Highlight Processing Time: The Breakdown

Highlights are a popular hair styling technique that add dimension and brightness to hair. However, one of the most common concerns regarding highlights is how long the processing time takes. In this article, we will breakdown the factors that affect highlight processing time and provide tips on how to ensure the best results.

Factors Affecting Highlight Processing Time

Hair Type and Texture

The type and texture of your hair play a significant role in the processing time of highlights. Coarse, thick hair takes longer to process than fine, thin hair. Similarly, if your hair is already color-treated, it may also take longer for the highlights to show up as the existing color needs to be lifted first.

Color and Level of Highlight

The color and level of highlights you are looking to get also impact the processing time. If you want lighter and brighter highlights, it may require more processing time than if you are aiming for subtle, natural-looking highlights.

Developer Strength

The strength of the developer used in the highlighting process affects the processing time. A higher developer strength will lift the hair faster and result in a shorter processing time. However, it can also increase the risk of damage to the hair and scalp.

Application Technique

The technique used to apply highlights also affects how long it takes for the color to process. If the highlights are applied using a foil technique, it may take longer for the color to lift as the foil traps in heat and helps to speed up the processing time. On the other hand, if the highlights are done using a balayage technique, the processing time may be shorter as the color is painted directly onto the hair.

How Long Does Highlight Processing Time Take?

The processing time for highlights varies from person to person depending on the factors mentioned above. On average, highlight processing time can range from 20 to 60 minutes. However, it is best to consult with a professional stylist to determine the exact time needed for your specific hair type and highlight goals.

Tips to Ensure the Best Results

Choose a Professional Stylist

To ensure the best results, it is advisable to choose a professional stylist who has experience in highlighting. They will know the best techniques and use high-quality products that will minimize damage to your hair and scalp.

Prep Your Hair

Before going in for a highlight appointment, it is essential to prepare your hair by washing it with a clarifying shampoo to remove any build-up. This will help the color to lift better and result in a brighter and more even highlight.

Use Quality Hair Products

Using high-quality hair products, such as a color-safe shampoo and conditioner, can also help to ensure the best highlight results. These products will help to maintain your hair’s health and color vibrancy while also protecting it from damage.

Be Realistic

When deciding on the color and level of highlights, it is essential to be realistic about the time and effort it will take to achieve the desired result. If you have dark hair, it may take several sessions to achieve lighter and brighter highlights. Always consult with a professional stylist and have a realistic expectation of the results.

Common Questions and Answers

  • How long does it take for highlights to process?
    • The processing time for highlights varies based on several factors, such as hair type and texture, highlight color and level, developer strength, and application technique. On average, processing time can range from 20 to 60 minutes.
  • Can highlights be done in one sitting?
    • Depending on the hair type and texture, highlights can be done in one sitting. However, for those with dark or color-treated hair, it may take several sessions to achieve the desired result.
  • Can highlights be done at home?
    • While highlight kits are available for at-home use, it is advisable to have a professional stylist perform the highlighting process. This ensures that the highlights are done properly and with minimal damage to the hair and scalp.


1. Byrdie – How Long Should Highlights Take to Process?

2. L’Oreal Paris – A Guide to Highlighting Hair

3. Cosmopolitan – Everything You Need to Know About Highlights

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