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Highlights vs. Streaks — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 26, 2023
Highlights are softer, blended sections of lightened hair; streaks are more defined, often contrasting lines or strips.
Highlights vs. Streaks — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Highlights and Streaks


Key Differences

Highlights typically refer to sections of hair that are dyed lighter than the base color, creating a sun-kissed appearance. Streaks, on the other hand, are typically bold, noticeable lines or strips of color that contrast with the primary hair color.
In the world of hair coloring, highlights are often seen as a subtle way to add dimension and depth to one's hair. In contrast, streaks can be vibrant, providing a more noticeable and dramatic change to the hair's appearance.
When applying highlights, a hairstylist may use a technique that blends the lighter sections with the rest of the hair, giving a more natural look. With streaks, the application often results in well-defined lines of color that stand out.
Highlights can be used to mimic the effect of sun exposure, leading to a gradual transition between the lightened sections and the base color. Streaks might be used to make a bold fashion statement, where the emphasis is on the distinctness of the added color.
Some individuals might prefer highlights for a subtle glow or to cover gray hair, while others might opt for streaks to showcase their individuality or embrace a specific trend.

Comparison Chart


Lightened sections blended with the base hair color.
Bold, contrasting lines or strips of color.

Intended Look

Subtle, sun-kissed, and natural.
Vibrant, noticeable, and bold.


Blended with the rest of the hair.
Well-defined lines of color.


Add depth, cover gray hair, or achieve a natural sun-exposed look.
Make a fashion statement or showcase individuality.


Commonly preferred for natural-looking results.
Chosen for distinct, dramatic changes to hair appearance.

Compare with Definitions


Lightened sections of hair blended with the base color.
She got blonde highlights to add some warmth to her brown hair.


Bold lines or strips of color in the hair.
Her blue streaks added a punk rock vibe to her look.


Small portions of hair dyed to a lighter shade than the overall color.
Her highlights beautifully complemented her natural hair color.


Vibrant, noticeable additions to one's hair.
The neon green streaks were the highlight of her party look.


Subtle additions to hair to give depth and dimension.
Her highlights made her hair look voluminous and sun-kissed.


Hair coloring choice for making a strong fashion statement.
She got purple streaks to showcase her love for the color.


Techniques used to create a multi-toned hair look.
The highlights gave her a radiant, beachy appearance.


Distinct lines of added color that don't blend with the base.
Her streaks of red were fiery and bold.


Hair coloring method for a gradual, soft transition.
She chose highlights for a gentle touch of brightness.


Defined, contrasting hair sections differing from the base color.
The silver streaks stood out against her black hair.


An area or a spot in a drawing, painting, or photograph that is strongly illuminated.


A line, mark, smear, or band differentiated by color or texture from its surroundings.


An especially significant or interesting detail or event.


An inherent, often contrasting quality
"There was a streak of wildness in him" (Olga Carlisle).


Highlights Strands of hair that have been lightened, as by bleaching or coloring.


A ray or flash of light
The first streaks of dawn.
A streak of lightning.


To give a highlight to (the subject of a painting, for example).


A brief run or stretch, as of luck.


To make prominent; emphasize
The article highlighted the painstaking work of the detectives.


An unbroken series, as of wins or losses.


To be a highlight of
The duet highlighted the concert.


(Mineralogy) The color of the fine powder produced when a mineral is rubbed against a hard surface. Used as a distinguishing characteristic.


To mark (important passages of text) with a usually fluorescent marker as a means of memory retention or for later reference.


(Botany) Any of various viral diseases of plants characterized by the appearance of discolored stripes on the leaves or stems.


To lighten (strands of hair), as by bleaching or coloring.


(Microbiology) A sample of microorganisms that has been introduced into a solid culture medium by a needle drawn across its surface.


Plural of highlight


To mark with streaks
Rain streaking the pavement.


Summary of an event, such as a sporting event, focussing on the most entertaining or consequential aspects; compilation of each highlight of that event


To make streaks of a different, usually lighter color in (hair) using a chemical preparation.


(Microbiology) To inoculate (a culture medium) with a streak.


To form streaks.


To be or become streaked.


To move at high speed; rush.


To run naked in public, especially as a prank.


Plural of streak


Infl of streak

Common Curiosities

Can streaks be of any color?

Yes, streaks can be of any color, from natural shades to bold and vibrant colors.

What are highlights in hair coloring?

Highlights are sections of hair dyed lighter than the base color, often blended for a sun-kissed appearance.

Which is more subtle - highlights or streaks?

Highlights are generally more subtle, while streaks are more defined and noticeable.

How long do highlights and streaks last?

It depends on the dye and technique used, but typically both fade over time and may require touch-ups.

Are highlights always lighter than the natural hair color?

Typically, highlights are lighter, but they can also be a different shade that's either darker or vibrant.

Are highlights damaging to the hair?

Any hair coloring can cause damage, but with proper care and professional application, damage can be minimized.

Can I have both highlights and streaks in my hair?

Yes, you can combine both highlights and streaks for a multi-dimensional look.

Are streaks considered a modern trend?

While streaks have seen peaks in popularity, they've been a part of fashion in various forms for decades.

Do streaks fade faster than highlights?

It depends on the color and dye used, but bold colors in streaks may fade faster than natural-looking highlights.

What's the maintenance for highlights vs. streaks?

Both might require touch-ups as roots grow out or color fades, but streaks, especially bold colors, might need more frequent maintenance.

How are streaks different from highlights?

Streaks are bold, contrasting lines or strips of color in hair, while highlights are softer and more blended.

Do streaks require bleach?

For darker hair or for vibrant colors, bleaching might be required before adding streaks.

Which is more expensive - getting highlights or streaks?

Costs can vary based on salon, region, and desired look, but generally, the complexity and time involved determine the price.

Can highlights cover gray hair?

Yes, highlights can be used to blend and mask gray hair.

Can highlights be done at home?

While there are home kits available, professional application is recommended for best results.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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