Skip to main content

In the sea of “in your face” hair-color trends from “dopamine hair,” to “bropper,” to “Barbie blond,” sometimes you just want something that’s a little more low-key. If that’s what you’re after this season, don’t worry, we have just the thing: “spongelights,” a balayage technique that gives barely there, sun-kissed hair.
Even with the temperatures starting to dip, you can still cling to the remnants of summer with a hair color that looks like you just got home from vacation. If you’re of the same mind, spongelights might be the perfect trend for you to take for a test drive.

Ahead, we chat with hairstylists to answer every question you might have about spongelights, like what they are, how to get the look, and how to maintain the look at home. Keep scrolling for everything to know about the buzzy color technique.

What Are Spongelights?

“Spongelights are a color application technique that is created using a sponge to apply product onto the hair, rather than a highlight brush,” Jaye Edwards, Virtue ambassador and EdwardsAndCo owner, founder, and colorist, tells POPSUGAR. “Spongelights give hair a softer and more dimensional look.”

In some cases, a client may opt for spongelights, or it might be the decision of the colorist. They might choose this technique versus a more tradtional color application for a couple of reasons. Sometimes a sponge can be easier to handle for a new colorist. Time is also a factor. “The spongelight process is also a bit quicker from an application perspective,” Cassandra Olivia, hairstylist and colorist, says. “It might take 10-15 minutes to do foils across the entire head, whereas it takes about five minutes to apply spongelights.”

It’s also about the end results. “I love this technique because it creates beautiful, natural-looking color because it allows for flexible color saturation [because you’re] able to apply different pressures of color throughout the hair,” Jan Spagnuolo, stylist director at Rossano Ferretti Hair Spa says.

The good news is that spongelights work well for all hair types as well as textures and base shades. Still, if you’re interested in testing out the trend for yourself, check in with the salon you’re visiting to make sure there’s a colorist there who is familiar with the technique. “Asking for spongelights shouldn’t trip up your colorist as [it] is becoming more common, but if you talk with your colorist and they’re confused about what you’re asking for, tell them you’re looking for very natural highlights that make your hair look sun-kissed,” Olivia says. As always, it’s important to arrive with inspiration photos in hand.

Once you’ve had a consultation, your colorist will most likely begin by mixing color and lightener as they normally would, then they’ll split your hair into sections. “I usually divide hair into two to four sections, depending on where the client want the highlights,” Olivia says. Then, they’ll take a clean and dry reusable sponge and lightly dip it into the hair color bowl. “I start from the back of the hair and work toward the front, lightly tapping the sponge from the hair closest to the root down to the tip,” she adds. Next, your colorist will repeat all over your hair, working toward the front of the hair that frames the face.

How to Maintain Spongelights at Home

As with any color treatment, it’s important to use a color-safe shampoo and conditioner. Olivia recommends the Leaf and Flower CBD Instant Damage Correction Shampoo, which she says works to address the needs of compromised hair. Our current favorite is the Living Proof Full Shampoo. If your hair needs a little extra love, use a treatment mask like the Rossano Ferretti Parma Dolce Nourishing Hair Mask, which can help moisturize hair that has become dry and coarse from dye.

Additionally, lightening hair can sometimes cause brassiness, so we’d suggest a product like the Virtue Labs Colorkick Debasing Shampoo, which will help combat that issue.

Spongelights Inspiration

If you’re ready to book your salon appointment, keep scrolling for some inspiration you can bring with you to show your colorist.