Gender Construction Kit Logo

Hair patterning

What is hair patterning?

Using chemicals to lighten or darken the colour of sections of the hair differently to other sections.

It's also known as Highlights, Lowlights, or Dip dye.

What does hair patterning do?

How long does hair patterning last?

The effects of the dyes in hair patterning may fade over time but will continue to have an effect until the hair grows out.

How do I stay safe?


The chemicals involved in hair colouring may cause an allergic reaction.

It is very important to always perform a patch test first by using the chemicals on a small area 48 hours before applying it to the rest of your hair.

Are there other options?

An alternative method for adding areas of different colour to your hair is clip-in hair extensions. This has the advantage that you can clip them in or out whenever you like, compared to the more permanent effect of hair patterning.

How do I pattern my hair?

Hair patterning can either be done at home or by a professional in a hair salon. Patterning in a hair salon has the advantage that a stylist can help you select an option that will suit you well, ensure that the chemicals involved are used safely, and can advise you how to take care of your hair after it has been coloured. Patterning at home is much cheaper but carries the risks of accidentally staining your face, ears, hands, or your towels and carpet.

As with other hair colouring, hair patterning techniques use a lightening step called “developer” (usually hydrogen peroxide based), followed by one of a variety of dyes. Depending on the type of dye (in particular, the molecular weight), the dye penetrates the hair differing amounts. Dye that penetrates further will result in a longer lasting effect - from lasting a few washes to until the hair grows out.

However, hair patterning is performed on only sections of the hair. This is most often done by using strips of foil to separate the hair into sections. Other methods include using a cap which only certain strands of hair have been pulled through, or carefully painting colour onto certain sections with a brush (“balayage”).

What kinds are there?

  • Highlights are when sections of the hair are lightened in colour, and lowlights are when articular sections of the hair are darkened.

  • Dip dye is a style where only the ends of the hair are coloured

  • Ombre is a style where hair near the top of the head is left darker, while hair at the bottom is lighter.

How much will it cost?

Hair patterning will typically cost £50-100 depending on the complexity of the work to be done.

Errors and omissions

Is there something missing from this page? Have you spotted something that isn't correct? Please tweet us or message us on Facebook to let us know, or file an issue on GitHub.