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Color Yourself Younger

Whether or not you dye your hair, the latest at-home highlighting kits can make you look terrific—even if you’re not a blond

Tips for Doing It at Home

Before you even open the box, read these suggestions from the pros:

  • Choose a base color that's one shade lighter than your own hair. It's usually more flattering, and if you don't like the results, you can always go darker. Tip: To help you choose the perfect color, log on to clairol.com and use the tool that allows you to try various hues on your own (uploaded) photo.
  • Always read the package instructions thoroughly, especially if you're switching to a new product. Process time can vary greatly from brand to brand, even if they come from the same manufacturer.
  • Always apply your base color first, then illuminate with highlights or lowlights-not vice versa.
  • Don't brush or comb your hair before; instead, let your hair fall naturally. That way you'll add highlights where the color will be most visible.
  • Map out a where-to-paint strategy. Here's how: Working from front to back, focus on just the top layer of hair and pick up about 15 tiny sections (each about one sixteenth of an inch thick), spaced out at least two finger-widths apart. As you decide where you want your high- or lowlights, use metal roller clips or bobby pins to section off and mark the pieces you'll paint.
  • Place lowlights near the ends of your strands and highlights close to the top. If you're doing both, it's OK to lowlight certain sections and highlight others. Or you can paint the same strands half-and-half (with lowlights near the bottom and highlights near the top). That way the effect will be subtle, not stripe-y.
  • For the back of your head, have a buddy on hand to help. If you're on your own, paint only the strands at your crown and near your face (where color variation is most natural).
  • To prevent color bleed, wedge a cotton roll or several cotton squares (available at most drugstores) in between each piece you paint. The cotton will stay put because the color makes your hair sticky.
  • How much product should you use? Enough to saturate your strands with color. If blobs develop, flatten them out with the application tool in your kit.
  • When you've finished applying the product, loosely cover your head with a clear wrap (to avoid getting color or bleach on anything and to keep an eye on the process). Then let the chemicals do their work-but follow the directions about process time. A common mistake when doing blond highlights at home: "A lot of women don't leave their color on long enough, and their hair turns out too brassy," says Fury. How do you know when you've lightened your blond just enough? Hair should look pale yellow-not orange or white-just before you rinse. Orange indicates the hair is still developing color, while white could mean it's been overprocessed.

Brush Up on Beauty

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