InStyle December 2, 2023



35 Streaked, Chunky Blonde Highlights Looks We're Obsessing Over


Whether you call them skunk stripes, money pieces, or face framers, the streaked, chunky blonde highlights that sit around the face for brightness and dimension are back. This time around, these thick pieces of lighter hair are far more modern and blended than their 1990s and early 2000s counterparts.

According to Lauren Mildice, colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, the more modern version of these highlights pop in the right places. “Today, colorists use foils to help create structured placement with chunkier highlights for a soft grow out. The more updated and modern version for highlighting is to have them pop in the right places, and typically, the face carries the most brightness.”


Lauren Mildice is a hairstylist and colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.

Tiffanie Richards is a master colorist at Louise O'Connor Salon in New York City.

Gigi Pogosyan is a hair color specialist in Los Angeles.


Consider these 35 streaked, chunky blonde highlights the ultimate source of inspiration the next time you get your highlights done.

A Pop of Blonde

Sarah Jessica Parker’s iconic blonde highlights are thicker around her face for added brightness. To create blonde highlights that are bright and super blonde, Tiffanie Richards, master colorist at Louise O’Connor Salon, says the highlights should be painted on either freehand or in a foil (foliage), which makes the grow out a lot less dramatic.

Short and Streaky Blonde Highlights

Reminiscent of the chunky contrast of highlighted hair from the '90s and early 2000s, Jennifer Lopez’s golden money pieces are the star of the show, even though there’s plenty of contrast between the varying shades of blonde throughout. Richards explains that money pieces themselves are typically quite chunky, so they go perfectly with a high-contrast look.

Bleach Blonde Skunk Stripe Highlights

There’s no stronger contrast than a dark base with bleached-out or chunky blonde highlights, like Janelle Monáe's hair. “This peek-a-boo panel is about as high contrast as it gets,” Richards says. “This look is essentially one big chunk of color sitting underneath a layered haircut, making it appear as high and low lights. Any length, style, and texture haircut can have a chunky peek-a-boo.”

A Two-Toned Chunky Blonde Highlight Look

To create a two-toned, high-contrast color like Dua Lipa’s, Richards says thick panels in the front of the hair need to be done. “The panels can either be painted on as a single process or applied in a foil. This extreme contrast look is very high maintenance as you can see it grow out with quite a harsh line of demarcation.”

Thick, Honey Blonde Highlights

“This deep golden highlighted look is perfect for natural brunettes with deeper skin tones,” Richards says. “The deep warmth of Serena Williams’ blonde highlights against the dark chocolate brown are extremely complementary and work well together as tones. This color can be achieved by either applying off-root highlights or toning down the highlights at the root with a shadow.”

Hand-Painted Semi-Thick Highlights

When thick blonde highlights, especially money pieces (meant to be chunky and high contrast), are done right, they can grow out nicely. According to Richards, J. Rey Soul’s highlights are a good example of how forgiving thicker highlights can be as they grow out. “Having a dark root with a grown-out blonde creates the perfect cool-girl look.”

High-Contrast Highlights

For super high contrast highlights, like Lizzo’s, it’s important to communicate with your hair colorist the exact look you want. “Chunky and contrast are two key words when asking for this type of look,” Richards says. It’s also a good idea to bring inspiration photos to your color appointment since the degree of contrast and thickness is personal. 

A Heavy Honey-Melted Highlight

Not every chunky blonde highlight needs to be a juxtaposition of dark against light, and more of a tone-on-tone, like Ciara’s blonde hair, works as well. Richards says the chocolate and honey tones melt beautifully, which is created by keeping the root dark and concentrating the highlights from the mid-lengths to ends. “Even though her curtain bangs are pretty concentrated with color, there are a good number of lowlights in the lengths of the hair creating this chunky blonde.”

Side-Swept Highlights

For a completely different take on the chunky blonde highlight look, Taraji P. Henson pulls her lighter pieces all the way to one side. It’s likely that her highlights sit on both sides of a center part, but partitioning the majority of the color with a side part lets a lot of the darker pieces of hair pop through.

Sun-Kissed Beachy Blonde Highlights

Thicker highlights can be created using a variety of different highlighting techniques including ombré. As Richards explains, Chrissy Tiegen’s fresh but heavy ombré color keeps the brightest pieces of hair at the front and in the ends while the root and mid-length are darker. “To achieve this, ask for bright, chunky highlights in the hairline and ends and chunky lowlights throughout the top and middle of the hair.”

Color-Blocked Highlights

Miley Cyrus’ unique take on the chunky blonde highlight look is achieved with a technique known as color blocking. “One side of the head has chunky blonde highlights, while the other has a large section of darker color,” Richards explains. “Color blocking and paneling are very similar and can be worn on any hair type or texture with an endless amount of color combinations to express creativity or personal style.

A More Subtle Highlight Pop

For plenty of definition that’s a little more understated and far from overly chunky, similar to Margo Robbie’s highlights, Richards says to consider adding in thick lowlights, which will make the highlights pop. “You can’t have one without the other.”

Super Blonde Money Pieces

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's ultra-bright face-framing highlights are a style of highlights that Richards likes to call a halo. “The halo look consists of highlighting the hairline about an inch to inch-and-a-half deep, which creates a face-brightening effect. While this looks great on Rosie, it's also amazing for those who have shorter front pieces. Highlighting the entire hairline brings the face frame all the way down to the baseline of the haircut, helping also to elongate the hair and make the cheekbones pop.”

More Natural-Looking Highlights

Even though Mandy Moore’s highlights show less delineation between the different tones of bronde throughout, her front pieces are still a little brighter and heavier for a more toned-down look. The ribbon-y highlights give off a low-maintenance vibe that will softly transition as the hair grows out.

Thick Highlights on the Ends

Laverne Cox’s reverse chunky blonde highlight look is created with babylights at the top that Richards says get chunkier towards the ends. “The result is a better low-maintenance grow-out with bright, concentrated pieces at the ends. Mixing these two highlight techniques is complementary to Laverne's skin tone because it makes her eyebrows pop and brings out the whites in her eyes.”

Bronde-Toned Highlights

For brunettes that feel going lighter will wash them out, hair colorist Gigi Pogosyan says one of her go-to methods is keeping the top of the head darker and lightening from mid-section to the ends of the hair.  “It creates a nice balance between the two, like America Ferrera’s.”

A Thick Blonde Fringe

Pogosyan says chunky blonde highlights have undergone a handful of modern twists: “Their placement has changed, dyed sections are now smaller than before, and nothing is too close to the root/zebra-style like we were used to seeing in the '90s. Doing thicker, blonde highlights in cool tones on short hair, like Halle Berry wears, gives more of an edgy look and makes the color stand out more than other tones.”

Chunky Highlights Meet Balayage

“Audrina Patridge’s color is a great example of how chunky highlights can be incorporated with balayage for more of a modern look. The combination of the blonde and brown gives more contrast. I often combine balayage, ombré, or babylights with chunky highlights for better customization while delivering depth and ensuring low maintenance.”

Melted-In Thick Highlights

“Paris Jackson’s hair is a color profile with plenty of highs and lows,” Pogosyan says. “Using light and dark gives an illusion of a chunky highlight but the hair is still soft enough to have a melting ombré.”

Stand Out Blonde Highlights

Some money pieces are extra thick, while others, like Jamie Chung’s, are slimmer but not thin or nonexistent. “Her color, which has a good thickness around the face frame that’s popular right now, is a good example of creating a blonde look without having to dye the entire hair,” Pogosyan shares.

Chunkier Blonde Highlights on Thinner Hair

Pogosyan says that Heidi Klum’s bright blonde color with thick pieces of highlights is ideal for someone with thinner hair. “The pieces appear blended. Less is more when it comes to highlighting finer hair types.”

Perfectly Toned Thick Highlights

The key to pulling off chunky, thick blonde highlights is all in the tone. “Rita Ora’s color is the right shade for her. It doesn’t wash her out but works for her, which is why it’s always important to consider hair tones based on skin tone,” Pogosyan explains.

The Bronde Money Piece Highlights

Kate Hudson’s dark blonde yet strong highlights are a perfect example of a bold face frame that Pogosyan says creates the illusion of all-over blonde color. “Her color is really bright right around her face, which makes it easier to maintain and causes far less damage.”

Superthick, High Contrast Highlights

Certain hair types can pull off high-contrast highlights better and easier than others. According to Pogosyan, the thicker the hair is, the easier it is to create a contrasting color. “On Eileen Gu, her thick hair features golden tones that pop in-between the chocolate brown pieces for a modern twist.”

Color Ribbon Highlights

Pogosyan says Zoey Deutch’s modern chunky highlights are a style that’s trending right now. “Her thick blonde highlights still represent a '90s-inspired look," she says.

A Heavily Highlighted Short Crop

Lisa Rinna's signature crop hairstyle features chunky blond highlights throughout the entire head. "Based on the length of her hair, her thick highlights allow the hair to appear fuller," Pogosyan says. "Plus, the beige tones flow well with her dark-hued hair."

High-Contrast Money Pieces

Money pieces are heavily highlighted pieces of hair that frame the face and can vary in thickness and even placement. For example, Elizabeth Hurley's money piece highlights are well-defined with a mix of strong highlights and diffused lowlights, which Mildice says allows the color to pop. "If you like darker ends with highlights and have layers, ask for a strong partial high and lowlight in foil with a bright money piece to achieve hair color like this."

Buttery Blonde Highlights

Never one to shy away from changing up her hair color, Cardi B's lightly toned highlights are piecey for added contrast. "A dragged root melt along with her butter blonde highlights brings about strong dimension, yet softness at the same time because the color is blended at the root for a smooth backdrop," Mildice says.

Thick Peek-a-Boo Highlights

Suki Waterhouse's hidden chunky highlights are sophisticated and scream old money. Mildice explains that the caramel tones in her hair are accented with hidden highlights that peek out. "By having the fringe deep, the depth is kept in the frame of her face. Then, the brightness hidden underneath and around the ears creates a peekaboo effect."

Bronzy Highlights With Distinction

Streaked, chunky blonde highlights don't have to be an inches-wide pane. The effect can be created more subduedly by placing color on thinner ribbons of hair. Mildice points to Miranda Kerr's darker blonde money piece highlights, which boast a bold golden tone that works against her black base for added contrast that isn't jarring. "Her colorist also likely lightened her ends to a brown shade with either a balayage or foil technique."

Thick Blonde Brightness

Wearing a bright blonde highlight on pin-straight long hair, like Khloé Kardashian, lets multi-dimensional color shine. Mildice calls this look a "fine line," consisting of a slimmer face frame with finer highlights and lowlights and a soft root melt, making the face frame pop. "Her extensions are a combination of golden and bright tones, which creates a soft blend of brightness from the mid-shaft to the bottom of her hair."

Golden Wavy Highlights

Creating a gathering of blonde in the front of the hairline is what Mildice says allows the color to stand out from the rest of the color. Madelyne Cline’s highlights echo a golden ribbon effect for a sexy, cool-girl look. “The highlights start at her root around her hairline and are then brought down to create a softer look.”

Long, Copper Blonde Highlights

For chunkier-looking highlights, like Penelope Cruz's, the highlights are typically applied now by feathering the color to the root, resulting in a medium maintenance growout, Richards says. "The contrast of the colors will look great as they grow out, but I suggest maintaining the money piece. Doing this will keep the look fresh while allowing growth at the root throughout the rest of the hair."

Baby Blonde Bright Highlights

Kaley Cuoco's thicker highlights feature thinner babylights woven in, with an overall darker root. Since lightening the hair can cause damage and weaken strands, Pogosyan says regular masking will keep the hair healthier, brighter, and moisturized. "Purple shampoo will also help keep the highlights nice and blonde."

Thick Highlights Set Back

While most heavy and chunky blonde highlights frame the face, they can also be positioned off the face with the majority of the thick highlights in the middle of the head, as Beyoncé’s are. This adds a bit more dimension and definition away from the face for a completely different look.