Everything You Need to Know About the ‘Playground Highlights’ Trend

It’s nice to think about simple, carefree days spent on the playground where the only goals were to brave the monkey bars and find new friends. Some remember these times by watching their children play and some relive them through their own vivid memories. Either way, it’s clear that playground kids have (and have always had) many feelings and features that so many adults desire, including a stress-free mood, endless energy, naturally flushed cheeks, perfect skin and healthy, perfectly luminous hair. 

The latter has been the ultimate hair goal of countless salon goers for years. Given that youthful hair tends to be lighter and shinier than adult hair and is often kept far away from hot tools and damaging hair treatments, it’s no secret why people in varying stages of adulthood yearn for shades of professional hair color that mimic their healthy and bright childhood hair. Thankfully, the aptly named and much-needed trend called “playground highlights” has arrived, and the results are reminiscent of youthful, sun-kissed locks. 

What Are Playground Highlights?

Natural-looking, sun-kissed color meets shine and vibrance to form playground highlights, a nostalgic and unique highlighting trend that aims to recreate the client’s childhood hair color after a summer spent playing outside in the sun. Playground highlights are defined by using a slightly lighter shade of hair color to produce highlights that flow in natural-looking strokes throughout the hair. Stylists may also recommend a nourishing masque or similar hair care treatment during the color appointment to enhance the luminous, youthful highlight color. 

They’re still different from most other highlighted looks, though. Playground highlights are unique because the highlights are strategically placed in very small sections of hair throughout the head, which produces a dimensional look that mimics the way sunlight naturally lightens hair. This style of highlights works well on all hair colors and, since highlight shades are chosen based on the client’s current hair color, playground highlights are truly customizable. 

How to Create the Perfect Playground Highlights

When it comes to the salon process of creating playground highlights, both stylists and clients need to be informed. A short pre-appointment consultation is a great way for the client to expand on their intended results and for the stylist to prepare for the upcoming appointment. Whether this is done a few days or a few minutes before the color is applied, the stylist and the client need to be on the same page beforehand. 

For playground highlights in particular, stylists should choose shades that mesh naturally with the client’s hair color. A good rule of thumb is to use a salon color swatch book and choose a highlight color that is two to three shades lighter than the rest of the client’s hair. Remember that the goal is to make the hair look naturally lightened by the sun, so warmer golden hour-inspired tones are best and not cool or unnatural tones. 

Stylists have their choice of technique here. If using a foil highlighting technique for playground highlights, it’s important to maintain the natural effect and apply color all the way from root to tip in very small sections. The foil placement for highlights like these should not be rigid or exact, but rather inspired by the way sunlight predominantly hits the very top of the head and the top layers of hair in general. Stylists can also hand paint playground highlights similar to how they would administer a subtle balayage. This technique helps to create a more natural and lived-in look overall and allows for more creative liberty. 

Playground Highlights vs. Babylights

It’s normal to get things mixed up when it comes to different highlighting trends and techniques! Many of them focus on creating a brighter, more luminous look even though their specifications differ. Babylights refers to a highlighting technique that involves itsy bitsy highlights scattered throughout the hair and creates a delicate and subtly beautiful look. Like playground highlights, the babylights trend also takes its inspiration from naturally sun-kissed strands

The two techniques differ, however, in their details. While babylights offer dimension, enhancement and the appearance of super healthy hair, the process of creating them involves hand painting only a few strands of hair at a time. Babylights can also vary in their placement and color range. Playground highlights stick to a more formulated and strict set of guidelines. The main goals for playground highlights are to produce a look that mirrors the client’s hair color from their childhood and produce a glowing hair look that strays from appearing artificial and instead appears youthful and refreshed.