Instant Highlights: how they work

Like traditional highlights, this instant version involves foils and lightening cream. But, unlike its predecessors, it also requires heat activation using a hair iron that works in tandem with the specially formulated lightening product to lift colour in just half an hour. ‘Hair can lighten up to a maximum of six levels with Instant Highlights and it’s easy to tailor the depth and gradient of the colour for a subtle finish,’ says top stylist and L’Oréal Professionnel ambassador Adam Reed.

The process

The cream is painted on to locks like usual and sandwiched between two thick foils. This additional thickness helps to carefully control the lightening process. The colour is then activated by running the heated tool over each foiled section for between 15 -30 seconds. The hair iron may look like a regular straightener but the plates only reach a maximum temperature of 140˚c – on average, 40˚c lower than traditional heated tools. ‘This helps to distribute colour evenly over strands and prevents damage,’ advises Kay Connelly, product development and technical director at L’Oréal Professionnel. ‘If the tool was any hotter you’d run the risk of overheating the foil, over processing the hair and compromising the condition of your strands, leaving them sensitised. Testing has shown that 140˚c gives the perfect amount of control for a gradual lift, at speed.’

Now for the techy bit

The use of heat quickens the process by removing the need to pre-lighten strands. The formulation of the lightening cream is different, too, containing a ‘unique oil blend that works in harmony with the temperature, creating a smooth formula that won’t crack, swell or drip when it is on the hair, ’ says Connelly.

Things to consider

Think of Instant Highlights as a seasonal refresher, a tonal top-up that, like make-up contouring, uses patches of light and shade to flatter your face shape. However, if you’re currently a dark brunette and looking to go peroxide, this really isn’t the technique for you. Better book that day off…

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