90s chunky highlights are trending again

Written by Morgan Fargo

Characterised by weaving light and contrasting dark colours, chunky highlights are the nostalgic style seen on Beyoncé and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Chunky highlight inspiration has been raining down from above recently, in large part thanks to the resurgence of love for the inimitable Carrie Bradshaw in And Just Like That. A bolder highlighting method, chunky highlights refer to the width of colour placed on the hair. Wider than the usual seamless blend, they are designed to stand out and are often many colour shades away from the surrounding hair. 

Popularised in the 90s, chunky highlights became as prolific as “The Rachel”, sported on celebrities, models and women we knew and loved – from memory, at least four of my mum’s mates had chunkier highlights between 1995 and 2006. 

However, as bold a style as chunky highlights is, it doesn’t need to be an intimidating style, especially not when you’ve done your research and know what you’re leaving the salon with. Here, celebrity hairdresser  Sinéad Kelly, founder of the award-winning salon Sinéad Kelly London, breaks down everything you need to know about chunky highlights. 

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw wearing chunky “money piece” highlights to frame the face.

What are chunky highlights?

“Chunky highlights havemore texture than a traditional highlight and are a combination of a highlight and balayage colour weave. This kind of weave allows you to leave negative space to enable pops and depths of colour throughout the head.

“Chunky highlights are when lighter colours meet the deeper colours in your hair to create a more contoured feel. For example, the popular (and ever-evolving) face-framing highlights trend is created with chunky highlights. However, as hairdressing has become more advanced, colouring has also become more bespoke. Now, a client will come into the salon for a traditional service, with a bespoke glazing service and root melt.”  

Jennifer Lopez wears contrasting caramel and honey chunky highlights to the Video Music Awards.

Does hair thickness affect the appearance of chunky highlights?

“Chunky highlights will definitely look different on fine and thick hair – the same way it will look different on straight and curly hair. On fine hair, chunky highlights can help to create the illusion that the hair is fuller, with more body, due to the placement of contrast between light and dark tones. It’s similar to contouring your face with make-up. 

“On thicker hair, you can use a similar technique to creatively place the chunky highlights to contour more softness and make the hair look sleeker.”

And what about different types of hair?

“While chunky highlights suit a variety of hair types, they will look very different on each. A key thing to take into consideration if you have straight hair is how much time you’ll take to style the look, as poker-straight hair makes it harder to see the colour. If you’re able to braid the hair, to achieve a wave, kink, or curl, it will really enhance the colour placement. 

“Chunky highlights will naturally complement curly or coily hair without any dedicated styling.”

Got all that? Ready to run bravely into the world of chunky highlights? Thought as much. 

Main image: Getty

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