If you don't want to change your base hair color -- or if you want more dramatic highlights -- a highlighting kit is the way to go. For a reliable, affordable home-highlighting option, reviews recommend a longtime favorite: Revlon Color Effects Frost & Glow (Est. $7). It's the top-rated highlighting kit at MakeupAlley.com (where some members say they've been happily using it for over a decade) and TotalBeauty.com.
"Though they recommend having someone help you pull your hair through the cap, readers say this is their go-to product for that perfect 'sun-kissed look,'" says TotalBeauty.com, where Frost & Glow earns a spot on the "11 Best Hair Color Products" list.
Frost & Glow comes in two shades: Blonde (for blonde to light brown hair) and Honey (for medium to dark brown hair). The kit comes with a plastic, hole-studded cap and plastic hook. You put the cap on your hair, pull strands through the holes (this can take a while, depending on how many highlights you want), paint the bleach onto the strands, wait until your highlights are as pale as you like (up to an hour), rinse, and then use the included shampoo and conditioner.
Although it can be time-consuming, users say this gives the nicest highlights of any at-home kit. Revlon's highlighting bleach is ammonia-free, so users say it doesn't stink or damage their hair. As with any hair bleach, users say it's important to leave the bleach on long enough to lighten hair to a honey or blond shade (rather than an under-bleached orange color).
If, on the other hand, you'd like to color your whole head plus add highlights, L'Oréal Paris Couleur Experte (Est. $14) combines a permanent base color (there are 10 shades) with a coordinating shade of highlights for a two-step process.
InStyle magazine named L'Oréal Paris Couleur Experte its "Best Highlight Kit" for 2015, and it's among the top-rated at-home hair highlighting products at TotalBeauty.com, Ulta.com, Amazon.com and Target.com, earning high ratings from thousands of reviewers. While users admit that it can be time-consuming and takes some practice to perfect the process, many reviewers say their results look as good or better than what they'd get from a professional salon treatment -- at a much lower cost.
Satisfaction, it appears, depends on proper usage. Its rating at MakeupAlley.com isn't very impressive, and some users say their highlights turned out orange. But other users point out that that's what happens if you don't leave the highlight product on your hair long enough. They say they left it on for the recommended time on the box and wound up with nice highlights.
If you are looking for an easier-to-use product than the hair highlighting kits above, a "multi-dimensional" hair color product might be worth considering. While the highlights resulting from these products are typically less noticeable, multi-dimensional hair color is a good choice for those who are looking for a simpler at-home hair color option with natural-looking results.
Among those, Clairol Nice 'n Easy (Est. $21 for three) looks like a top option. It earns high marks from users at Amazon.com. Most say the one-step kit is easy to use and really does deliver multidimensional color, although a few users say they didn't notice any highlights. We also saw good feedback for a few other products, notably Garnier Hair Color Sensation Rich Long-Lasting Color Cream (Est. $12 for three) and L'Oreal Paris Feria Multi-Faceted Shimmering Color (Est. $9).
While, as noted in the introduction, men can use most of the hair coloring products in this report, hair dyes targeted specifically to men, such as Just for Men, tend to be simpler to use than those targeted toward women. For example, Just for Men AutoStop Men's Hair Color (Est. $21 for three), Just for Men Touch of Gray (Est. $24 for three) and Just for Men Mustache and Beard (Est. $29 for three) all take only five minutes, and all are customer favorites at sites such as Amazon.com and Target.com. They're available in 10, seven and nine shades, respectively.
While all of the Just for Men products get good user reviews, there have also been reports of users suffering itching, burning or allergic reactions after using them. Like most hair dyes, Just for Men warns users to do a skin allergy patch test before every use. Allergic reactions can happen, even if you've used the same product in the past with no problems.
Clairol Natural Instincts Hair Color For Men (Est. $24 for three) also earns positive feedback from users at Amazon.com. It comes in five shades and, like the regular Clairol Natural Instincts (Est. $21 for three) hair color highlighted in our section on the best non-permanent hair color, lasts for about 28 shampoos. It's an all-over color formula designed to blend away grays. It takes about 10 minutes, and it includes Vitamin E and aloe to restore natural hair color for natural-looking results. Some reviewers say it lasts longer than Just for Men hair color, but like other at-home color products, some users report skin irritation and burning, particularly if they leave the product on for more than the recommended 10 to 20 minutes.