Instant Highlights let you top up your balayage in just 1 hour

A speedy highlighting service has just launched and it promises to halve your time in the hairdresser's chair. Now that's what we call a life hack…

The beauty industry has long been leading the charge for speed services for those of us who really wish there was an extra hour (or three) in the day. First came express manis with their quick-dry polishes, then Skin Laundry landed in the UK, offering lunchtime laser and light treatments. Now the hair industry is getting in on the act with Instant Highlights. The first salon-strength toner for blondes came to the high street last year courtesy of Charles Worthington, taking you from brassy to platinum in just five minutes – all from the comfort of your bathroom.

Now that the focus for quick-fire colour boosters is gaining momentum, L’Oréal Professionnel is launching a brand new colouring system that aims to shake up the way we dye our hair forever. Instant Highlights (from £32, Headmasters nationwide) is a three-pronged technique that promises to halve the time you spend in the colourist’s chair. Whether you want to refresh worn-out colour in a flash or subtly top up your balayage with a tonal lift, now you can do it without blocking out four hours in your diary, or taking the day off work. Amen to that.

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…

How to do high-speed colour at home

For the first time ever, it’s also possible for redheads to boost their colour when their professional dye job starts to fade. Simply shampoo John Frieda’s pioneering Radiant Red Boosting Shampoo, £6.99, as usual and leave on for up to ten minutes, depending on how intense you want your colour refresh to go. Looking for fun but without the commitment? Try one of the Schwarzkopf LIVE Colour Sprays (from £5.49). They come in five different shades, and you can spritz on and layer up when you want to make a statement.

Words by Charlotte Clark

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