Skip to main content

Ask a Hairstylist: What to Do With Your Hair When Your Highlights Grow Out

Play them up or tone them down.
Grown out highlights

Q: Hi Bill! I really enjoy reading the advice you give to other hairstyle guidance-seekers! I'm 26 years old and have had slight variations of shoulder-length to longer hair for most of my life. 

After getting back from a nine-month backpacking trip around the world, my generally fine and thick hair is the longest (and in the worst condition!) it's ever been. As you can see, my highlights have grown out about four inches.

Grown out highlights

Meghan has long, thick hair with grown-out highlights.

I'm completely refreshed on life after all my travelling, and soon my husband and I will be moving to a new city and starting new careers. I think it's time that my hair gets a rebirth, too! 

I'm willing to go for any colour and length, and am looking for guidance on a style that fits my face shape, skin tone and active lifestyle. I want something that looks classy but not old on me, is trendy and can be styled in different ways, and that doesn't require much more than half an hour of morning prep time. (This is even possible, right?)

I've also included a pre-trip photo from when I liked my hair best, in long, soft curls. To get this look, it takes me over an hour and a can of hairspray, so I don't end up doing it very often. 

Grown out highlights

In the past, Meghan has liked her hair best in long, soft curls.

Before the trip, I would condition every day and shampoo close to the roots every two days to avoid an oily scalp and drying out my ends. My general morning routine is a gentle blow-dry with a round brush. I try not to use too much heat on my hair and only use hair straighteners on rare occasions. 

Thanks in advance for your time. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! — Meghan

A: Meghan, thank you for your consultation request. It's super-cool to be able to travel for so long. But with that lifestyle, hair is tortured!

I have to say that I really like your current colour, which is difficult to acquire on darker hair. I say, rock what you have for a while, because unless you spend another year in the sun, you won't have this particular shade again.

This is an example of how cool your hair could look with the grown-out highlights and several inches of darker regrowth.

Rachel Bilson CW Upfront 2011

Rachel Bilson at the 2011 CW Upfront.

If you have your hairdresser trim a couple inches off the ends to get rid of split ends, and add some long layers, it will look and feel a lot more polished. 

A weekly deep-conditioning treatment (such as Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask) will also help to your hair to look healthier.

Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Deep Conditioning Mask

Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask

Scroll to Continue

From The Skincare Edit Archives

I can see that you already have some good texture through your length, so I would play that up. Try letting your hair air-dry and scrunching it with a beach texturizing spray (such as Together Beauty Sugar Wave Texturizing Spray).

Together Beauty Sugar Wave Texturizing Spray

Together Beauty Sugar Wave Texturizing Spray

You could also braid your hair while damp and let it dry, or add some soft waves with a waving iron like Amika High Tide Deep Wave Crimper. This is a Bohemian vibe that shouldn't be too perfect.

Jessica Biel Independent Spirit Awards 2016

Jessica Biel at the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards.

Wear it half back to change things up.

Jennifer Garner Miracles from Heaven Los Angeles premiere 2016

Jennifer Garner at the 2016 Los Angeles premiere of 'Miracles from Heaven.'

Or, when time allows, you could do your favourite bouncy curls—just run your fingers through your hair to separate them.

Olivia Wilde The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Los Angeles Premiere 2013

Olivia Wilde at the 2013 Los Angeles premiere of 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.'

In the fall, I would consider doing a darker rinse that allows you to keep a soft highlight showing.

Leighton Meester The Roommate Los Angeles premiere 2011

Leighton Meester at the 2011 Los Angeles premiere of 'The Roommate.'

These blunt bangs would be a great update to your look as well.

Jessica Biel Critics' Choice Awards 2017

Jessica Biel at the 2017 Critics' Choice Awards.

Here are two options for a cut after you have had your way with the long, Boho hair.

Natalie Portman AFI Fest 2019

Natalie Portman at AFI Fest 2019.

Lucy Hale Teen Choice Awards 2016

Lucy Hale at the 2016 Teen Choice Awards.

These cuts have a bit more edge compared to the longer length. Again, you should be able to get some nice texture with the techniques I mentioned above, and will not have to spend much (if any) time heat-styling. 

I hope this helps and works with this new chapter of your life.


If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. See our Disclosure for more information.

Read Next

How to Grow Out Bleached, Damaged Hair

Patience is the name of the game.