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Best products to DIY chunky highlights at home

You can’t look at many magazines these days without seeing ’90s and early 2000s beauty trends that have come back in style. Chunky highlights are just the latest example.

Chunky highlights can add depth to your hair and frame your face to better highlight your features. While you’ll get the best results at the salon, you can pull off the look at home if you have the right products and tools ready to go. Here’s everything you need to achieve a beautiful highlighted look at home. 

What are chunky highlights?

Highlights are pieces of your hair that are lighter than your natural hair color. For example, if your hair is a medium brown, you might have highlights in a light brown or even a dark blond shade. On the other hand, if you have blond hair, your highlights are usually paler blond tones. 

As their name implies, chunky highlights are thicker than traditional highlights, with most measuring between one-half inch and 1 inch in width. For the best results, chunky highlights shouldn’t be more than two to three shades lighter than the rest of your hair. If you want a more unique look, though, you can use unique colors like bright pink or ruby red for your chunky highlights.

How do you create chunky highlights?

Before attempting chunky highlights yourself, it’s always a good idea to have a trained colorist walk you through the process. While doing them at home can save money, it can also go wrong pretty easily. You may need to go to a salon and pay more to have the color corrected. 

To create chunky highlights, you need to lighten areas of your hair. That requires bleach and a developer to lift the color from your hair. Section your hair before applying the bleach to limit it to the pieces you want to lighten. You can use a comb and clips to separate the pieces. 

You’ll get better results if you use a coloring brush to apply the bleach. This will allow your hair to become fully saturated and lighten evenly. Bleach can burn and irritate the skin, so wear gloves when applying it. 

After bleaching your hair, your hair may take on yellow, orange or brassy tones. Using a toner helps neutralize those colors, so your highlights look more natural. You can also use a purple shampoo, conditioner or mask to tone the highlights. Yellow is the opposite of purple on the color wheel and cancels out those undertones. 

Because the bleaching process is so drying and damaging, you should also add moisture and strengthen it after the highlighting process. Use a deep conditioning treatment to repair your hair and make your chunky highlights look even better.

At-home chunky highlight essentials

Bleach and developer

Best Schwarzkopf Professional Blondme Premium Lift 9

Schwarzkopf Professional Blond Me Premium Lift 9

This powder bleach works well on both natural and colored hair and contains anti-yellow agents for more even, natural lightening. Its flexible mixing ratio also allows you to get the consistency you like best. It’s formulated to minimize breakage. Sold by Amazon

Best Wella Blondor Multi Blonde Powder Lightener

Wella Blondor Multi Blonde Powder Lightener

This dust-free bleach powder contains high-quality ingredients that are gentler on the hair than other lighteners. It’s easy to mix and has a creamy consistency that allows for a mess-free application. It can lighten up to seven levels and is even suitable for pre-colored hair. Sold by Amazon

Best LOREAL PARIS Quick Blue Powder Bleach

L’Oreal Paris Quick Blue Powder Bleach

This powder lightener provides quick, bright results with an extra-strength formula that lightens up to seven levels. It also has a nondrip formula that makes application easy. It remains moist throughout the entire lightening process, so it doesn’t require re-mixing, either. Sold by Amazon

Best Clairol Professional Pure White Hair Developer 10 Vol

Clairol Professional Pure White Hair Developer 10 Vol.

This developer mixes well with any bleach or lightener product. It works well for dark blond to medium brown hair and has a gentle formula that prevents damage. It spreads easily, so it’s easy to apply with a brush. Sold by Amazon

Best WELLA Color Charm Hair Developer 20 Volume

Wella Color Charm Hair Developer 20 Volume 

This developer contains conditioning ingredients to minimize damage to lightened hair and works well on natural hair that’s medium brown or darker. It’s also available in two sizes, so you can get the right amount no matter how long your hair is. Sold by Amazon

Application tools

Best WELLA Wide Color Brush

Wella Wide Color Brush

This wide color brush makes applying a lightener for chunky highlights quick and easy. It also has an ergonomically designed handle to give you better control as you paint the bleach on. The design of the bristles ensures that your hair is fully saturated. Sold by Amazon

Best Madison Reed Pro Color Tool Kit

Madison Reed Pro Color Tool Kit

This set includes all the tools you need to create beautiful chunky highlights. It comes with an application brush, mixing bowl, and four clips for sectioning your hair. It even includes a wide-tooth comb to ensure the bleach is evenly distributed through each section. Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

Best LoveBB Professional Hair Coloring Kit

LoveBB Professional Hair Coloring Kit

With two application brushes and a mixing bowl, this kit makes it easy to achieve chunky highlights at home. One of the brushes features a comb head on the opposite side to distribute the bleach effectively. The set also includes a miniature whisk for mixing the bleach and developer. Sold by Amazon

Best Leinuosen Rat Tail Comb 3-Pack

Leinuosen Rat Tail Comb Three-pack

These rat tail combs let you easily section your hair for perfect chunky highlights at home. They’re lightweight and highly durable, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking. They also have an antislip design, allowing for even sections. Sold by Amazon

Best Framar Star Struck Silver Pop Up Hair Foil

Framar Star Struck Silver Pop-up Hair Foil 

These professional-quality hair foils help keep the lightener only on the sections of hair you want to highlight. The pop-up design makes it easy to grab single pieces of foil, and the pre-folded edge lets you apply it directly to the hair from the box. They aren’t as noisy as cheaper foils, either. Sold by Amazon

Best VOVCIG Hair Dye Gloves

Vovcig Hair Dye Gloves

These gloves are designed specifically for coloring and lightening the hair, so they can protect your hands from irritating bleach. They’re extremely thick and resist wear well. They’re also reusable, so you can clean them easily and use them for your next hair coloring task. Sold by Amazon

Best Magiczone Professional Hairdressing Nylon Cape

Magiczone Professional Hairdressing Nylon Cape

Keep your clothing protected while highlighting your hair with this reusable cape. It has an adjustable snap closure to fit most people and has a sewn-in loop for hanging storage. It can also be wiped clean or machine washed on a warm setting. Sold by Amazon

Post-highlighting care

Best Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Permanent Cream Toner for Cool Blonde Hair

Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Permanent Cream Toner — Platinum Ice

This toner can help neutralize brassy yellow tones in your chunky highlights. It’s easy to use and only requires a 10-volume developer to mix it. It’s also available in three shade options, so you can get the best tone for your highlights. Sold by Amazon

Best ArtNatural Purple Hair Mask for Blonde, Silver & Platinum Hair

ArtNatural Purple Hair Mask for Blonde, Silver, & Platinum Hair

If you don’t want to use a permanent toner, this purple hair mask can help reduce yellow and brassy tones. It also contains plant-based ingredients, including aloe, quinoa, sea buckthorn oil and argan oil. The formula is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Sold by Amazon

Best Redken All Soft Heavy Cream Super Treatment

Redken All Soft Heavy Cream Super Treatment

This deep conditioning treatment can help soothe and strengthen your hair if it’s dry after highlighting. It contains hydrating argan oil that helps boost shine and smoothness. It works well to combat frizz, too. Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

Best Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother

Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother 

This styling treatment contains special ingredients to help repair broken bonds in your hair after lightening. It can control frizz for up to 72 hours and allows for faster blow-drying. It doesn’t contain phthalates, paraben or sulfates, either. Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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