Skip to Content

How Long Do Highlights Take? Exploring Foils, Balayage & Processing Times (2024)

This site is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through links.

how long do highlights takeGetting highlights can take anywhere from less than an hour to three hours, depending on the technique.

Full foil highlights usually demand 1.5 to 3 hours, while balayage, a freehand painting method, takes about 1 to 2 hours.

Partial highlights might be your fastest option, typically wrapping up in less than an hour.

Processing time can vary based on your hair’s porosity, the developer’s strength, and the bleach used.

To achieve the best outcome, arrive with clean hair, have a thorough consultation with your stylist, and bring something to keep you entertained.

Stick around to understand these nuances better.

Key Takeaways

  • Time flies when you’re having fun! Highlights can take anywhere from a quick hour to a leisurely three hours, depending on the technique you choose.
  • Plan ahead to avoid being a "sitting duck." If you opt for full foil highlights, be prepared to spend a cozy 1.5 to 3 hours in the salon.
  • A little prep goes a long way. Show up with freshly washed hair and a clear idea of what you want. This will help you and your stylist stay on the same page.
  • Make the most of your "me time." Bring a book, catch up on social media, or chat with your stylist while your highlights work their magic.

How Long Do Highlights Take?

Highlights generally take between 1 to 3 hours depending on the specific technique used (Source). Foil highlights typically range from 5 hours to 3 hours, while balayage takes about 1 to 2 hours .

Foil Highlights: the Classic Technique

Foil Highlights: the Classic Technique
You can choose from various foil highlight techniques — full foil for an all-over brightened look, partial foil for accenting your natural color, or shadow foil to seamlessly blend highlights with regrowth. Foil highlights involve carefully placing and wrapping foils around sections of hair before applying the lightening solution, allowing for precise, customized placement.

Full Foil Highlights

Full foil highlights involve carefully placing foils to lighten your entire head of hair. This technique blends color seamlessly for a natural look.

  • Takes around 2+ hours
  • Requires maintenance every 8-10 weeks
  • Costs between $127-$154
  • Helps blend gray hair
  • Can potentially cause hair damage if not well-maintained

Partial Foil Highlights

Partial foil highlights are perfect for adding depth and dimension to your hair. They accentuate your natural color and usually take around 1.5 hours. Start with clean hair and section it properly for even application. Apply the foils carefully to guarantee a smooth finish. After processing, rinse with cool water and use a color-safe conditioner for best results .

Shadow Foil Highlights

Shadow foil highlights blend darker roots with lighter strands, creating a seamless flow effect and added dimension. This technique uses strategic color placement during the highlighting process to achieve a natural look. Ideal for maintaining a lower maintenance hair color, shadow foil highlights accentuate your existing shade while ensuring a gradual shift from root to tips for a dynamic appearance .

7 Foil Highlights

7 foil highlights blend regrowth seamlessly by strategically placing foils around your hairline. This technique adds dimension and depth, enhancing a single-process root color. You’ll apply both highlight and lowlight dyes, alternate foils, and follow precise post-processing care—rinse with cool water, use color-safe conditioner, and avoid shampooing for 24-48 hours for long-lasting results .

Foliage Highlights

Foliage highlights merge balayage and foiled highlights, ideal for root blending and smooth color shifts. Strategic color placement achieves a natural, grown-out look, especially effective for dark hair seeking blonde. For precision, select shades that complement your base color. Follow post-processing care: rinse with cool water and use color-safe products to maintain hair color lift and shine .

Balayage: the Freehand Painting Technique

Balayage: the Freehand Painting Technique
In the next segment, you’ll explore the balayage technique, which involves a freehand painting method best known for its natural, sun-kissed look . In addition, you’ll consider the benefits of balayage, its maintenance, and how it differs from foil highlights .

Balayage Vs. Foil Highlights

Balayage offers a freehand painting technique for a natural look, contrasting foil highlights with their precise placement. Balayage’s duration is around 1-2 hours, while foil highlights take longer, about 1.5-3 hours. Root touch-ups and maintenance are lower for balayage, as it grows out gracefully. Home care involves using color-safe conditioner to maintain the vibrancy of your hair color change.

Benefits of Balayage

Balayage offers several benefits, including:

Utilizing expert hair color tips and advice during your consultation guarantees a personalized touch to your hair color style .

Maintenance of Balayage

To maintain your Balayage, focus on root touch-ups and toning every 8-12 weeks. Home maintenance includes using color-safe shampoo and conditioner, and applying a hydrating mask weekly. For color correction, visit your hair color salon for professional services. Embrace hair care routines for lasting vibrancy and expect stunning hair color transformations with each salon visit .

Timing Considerations for Highlights

Timing Considerations for Highlights
When planning your highlights, you’ll need to account for the processing time based on the method you choose—foil highlights typically range from 1.5 to 3 hours, while balayage usually takes about 1 to 2 hours. Various factors such as your hair condition and desired lightness will also influence the overall duration.

Foil Highlights: 1.5-3 Hours

Foil highlights take about 1.5-3 hours, depending on the pattern and placement used by your stylist. Maintenance is required every 8-10 weeks to keep your color vibrant. This technique offers excellent color blending and dimension, and costs range from $101-$154. Allocate enough time to enjoy the process and achieve impeccable results .

Balayage: 1-2 Hours

Balayage timing typically ranges from 1-2 hours, making it quicker than traditional foil highlights due to its freehand painting technique. This method creates natural, sun-kissed looks and requires less maintenance, often extending to 12 weeks or more. Utilizing balayage techniques results in seamless [CHANGE]mergers [/CHANGE], making it a popular choice in hair color trends for a relaxed yet trendy style (Source).

Partial Highlights: Less Than an Hour

Partial highlights are a quick yet impactful way to freshen up your style in under an hour. They typically involve lightening strategic sections of your hair to create dimension. When planning, consider your root color and the desired level of contrast for the highlights. Proper preparation can lead to great results and improve post-processing care for lasting maintenance.

Factors Affecting Processing Time

Several factors influence the processing time for highlights:

  1. Hair Porosity: Porous hair absorbs bleach faster, reducing processing time but increasing damage risk .
  2. Developer Strength: Higher developer strengths lighten hair quicker, but can also cause more damage .
  3. Bleach Type: Different bleach types have varied processing speeds and can impact overall timing appreciably .

Preparing for Your Highlight Appointment

Preparing for Your Highlight Appointment
Before your highlight appointment, make sure you arrive with freshly washed hair and have a detailed consultation with your stylist. Allocate sufficient time for the session and consider bringing entertainment or using the opportunity to relax.

Arriving With Freshly Washed Hair

Before your highlighting appointment, arriving with freshly washed hair is essential. Clean hair allows the dye to penetrate better, ensuring vibrant results without unwanted residue. Always use a gentle shampoo to avoid scalp irritation, which can cause hair damage. Emulate celebrity hair inspiration by starting with a flawless base—important for all hairstyle options and best home care practices.

Consultation With Your Stylist

During your consultation with your stylist, aim to:

  1. Discuss your desired look and color goals.
  2. Share your hair history, including any treatments or products used.
  3. Ask for an estimate of processing time.
  4. Plan for entertainment or ways to relax during the appointment for a pampering experience.

Allocating Sufficient Time

When planning your appointment, allocate sufficient time to avoid rushing. Highlighting can take 1-3 hours or more, depending on the technique and desired look . Include time for deep conditioning to guarantee healthy, vibrant results . Proper preparation and timing enhance your experience and the quality of your highlights.

Bringing Entertainment or Relaxing

While waiting for your highlights to process, it’s a great idea to bring some entertainment or focus on relaxation techniques. Here are three ways to make the most of your time:

  1. Self-care activities like mindful breathing or meditation.
  2. Social media engagement to stay updated.
  3. Stylist conversation to enhance your pampering experience.

Relax and enjoy! .

Making the Most of Your Highlight Processing Time

Making the Most of Your Highlight Processing Time
Use your highlight processing time for relaxation and self-care activities like reading or social media engagement. Chat with your stylist to make the experience enjoyable and view it as a pampering session.

Relaxation and Self-Care Activities

While your highlights process, take the opportunity for self-care. Practice stress relief with mindfulness techniques or meditation practices. Immerse yourself in a good book or listen to soothing music. These self-care rituals can make your time feel like a spa day, ensuring you leave the salon not just looking great but also feeling refreshed.

Engaging With Your Stylist

During your highlight processing time, take full advantage of the stylist experience. Engage in stylist communication to better understand their recommendations and advice for maintaining your new look. Asking about their preferences can guarantee you get the best results customized to your needs. This collaboration enriches the entire hairstyling journey, enhancing your confidence in the process.

Viewing the Process as a Pampering Experience

Viewing your highlight processing as a pampering experience offers an ideal opportunity for relaxation and self-care. Consider it a mini-escape: bring a good book, meditate, or enjoy a serene playlist. Use this time to unwind and indulge in self-reflection. Turn your appointment into a soothing ritual, enhancing both your appearance and mental well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take to do highlights at a salon?

An average salon highlight session takes between 1-3 hours. Foiled highlights, the most common technique, can last from 5-3 hours, while partial highlights might take less than an hour .

How long should a full head of foils take?

A full head of foils typically takes 5 to 3 hours, based on the complexity of the desired look, your original hair color, and its condition. Plan accordingly for satisfactory results and a stress-free salon experience.

Do highlights or balayage take longer?

Highlights typically take less time than balayage. Foiled highlights can take 15-3 hours, while balayage often requires around 3-5 hours due to the freehand painting technique that creates a more gradual, natural blend .

How long do you leave highlights in for?

Picture your hair as a canvas, highlighting takes about 5 to 3 hours, depending on the method and desired lightness. Don’t rush, let the color set properly to achieve a vibrant, lasting result (Source).

What impacts the durability of hair highlights?

The durability of hair highlights is influenced by environmental stressors like sun exposure, hair care routines, the type of coloring products used, and the condition of your hair before and after application .

How does the condition of hair affect highlighting?

When your hair is well-nourished and healthy, highlights latch on like a charm, producing vibrant, long-lasting color. Damaged or porous hair can result in uneven absorption, leading to inconsistent results and more frequent touch-ups.

Are there safer alternatives to traditional highlighting?

You can opt for safer alternatives like balayage, foiling without ammonia, or natural bleaching agents such as lemon juice or chamomile tea to highlight your hair, minimizing damage and chemical exposure .

Can highlights cause damage to hair?

Statistics show that 60% of people experience dryness after highlighting their hair. Highlights can damage your hair by opening the cuticle and oxidizing melanin, but proper care like deep conditioning minimizes this effect .

Do highlights work on all hair types?

Highlights can work on all hair types, including straight, wavy, curly, and coily hair. The key is customizing the technique to suit your hair’s texture and porosity to achieve the best results .


Time is money, so understanding how long highlights take guarantees you’re well-prepared for your hair appointment.

Whether you choose foil highlights, balayage, or partial highlights, the process can range from less than an hour to three hours.

Factors like hair type and technique impact timing. Arrive with clean hair, consult with your stylist, and bring something to keep entertained for the best experience.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and beard care expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of men make their beards look better and get fatter. His work has been mentioned in countless notable publications on men's care and style and has been cited in Seeker, Wikihow, GQ, TED, and Buzzfeed.