What are the best highlights for black hair?

Dear Isabelle,

What color highlights can I with black hair? – Sandra 

Hi Sandra,

Best-Highlights-for-Black-Hair-I’m not entirely sure whether you are referring to the color black, or “black hair” i.e. hair of African decent. The answers are a little different so I’ll address each separately.

If you have black-colored hair, I would go for very subtle highlights. Unless you are going for a punky paneled look, putting light blond highlights into black hair is nasty. Think about it. Snooki does it.

Keep your highlights finely woven, and no lighter than a level 4 (check out my hair color guide to understand the number system). If you are a warm chocolaty black choose a rich red or caramel. If you are blue/black choose plum or beige. If you’ve been dying your hair black for some time, stick with red or plum, as it will be hard to achieve the caramel or beige without damage.


Ladies of African heritage have more highlight options, on account that their hair comes in a variety of colors and textures. What is most important is that you see a hairstylist familiar with coloring your hair type. I once saw a “Master Colorist” burn a young woman’s hair so badly most of it burned off. She did get a tidy sum from the salon owner for her suffering, but I’m sure she would have chosen hair over a cheque. 20 years of experience colouring Caucasian hair, does not an African-hair-expert make.


If you wear your hair naturally (no chemical perms or relaxers) you can have a lot of fun with highlights. You can take your base colour up to a 5 and then highlight at a 7-8 level. Thick or thin, the streaks of light look great in curly hair. If you relax or perm your hair you might want to avoid highlights. African hair is particularly susceptible to breakage, and double processing can end up costing you big time.