How to Get, Maintain and Grow Out Chunky Highlights, According to a Pro Colorist

October 15, 2020
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | by L'Oréal
chunky highlights
If you’re feeling nostalgic for the early 2000s, we’re happy to report that one of the biggest hair trends of the era, chunky highlights, is back.  Because the highlight trend is more defined and bold than ombré or balayage styles, you might want to know how to maintain and grow out the look before committing. To find out, we consulted with Matrix celebrity colorist George Papanikolas about all things  chunky highlights.

What are Chunky Highlights?

There are two ways to approach the look, according to Papanikolas. “It depends on if you really want to push the envelope and have a strong, edgy look, or if you want a softer, contrast effect,” he says. 

The difference between the two comes down to how chunky and contrasting you get at the roots. “The key step to both of these looks is strategic placement,” he says.” You want to have enough negative space and contrast so that the chunky highlights really pop.” Papanikolas adds that his favorite place to focus them is on face-framing pieces. 

How to Create Chunky Highlights

“If your hair is very dark, it may require more than one session to get very blonde highlights — you might have to go over the same piece two to three times to get it very light,” says Papanikolas. Trying to achieve “chunky highlights perfectly in one shot can over-process the hair and cause damage and breakage, so patience is key. Although we recommend going to your stylist for chunky highlights, here’s the general step-by-step process for the DIY hair dye masters out there.

STEP 1: Start by sectioning out where you want to place your highlights. If you want it to frame the face, part your hair down the middle and section out the front pieces.

STEP 2: Apply your bleach to the thick, chunky sections of your choice. A great at-home kit to try for this is the L’Oréal Paris Colorista Bleach Highlights. If you have dark hair, take Papanikolas’ advice and take your time as you work to achieve the lighter shade. Then, wrap it in foil and let it set as directed on the package. After time is up, it’s time to wash it out. 

How to Maintain Your Chunky Highlights

“Brass is going to be your biggest enemy especially on darker hair, so it’s important to use a blue- or violet-based shampoo,” says Papanikolas. We recommend the Matrix Total Results Brass Off Shampoo or Matrix Total Results So Silver Shampoo to help neutralize any unwanted yellow and orange tones.

matrix total brass off shampoo and conditioner

How to Grow Out Chunky Highlights

Growing out your chunky highlights can be tricky, which is why Papanikolas suggests making the highlights thicker towards the ends than at the roots.“This allows you to have a high contrast and pop, but has a much more forgiving grow-out process,” he explains. 

“If you want to try something new but are nervous about experimenting with the trend, start off with a stronger face-framing highlight or bold balayage highlights before you make the full plunge,” he says.

Photo: Courtesy of Amy Bee of @hairbyamybee

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