I Got "Peekaboo Highlights" After Seeing Them All Over Instagram

Hairstylists often say that one of the telltale signs you’re ready for a change is when you keep putting your hair up in a ponytail. Day after day, pony after pony, with no desire to style it in any which way. Just bored, bored, bored with it all.

That’s how I felt after a year of no new cuts or color.

peekaboo highlights hair trend before
Jenny Jin for PureWow

Pre-lockdown, in early 2020, I had a shoulder-skimming lob and fresh fringe; by the summer of 2021, my hair reached my mid-back and my bangs had become long layers. I was ready for a change, but not ready for anything too drastic.

One day, I scrolled past a picture of a girl with her tucked behind her ears, revealing a hidden rainbow of highlights at the nape of her neck. After going down an Instagram rabbit hole of similar styles, I found out that this covert color trend was called “peekaboo highlights” and I knew I had to try it next.

Their popularity lies in their versatility. Though peekaboo highlights are most often applied to the underlayer of your hair, so that when you wear it down you don’t see them, you can also have them frame your face, just on one side, in baby-fine strands or in bigger blocks of color.

Shortly after saving a few (dozen) of my favorite photos to my phone, I found myself in the chair at Nova Arts Salon in Los Angeles. My stylist, Cindy Pak, and I looked through the photos together and decided on an underlayer of rainbow shades that would melt into my naturally dark hair.

peekaboo highlights hair trend color mixing
Jenny Jin for PureWow

Since I wanted something on the subtler side, Cindy sectioned off a few, fine strands of hair around my neck to bleach to a pale blonde. (Note: Brighter shades won’t show up on dark hair unless it’s lightened first.) While my hair was processing, she mixed a palette of red, orange, turquoise and indigo blue gloss with an ashy grey gloss to tone them down a bit. We were going for an “oil-slick” effect rather than a Lisa Frank one (though I see that in my near future).

Several hours, a thorough shampoo and one masterful blowout later, I emerged from the salon with cascading mermaid waves and a hidden surprise of highlights that reminded me of a desert sunset. The colors blended in seamlessly with the rest of my hair, making a quick appearance only when I moved or tucked my hair behind my ears.

peekaboo highlights hair trend after1
Jenny Jin for PureWow

Peekaboo highlights satisfied my itch to change my hair without requiring an overhaul of my wardrobe or makeup (unlike when I bleached my hair silver or went for a full-on neon rainbow). They haven’t required much upkeep either; since first getting peekaboo highlights in June, I’ve only been back to the salon once to refresh my color, which took less than an hour.

My take? Peekaboo highlights are a great low-maintenance, less-damaging option for anyone who wants to play around with brighter colors without fully committing. It’s a style that can be as showy or as subtle as you want it to be depending on your plans for the day–and what could be better than that?

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...