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What Are Lowlights? The Celebrity Secret to Getting Tone-on-Tone Dimension in Brown Hair

Celebrity hairstylist Charles Baker Strahan on why your highlights don't look like Leighton Meester's.

Last year, Leighton Meester was number one on my list of the haircuts, styles n’ colours that made me want to run (not walk) to my hairdresser.

And I am sure it is no coincidence at all that the man responsible for her 'do is also my favourite celebrity hairstylist, Charles Baker Strahan. (He'll be familiar to some of you, if you remember his awesome side-braid and side-bun tips.) Charles also tends to Whitney Port and Lauren Conrad, plus he's the official stylist for Herbal Essences (for which Leighton is also a spokesperson).

And I cannot help but gush about him because every time we speak, he gives me some insider hair intel that Blows. My. Mind. Trust me, after years of gleaning hair tips from hair experts, learning something new doesn't happen often.

Today's revelation has to do with colour, so if you belong to the 75 percent of women who dye (and especially if you're a brunette), this post will improve your life—I promise.

First—a pic of Charles so you can fully appreciate his awesomeness.

Okay, now check this out.

Mal, très mal. This is an extreme version, sure, but more often than not, you get a version of this when you're a brunette who goes to the hair salon asking for highlights. I've actually been the victim of this myself and you just know that something is... off... but you can't put your finger on it.

Meanwhile, let me emphasize that the trend right now (not that the above look was ever "fashionable") is very much a subtle, tone-on-tone thing. See?

THIS! THIS is what we want. And you're going to need to give crystal-clear instructions to your hairdresser if you want to get it.

This is what CBS (the person, not the TV station) has to say:

"Tonal and dimensional quality on brunette hair can be a challenge to achieve. What needs to happen with that specifically, if you're thinking about brunette hair, is that you need to add dimension."

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What kind of dimension, Charles?

"Particularly if you have light brunette hair, go to lowlights instead of highlights. Allow your natural colour to be the highlight."

Whoaaa. Easy, tiger. LOWLIGHTS instead of highlights? This is radical. Tell me more.

"You intensify the richness. Paint whatever colour at the root, but then pull the streaks down through underneath. The lowlight and filling in of the colour won't look stripey or skunky. You have a tonal variation that is subtle."

Well hot damn, that was satisfying.

But CBS' advice doesn't end there. One of the most frequently asked questions around these here parts is how to choose the right hair colour. We've talked about it before, but I think you'll find that the following definitively answers the question for once and for all.

How to choose the right hair colour

Think of the children. "You can take cues from that stage of your life. [When you're a kid], everything is luscious. The apples of the cheeks are full, you have a brightness in the eyes and the colour of eyes is more intense. Your hair colour is more vibrant and more alive—and it's warm, too."

Step away from the ash

Pay attention to what happens in the sun. "When you come back from a vacation in a warm place, there's a warmth to your skin, and your hair is lightened ever so slightly. Hair will always lighten warmer. It never lightens cool—that's just not the way it works. If you're a deep brunette and your hair lightens in sun, it gives you an idea [of what shades will look good on you]. If it naturally goes to a golden warm, then stick to golds. If you're meant to have some form of red, there are cues where red will look good on you."

Drab, solid colour bad. Tone-on-tone variation good. "When hair has a differences in tone and colour, and is crisp and vibrant, that makes it beautiful. [You want] some tonal variation."

But easy on the highlights, bro. "The colour trend is lush and tone-on-tone. If it's highlighted, there's not as much chunkiness. With exception of Ombré..."

If you do go Ombré, keep it subtle. "Ombré isn't necessarily ever 'out,' because it's what happens naturally. If you see a little blonde girl in the winter, when her natural colour doesn’t get as much light from the sun, the ends of her hair look more intense. But when it goes too far—that's only a good look if you're in a punk band. So I think Ombré isn’t something that’s a revelation, it's just exaggerating what happens naturally."

So tell me...

Have you ever had stripey, skunky highlights?

Did Charles Baker Strahan's tips blow your mind or what?

Do you find that you naturally gravitate to the colour you had as a child? (Personally, I love that Charles has validated my blonderexia...)