Hello, and welcome back to the Color Cafe Beauty Blog! Today, we are going to discuss highlights! We’ll cover the historical background of highlights and highlighting techniques, as well as how those techniques have changed over time. Sound like fun? Let’s do this thing.


So, believe it or not, highlights have been around FOREVER. It is believed that the first highlighting technique was developed by the people of Ancient Greece around 4 B.C. The first “bleach” was a mixture of gold flakes, olive oil, and pollen native to the area! (Would you ever put that on your head?!) After this mixture was applied to someone’s hair, they were made to sunbathe for hours at a time. Needless to say, this method is pretty time-consuming and ineffective, but it was continually used by many people and cultures for centuries.

During the Renaissance period, the formula for gorgeous highlights shifted only slightly; alum (a crystallized compound), honey, lemons, and a sulfur mixture were mixed together, and then applied to the head over a cap-less, wide-brimmed hat! After the mixture was applied, of course, the hat-wearing client then sat in the sun for hours. This mixture was slightly more effective than that of the Ancient Greeks, due to the sulfur and lemons, but it was extremely tedious, and no one wants their hair to smell like rotten eggs. (Silly, silly Renaissance folk.)

The modern highlights we know and love today were developed in the early 20th century, along with the first highlighting caps (pictured below). When using the highlight cap, the client wears a tight cap, similar to a swimming cap, with tiny holes all over it. Strands of hair are pulled through the holes in the cap, and lightener is applied to those strands.

This method prevents excessive amounts of lightener bleeding onto the strands meant to remain the client’s natural color. The first step towards using bleach was made during the early 1900’s, when hydrogen peroxide was popularly used for highlights. During WWI, a massive decline in hair services also lead to a lack of innovation in the field, and it was not until the 1960’s and 70’s that highlights returned to popularity.

Highlighting Cap

Foiling highlights were first introduced in the 1980’s to produce a much more natural look than the cap highlights. Foiling allows a stylist to have more freedom in placing highlights to better achieve a look that is tailored to the client specifically. Lowlights also gained popularity after foiling hit the scene, as clients with naturally lighter hair colors wanted to add dimension to their look, too!

Are you curious about highlights? You can contact Color Cafe Salon with questions and call us to make an appointment for a consultation Stop and see what your Color Cafe salon is all about. #colorcafesalonandspa!