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How Long Does It Take To Get Highlights?

How Long Does It Take To Get Highlights?

Not all of us are lucky to wake up with perfect hair. Instead, we have to spend a lot of time and money to get there. Trust me, I can relate. If you can also, you’re in the right place. 

Would you believe me when I said there’s one thing that can bring to life even the dullest of hairs?

Well, it’s true and the answer is – highlights!

Many people don’t get what highlights can actually do for your hair. If you have lifeless, boring one-color hair, highlights will add extra dimensions to it to make the color deeper and to liven up your hair. 

Sounds amazing, right?

And it is, but the issue is not whether it’s amazing or not, the issue is more of technical nature. What I mean is – getting perfect highlights can be very tricky. It’s not necessarily an expensive process, but it does take a lot of time and patience. 

How much exactly? 

Read on to find out how long does it take to get highlights!

What Kind Of Highlights Can You Get?

There’s no one unique answer to how long do highlights take. It varies from process to process. However, it’s not a huge difference in time technique-wise, it’s more whether you decide to do it at home or at a salon.

Before I get to answering the main question, let’s first check out the different types of highlights you can try on your hair.


  • Let’s start with the most popular choice in the past few years. Balayage, or full saturation hair painting, is a technique that’s been widely used for a while now. 
  • But why is it so popular? 
  • Balayage gives you those ideal highlights that make the hair look shiny, wavy, and just overall perfect. They’re one of the best options, especially if you have lighter hair, level 7 or up. If you’re not sure what your hair level is, check out the image below: 
Lav Hair Color Depth
  • The term “full saturation” refers to the technique where you take a small (but not too small) section of hair and fully saturate both sides of the hair. With balayage, you want to paint not only the surface of the hair but underneath the surface as well to achieve that full dimension appearance.
  • It’s crucial that you use a significant amount of lightener. For a hair level 7 or higher, you can go with a 30 volume lightener (bleach) since 40 volume can be too damaging. 
  • Balayage is all about getting those perfect highlights with a shadow root, so I strongly suggest you consult with a colorist if you wish to get it done at home instead of going to a salon. 
  • It doesn’t matter if your hair is short, long, or medium, balayage will most definitely look incredible (more so on lighter hair than super dark hair).

Partial Saturation Hair Painting

  • The full and partial saturation techniques are separate, but you also have the liberty to intermix them as you wish. So you can have either fully saturated or partially saturated highlights, or you can mix and match. 
  • The last one, however, requires a lot of knowledge about hair and hair coloring so you don’t risk ending up looking like a tiger. I’m kidding, of course, but you’d be surprised how easily the highlighting process can take a turn to the worst (let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that).
  • The partial saturation method is a better option for darker hair, level 5, and below. Since you get smaller highlights than you do with balayage, they are enough to create dimensions in dark colors, while looking as natural as possible. 
  • The thing is, if you have dark hair, you really don’t want those big light highlights because the end result can be really unflattering. 
  • So, how does it work? 
  • Take a section of your hair (not too small) and paint only the top of it. In case you have darker hair, go with a 20 volume lightener. It’s enough to lighten the hair without damaging and bleaching it too much. 
  • If you want more subtle but still noticeable highlights, you should try partial saturation. Highlights created with this method will look like a sprinkle of lightness going through your hair. 
  • Of course, all highlighting techniques demand the use of toner – it’s not the point to just bleach the parts of your hair and call them highlights. You want them to look natural and blend in with the rest of your hair. 


  • The term “babylights” is relatively new and it’s used to describe a highlighting method where you take super fine hair sections and bleach them to the highest level you can achieve. 
  • Babylights, or fine weave highlights, are usually done with aluminum foils because they require an extreme amount of heat to achieve the goal. The foils incubate the hair and make it super bright.
  • You can use this technique to achieve either low impact results or you can go through your entire hair and do a ton of them to get that full impact blonde result.

Sliced Highlights

  • Slicing is another way to add highlights to brighter (level 7 and up) hair. How does this one work?
  • You take a thin section of hair and lighten it all the way – from roots to the ends (whereas with balayage and similar methods, you leave the roots untouched).
  • This creates beautiful highlights that go through your entire hair to add color and dimension. It’s one of the favorite techniques of many hair colorists (for blonde hair).

How Long Does It Take To Get Highlights?

Lav How Long Does It Take To Get Highlights

The methods I mentioned above are just a few of the most popular. There are many more you can try out, but those four are the most common and they’re loved for a reason. Not only do they look beautiful, but you can also do them at home. 

Highlighting your hair at home doesn’t necessarily have to be a long process, but the risks are greater. First of all, you’re doing it on yourself, and that’s really inconvenient. Second of all, if you’re inexperienced, there’s a lot of room for errors, especially with highlights.

So, how long does it take to do highlights?

Whether you decide to get highlights at home or at a salon, don’t think it’ll be quick and simple, because it won’t. 

Yes, you can apply the lightener and the toner quickly at home, but it’s more about knowing the technique. If you’re doing it for the first time, and on your own hair, getting highlights will surely take a few hours. 

It also depends on the length of your hair – the longer the hair, the likely it is for highlights to take longer. 

Even if you go to a salon, getting highlights will take more than two hours. Hair colorists are patient and they want to get it done the best they can, so you also have to be patient if you want those perfect highlights. 

The bleaching process can take half an hour, maybe more. Then, you have to wait for the bleach to process for at least half an hour. 

That’s already one hour (at the minimum). 

Next, the bleach needs to be washed out carefully and completely, before you can move on to the following step, which is the toner. 

Applying toner can also take quite some time, depending on your abilities and experience. Professional hair colorists will take their time to apply the toner because they want to achieve the perfect results. 

Don’t forget that for highlights to look amazing, your hair needs to be blow-dried. If you don’t know how to blow dry your hair by yourself, you can use a hair straightener or curler, depending on your preferred hairstyle.

So, to finally answer the question: How long does it take to get highlights? 

The entire process will surely take more than a couple of hours. It can even last up to 5, 6 hours, depending on your hair length, the technique, and whether you decide to do it at a salon or by yourself. 

One thing’s sure with highlights – they can’t be rushed.

So arm yourself with patience if you want the perfect end results!

The Bottom Line

I’m sure you already knew that getting highlights is not a quick and simple process. It’s not easy achieving those perfect highlights that will bring dimensions and life to dull hair colors. 

Whether you decide to go to a professional or to do it at home, be patient, and take your time – rushing it can only make things worse.

Now that you know how long highlights take, all you need to do is choose the ideal highlighting method for your hair and get down to it!