Partial or full highlights: which are best for you?

Ciara with partial highlights
source: Essence

Highlights add a spice of colors to your hair. There are many ways to get highlights done, but full and partial highlights are the most common. while both look beautiful, they are different in their own way. Highlights have become a styling solution for women who seek to play with colors in their hair.

They are achieved with the foil technique, where it is used to close off the hair in parts for coloring. Another method is the balayage technique that allows the use of a free hand to paint the hair in blended dimensions.

What are partial highlights?

This is when you lighten half of the head or a specific section of the hair. It allows the natural colors of your hair to show around your neck area. The cool thing about this is that you can place the colors only on the sides you want. This has presented a way to use highlights to frame the face, which brightens up your look.


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To get a perfect partial highlight, the hairstylist applies colors some shades lighter than the color of your natural hair to let it flow in its natural direction.

You may choose to focus on the Mohawk part which is just the center of your hair or just on the tresses of the whole top half of your hair. This way, you dye only selected parts of your hair which guarantees less color damage to your hair. A downside of this is that it prevents you from bleaching your hair full blonde.

The highlights may disappear when you gather your hair up in a ponytail, but this can be solved by asking the stylist to add a few highlights underneath. When done correctly, partial highlights add texture to your hair while giving you room to style it in creative ways.

What are full highlights?

Highlights that cover your entire hair are called full highlights. They highlight your hair from front to back as well as all the sections of the hair. This way, you can easily achieve a lighter hair color, without having to bleach it. Full highlights are more preferred to get when you are in search of a more harmonious color that hides your natural hair color.

The color boost that full highlights give can work for all hair types. This is a good way to transition to brighter colors, like a brunette getting full blonde highlights. But with the many parts of your hair exposed to the dye, it means you are prone to more hair damage. Since the whole hair will be highlighted it will take a lot of time to achieve this hairstyle, regardless of the technique being used by the hairstylist.


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Which highlight option is best?

The difference between the full and partial highlights is as clear as their names. Partial highlights are done on the upper layers, framing mostly the face and leaving the natural hair color underneath while the full highlights are made on the whole hair to give the hair color a full-color lift.

If you’re trying to figure out what highlights option to go for, then you will have to consider the cost — partial highlights are cheaper to make because you are only doing a section of the hair as an introduction to adding some colors to your hair. On the other hand, full highlights are expensive because they are like a step away from getting a full dye job. So if the cost of a full highlight poses an issue, you might want to go for the cheaper option.

However, the maintenance of these two highlights should be of concern, as with any other hair coloring you get done, you will require regular touch-ups. With regards to the highlight option you get, you know which of both will require more maintenance. You should also consider the way you like to style your hair, it can help you decide how you want the colors to play on it.


It is possible that you still don’t know which highlight option you should go for. In this case, you can alternate between the full and partial highlights at different intervals to see what works best for your face and skin color. Before you decide, set up a consultation with a colorist to discuss your options.

You can also seek inspiration from other people’s hair, and pictures of hair highlights online till you can settle for one. You may love the drastic change in color that full highlights give, or the subtle pop of color partial highlights creates. When you do decide on what to get, don’t forget to maintain the color with hair products suitable for colored hair and add some shine. Express your true style through your hair, so you will look and feel good with the choice you’ve made.

Fanti Tukuwei
I'm a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle enthusiast, and the ultimate curves queen. Here, I share beauty, fashion, and lifestyle tips to teach, inspire, and give confidence to all women.