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What level is my hair?


Understanding Hair Color Levels

Hair Color Levels

Hairdressers like to measure hair color levels on a scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being the darkest black and 10 the lightest blonde.

Each level represents a specific depth of color, with the lower numbers indicating darker shades and higher numbers representing lighter shades.

  • Level 2 is black
  • Level 3 is dark brown
  • Level 4 is medium brown
  • Level 5 is light brown
  • Level 6 is dark blonde
  • Level 7 is blonde
  • Level 8 is light blonde
  • Level 9 is very light blonde
  • Finally, Level 10 is extra light blonde

See the chart above and compare to your own hair to decide what your natural hair color is.

Why do hair color levels matter?

They matter because they help you measure the degree of lift you are going to be carrying out on your hair.

And this will affect your whole developer choice and bleaching strategy.

How many levels do I need to lift my hair by?

Use this chart above to determine your client's natural hair color level.

Then use it once again to determine which level you want to take her to.

Subtract the number of the target color from the number that your hair level is at currently.

This gives you the number of levels that you need to lift your hair by.

Can you give me an example?

For example, let's say your client's hair is level 7.

And let's say she wants to be level 10 extra light blonde.

That means that you are going to need to lift her hair by 3 levels.

What level does my hair need to be?

If you are looking to go blonde or ash blonde you need to get your hair to level 9 or level 10.

If you are looking to be a medium blonde, then level 8 or level 9 will do.

For dark blonde and brown, you need to target level 7 - 8. 

In general, it is a good idea to take the hair slightly lighter than where it needs to be.

That way you will get a good coloring result, with an accurate and attractive result.

How many levels can I lift with color?

Using 20 Vol with color you can achieve 1-2 levels lift.

Using 30 Vol with color you can achieve around 2-3 levels lift at the most.

For more lift than that you are going to need to use either a high lift color or a bleach.

Good hairdressers understand that and they are typically very good at lifting the hair in this way.

Understanding Secondary pigments (undercoat)

Another thing hairdressers need to be aware of is the secondary pigments in the hair.

Secondary pigments (or undercoats as they are sometimes called) may be naturally present in the hair.

It's what makes a woman a natural strawberry blonde, for example.

But more often undercoats occur after you bleach or color the hair. 

The undercoats you see most often after bleaching are orange, orange-yellow, yellow and pale yellow.

These undercoats are what makes the hair "brassy".

To neutralize these undercoats you will have to use the appropriate pigments.

  • Blue/green neutralizes orange
  • Blue neutralizes yellow-orange & yellow.
  • Purple (or violet) neutralizes pale yellow.

This chart summarizes the neutralizing colors for each secondary pigment.

Neutralizing Colors

How do I incorporate color neutralization into my choice of colors?

First and foremost, make sure you have the hair at the right level. That is the first key to success.

So lift the hair with bleach as far as you can. The more you do so, the more you eliminate all undercoats apart from pale yellow.

Once you have done that you need to make the appropriate pigment choice when it comes to toning the hair.

How do I make the appropriate pigment choice?

Simply use the right Ugly Duckling toner to neutralize your secondary pigment.

We make them for the most part pre-mixed to make things easy for colorists.

Plus our colors are ultra vibrant, so you will see the results literally as you process the hair.

So which Ugly Ducking toners do I use?

To neutralize orange, do this

So if the hair is orange, use a blue/green toner (also known as an "ash" toner).

This would be 5.11 (double ash), for example. You should consider adding in some Ash Grey Additive to this.

This will cover orange and take the hair to a nice consistent brown

To neutralize orange-yellow, do this

If the hair is yellow-orange and yellow, use any of Ugly Duckling blue based ash blonde toners.

These would be 6.1b, 7.1b, 8.1b, 9.1b and 10.1b.

The exact choice would depend on the level you are working at.

Also use the toners Silver Blonde 10B and Intense Silver Blonde 100B.

Consider adding in some Ash Blue Additive to this if extra blue is required to cut out yellow.

To neutralize pure yellow, or pale yellow, do this

And if the hair is pale yellow, use a purple (violet) based toner.

Use for example 10.2 Extra Light Cool Blonde. This one is our single whitest blonde color.

Also use 100V Intense Pearl Blonde. 

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.

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