The most enduring beauty ideals always have their roots in good health – and highlights are no exception. Along with smooth skin and clear, sparkly eyes, hair that glimmers and which contains some lighter portions through lengths suggests a good, rounded lifestyle with plenty of time outdoors.
And their effect doesn’t end with the hair itself; strategically-placed balayage highlights light skin up and can soften the overall appearance of a face, lending it a lustre and balancing its colour out if, for example, ruddiness or dullness is a concern.
For the aforementioned reasons, highlights have remained covetable throughout history, with the first record of them dating back to the 4th century BC, when fashionable folk would coat their hair in various ingredients from olive oil to pollen before sitting in the sun for hours in an attempt to bake and thereby lighten it. It was a quite rudimentary ritual, and one that offered mixed results.
The introduction of sulfur made the process more effective during the Renaissance, but it was still a drawn out and malodorous ritual. In the early 1900s, caps came into play, allowing strands to be pulled out and painted individually with mixtures containing Hydrogen Peroxide. That period marked the beginning of highlights as we know them.
While this look went into decline in the periods between WW1 and WW11, it bounded back into popularity in the 1960s, when bold strips such as those worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s became de rigueur.
Today, the most popular highlights hark back to health – namely, people want barely-perceptible lifts to colour that offer dimension and confer the appearance of shine to lengths. Now, highlights – and especially those painted on using the balayage technique – are often used to enhance bone structure, and also to make hair appear thicker which, again, feeds right back into the desire to look in robust health.