Leaving the hair salon with fresh highlights and a blowout can feel like walking on air — what is it about getting our hair done by a pro that makes us feel like Angelina Jolie for the rest of the day? Fun as the salon is, it’s also a source of major stress, because every visit is a zap on time and money. Even if you love getting your look updated, it’s not much fun to spend a weekend afternoon cooped up in a stylist’s chair when you could be out on a hike or eating a great brunch or (my favorite) sleeping in. Things only get more tense when you’re presented with a hefty bill on your way out and, if you’ve made a massive color change, saddled with complicated upkeep instructions that leave your head spinning.

As a devotee of various artificial shades of blonde for almost ten years now, I still find myself questioning how to keep up my color from time to time. I tend to want to wait as long as aesthetically possible between touch-ups to save on the cash and lost hours, but there’s a fine line between cutting corners and plain sabotaging your look. If I’ve learned anything about why we pay pros, it’s that everyone’s hair is different and there are rarely one-size-fits-all rules about how to maintain yours. The best way to understand your own hair better is to ask your stylist for suggestions on upkeep. Still, there are some basic guidelines that apply to a good many of us, so after years of scouring the internet and hair message boards, asking in-the-know pals, and occasionally straight-up interrogating stylists, here’s what I’ve learned about touching up your roots.

Foil Highlights

To make them last longer:

Try a highlight-enhancing shampoo and take care to wear a hat to protect your highlights in direct sunlight.

How often to touch up:

Every 4-8 weeks, depending on your budget, how fast your hair grows, and the colors involved (i.e. grown-out honey highlights on brown hair look a lot less abhorrent than grown-out thick platinum highlights on dark brown hair).


To make it last longer:

Keep your color from fading by washing your hair less often. Trade it in for a trusty dry shampoo like Batiste or Schwarzkopf Osis to keep your look fresh between washes.

How often to touch up:

Every 12-14 weeks. Balayage grows out more subtley than traditional highlights, as the color is handpainted onto the hair.


To make it last longer:

Keep the ends of your hair healthy with a deep moisturizing treatment.

How often to touch up:

As often or as little as you’d like. Since ombre is all about a natural root and the dye goes on the ends of the hair, there’s no pressure to touch up until your hair has gone through so much growth and trimming that the color is starting to disappear — or until you’d like to freshen up the color.

Single Process Color

To make it last longer:

Use a shampoo and conditioner designed for color-treated hair to keep your locks vibrant between salon visits. If your roots are growing in something fierce, fill in the gaps with Color Wow root cover-up until your next appointment.

How often to touch up:

Every 3-6 weeks, taking special care to get frequent touch-ups if there’s a major contrast between your natural color and your new shade.

If you’re not sure exactly which timeline is right for you, ask your stylist, because that’s what they’re there for! Be upfront if you’re stressed about your budget or time constraints, because he or she may be able to offer suggestions for a more low-maintenance look. If you’re worried life will get in the way of your upkeep, be sure to schedule your next appointment before leaving the salon after your latest touch-up. That way you’re able to set aside time weeks in advance before your schedule picks up. Happy highlighting!

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