whether you’re swimming in a pool or soaking in a hot tub, chlorinated water will strip hair of its natural oils and color. To protect your highlights (and your entire head of hair), apply this leave-in conditioner before getting wet. 
  3. Hot showers: Hot water is tough on hair, stripping it of moisture and causing your color to fade. To keep your highlights looking fresh, turn the temperature down a few notches when you shower. The coolness of the water will close your hair cuticles and preserve the color for longer.
  4. Heat styling: Just like hot water, heat styling can cause your hair color to fade. If you must use a curling iron, flat iron, or blow dryer, use a heat protectant spray and keep your tool’s heat setting as low as possible.
  5. Overwashing: Washing your hair too often can cause your highlights to fade faster than expected. If you can, try to wash your hair every other day or every third day to keep your color looking fresh.
African female with platinum blonde highlighted hair used dry shampoo to wash hair, leaving her hair smelling great.

5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Highlights Last Longer

Now that you know what makes highlights fade, it’s time to learn about five things you can do to make them last longer.

  1. Use an after-color sealer: After-color sealers are pre-made products with ingredients that seal the color into your hair shaft and prevent fading. You can find them at most beauty supply stores. Be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging for the best results. If you go into the salon, ask your stylist if they can add an after-color sealer to your service. They’ll most likely do it for a small upcharge. 
  2. Don’t skimp on the application time: If you’re doing your highlights at home, be sure to leave the dye on for the recommended time on the packaging to ensure that the color takes and doesn’t fade too quickly.
  3. Choose the right highlights: Balayage and ombre highlights are super low maintenance and don’t need to be touched up often. Why? Because they don’t start right at your roots; so, when your roots begin to grow out, it’s not very noticeable.
  4. Baby your hair: Up your deep conditioning sessions, avoid washing your hair too often, and use a leave-in conditioner to keep your highlights looking fresh. Ensure that all the products you use are gentle and color-safe. The healthier your hair is, the better it’ll hold onto the color.
  5. Don’t use drying hair products: Hair products that have salt, sulfates, drying alcohols, and other color-strippers are a recipe for disaster when it comes to highlights. Take a good look at your favorite products and make sure they don’t contain any of these harsh ingredients. If they do, it might be time to switch to something more color-friendly.
A happy female with low maintenance highlights keeps her brown hair healthy with a CG hair care routine.

What to Expect When Getting a Highlight Touch Up

There’s no stopping it – eventually, your dye will fade, and you’ll need a touch-up. When you go, your stylist will likely apply the bleach or dye to the new growth only.

Doing this at home is very difficult, and if you overlap the bleach or dye, you run the risk of damaging your hair. So, we recommend seeing a professional for touch-ups, especially.

In addition to coloring your new growth, the stylist may also decide to tidy up your highlights. This means they’ll go in and clean up any areas that may have been missed during the original application or that have faded more than the rest.

They can also adjust the overall shape of your highlights to better suit your face or hairstyle and add a gloss to increase your hair’s shine!

A highlight touch-up is an excellent opportunity to talk to your stylist about any changes you may want to make to your hair.

Maybe you want to go lighter or darker or add more dimension with lowlights. Whatever it is, your stylist can help you achieve the look you want while maintaining your hair’s integrity.

A mixed-race female with color-treated hair strands keeps her hair healthier by not using any heat-styling tools.

Are Highlights Damaging?

This is a common concern for many people, and the answer is yes, in most cases. In general, highlights are less damaging than getting an all-over color because the bleach or dye is only applied to small sections of hair.

However, if your stylist isn’t careful or your DIY highlight session goes awry, your hair could become dry, brittle, and damaged.

That’s why it’s so important to find a stylist you trust who has experience with highlights. Only do your own highlights if you have firsthand experience or don’t have any other option.

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So, there you have it! Everything you need to know about highlights, from how long they last to how to increase their longevity.

With a little TLC and mindful hair care, your highlights will stay looking fresh and fabulous for weeks on end. We hope you found this article helpful, and we wish you the best with your hair!