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9.23 Extra Light Rose Beige Blonde - No Lightener Used

How to Color Hair Professionally Step by Step


Using a professional hair color line can totally change the quality of your hair color results.

This is especially true if you are looking to lift the hair up to blonde or go for a fashion color.

But how exactly should you use professional hair color to get the best results?

In this blog, we are going to give you a step by step approach.

Follow these steps and you should find yourself significantly improving the quality of your hair coloring.

1. What You Should Do Before Coloring

Before Bleaching

Hair Segmented & Tied Up & Ready For Coloring. 

What should you do before coloring?

The answer is: "Nothing".

Hair dyes and bleaches work best on dry, unwashed hair.

The oil from your client's hair will protect the scalp while it is being colored.

So no pre-washing, no masks, no coconut oil even for 2 days before coloring.

2. Decide What Level Your Client's Hair is 

On the day of coloring, the first thing you need to do is an accurate assessment to determine what level your client's hair is currently at.

Use this chart to do that:

hair color levels

Hair color levels

3. Work Out How Many Levels You Need to Lift

Next, you need to discuss with your client to find out what her color expectations are, and what color she is looking to have.

If necessary, get her to show a picture from instagram or the internet so you and she can be totally aligned not just at to the hair color level, but also the exact reflect.

Subtract the hair color level of the color she wants from her actual.

So, for example, if she wants to be level 10 extra light blonde (we will get to the reflect later) and her current hair color is level 7 blonde, that means you need to lift the hair by 3 levels.

4. Decide on your lifting strategy

Now that you know how many levels you need to lift, follow the rules below to decide on your lifting strategy.

1 level lift: use your target color with 20 Vol developer

2 levels lift: use your target color with 30 Vol developer

3 levels lift and more: use bleach first, then color or tone.

These are the rules and you need to stick to them. Do not try and take shortcuts by, for example putting in more developer or leaving the color on for longer hoping to get more lift.

5. Decide whether roots, mid-lengths and ends are going to be needing different processes

Hair color levels

Hair which is darker at the regrowth than the ends.

Remember that the hair color can be very different at the root area, on the mid-lengths and at ends. 

For example the root regrowth in the case above is level 7.

Whereas the ends have been bleached in the past and are level 9 - although rather yellow and needing some toning and refreshing.

This is totally normal.

In this case, we apply different strategies to different parts of the hair.

Since we are trying to get her whole head to level 10, we would first apply bleach with 20 vol to the regrowth area - taking care not to overlap.

We would lift that and rinse.

Then tone the entire head.

6. Section the hair correctly to prepare for coloring

Before you make your mix, you need to get the hair ready so that there is no time wasted.

Separate the hair into big sections. Tie up sections with a clip.

Leave one section (usually the lower back section) down.

This will be the section on which you will start to apply color. 

Hair all tied up neatly

Section hair into large sections and pin up.

7. Decide on how much developer to use in your mix

Follow the instructions below and you will get excellent results:

For most Ugly Duckling hair color, the correct mix is 1 part hair dye to 1 part developer.

For high lift Ugly Duckling colors, the correct mix is 1 part hair dye to 2 parts developer.

For Ugly Duckling cream-based toners, the correct mix is also 1 part toner to 2 parts developer.

For Ugly Duckling's liquid gloss toners, the correct mix is 1 part toner to 1 part developer.

And for Ugly Duckling bleaches, the mix is 1 part bleach to 2 parts developer.

Never put in more developer in order to get more lift.

All color brands including ours are formulated to work well with a certain mix ratio.

So you can by all means opt for 30 Vol or even 40 Vol if you are needing to lift.

But stick with the recommend amount of product.

8. Make Your Mix of Product and Developer.

The best way is to get your mixes right is to use kitchen scales.

This is especially true if you are a new colorist.

Place the empty bowl or applicator bottle on the scale and set to zero.

Squeeze or pour in your hair color or toner or bleach and write down how much you put down.

Then set the scale to zero once more.

Then pour in the correct amount of developer.

If it's a 1 + 1 mix you are aiming at, you will be pouring in the same amount as earlier.

If it's a 1+2 mix then you need to pour in double the amount of developer.

When making cream color or bleach mixes, use a plastic coloring bowl.

Keep stirring with a whisk or a coloring brush until the mix is a smooth, creamy paste.

When making mixes with Ugly Duckling's liquid toner Blondify, just use an applicator bottle and shake.

You will find that it is quite easy to produce a nice gel-like consistency which will pour over the hair easily.

This is what an Ugly Duckling cream color color and developer mix looks like:

Color & Developer Mix

Ugly Duckling cream color and developer mix. 

This is what a mix of Blondify liquid toner and developer looks like as it comes out of the applicator bottle:

Blondify liquid toner and developer mix

Ugly Duckling Liquid toner and developer mix

Note that it is not a good practice to add in extra developer in order to get more lift.

All professional products are formulated to work with a certain quantity of developer and you need to stick to the rules.

For more lift, you should either use a higher strength of developer, or leave in for a few extra minutes, or use bleach.

Don't vary the quantity of developer.

9. Applying the product correctly

In order to get the most vibrant color possible, you must use enough product mix and you must saturate the hair properly.

In other words, you need to make sure that the hair comes into contact with plenty of product and is literally drenched with this product.

When applying cream based color, it is a good idea to apply twice.

Once using the brush, segmenting finely, and a second time with fingers using gloves, rubbing in the product really well into the hair as you do.

For bleach applications, it is really important that the bleach mix is nice and wet, as bleaches have a habit of drying out as soon as they are applied. 

Here again, if you see that the bleach mix is drying out on the hair before it has had a chance to lift sufficiently, apply some more bleach mix.

When using liquid toner mixes, rub the mix in thoroughly with your fingers using gloves.

Applying color

It is a good idea to do a second application, rubbing in the color mix with fingers (using gloves)

10. Respect the processing time

Color processing on hair

Ugly Duckling Ruby Red processing on the hair

For most colors, the processing time is 30 minutes.

For toners, rinse off when the correct color appears (around 10-15 minutes is normal).

For high lift colors: up to 40 minutes. 

Don't over process. You won't get good results that way.

Be aware that hair at the scalp processes faster than anywhere else due to the heat of the scalp. 

You need to watch this area when going lighter.

Be prepared to rinse as soon as this area looks done, even if this is before the 30 minutes are up.

11. Emulsify

Hair Emulsification

A few drops of water, and rub once again. Only rinse after you have done this.

Before rinsing, add a little water to the color and rub at the scalp area.

Then rub well around the hairline first, then middle and nape.

This process is known as emulsification.

It helps lock in the color into the hair, and gives you really vibrant, long-lasting color results plus hair that feels full and very well conditioned.

12. How to Use & Apply Bleach 

We saw earlier that if any part of your hair needs to be lifted by more than 3 levels, you need to use bleach first.

Some hair stylists are scared of using bleach.

But the reality is that quality bleach is any hairdresser's friend.

We would suggest you use Ugly Duckling bleaches: either Brilliant Blonde or Brilliant Blondexx.

Brilliant Blonde should be your go-to bleach if you are planning to work with really dark, stubborn hair, Asian hair.

Brilliant Blondexx contains Bond Protect and has amazing protection thanks to Bond Protect, and lifts by 7 levels.

Brilliant Blondexx

Brilliant Blondexx with Bond Protect.

Whichever Ugly Duckling bleach you use, the mix is the same: 1 part bleach to 2 parts developer.

20 Vol developer for 1-3 levels lift and 30 Vol developer for more than 3 levels or stubborn hair.

Always 20 Vol developer on the root area and for second bleach applications (when you did not get enough lift the first time).

Use the scoop and weighing scales and mix with a whisk until you get a really smooth consistency.

This is what a bleach and developer mix looks like when you are working with Brilliant Blondexx:

Bleach and developer mix

Ugly Duckling Brilliant Blondexx Bleach with developer

When applying the bleach, no half-hearted steps please!

You have to really smother the hair and make the hair really moist with the mix.

Saturate it, in other words.

Otherwise you won't get the lift.

Leave the bleach on and after 15 minutes, check.

Apply some more at the 15 minute mark if there are parts of the hair which are still looking very warm and brassy.

Rinse only when you get to very very pale yellow.

As in the picture below:

Hair after bleaching should look like this

This is what the hair should look like after bleaching

13. Finish with an acidic (low pH) shampoo

Use an acidic shampoo to close off the coloring or bleaching process.

This will help close the hair cuticle, lock in the color and return the hair to its natural pH level. 

Don't assume all professional shampoo and mask is acidic  You will need to check on the label.

All Ugly Duckling shampoos are acidic and will help close the hair cuticle after coloring and bleaching as well as maintain it frizz-free.

If you are coloring blonde, use Ugly Duckling's Purple Shampoo and Mask to remove any remaining yellow in the hair.

For maintaining bleached hair or hair that is fragile, use Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blondexx Shampoo and Treatment with Bond Protect.

14. The best toners to use for lifting and going blonde

For lifting and toning, we suggest you use Ugly Duckling's permanent cream based toners:

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V

Intense Silver Blonde 100B

Pearl Blonde 10V

Silver Blonde 10B

The above toners are some of the best selling Ugly Duckling products.

They produce really excellent, consistent cold blonde results.

Use the above toners with 20 Vol after bleaching first, and you will get excellent results.


Hair by Elona Taki

15. The best toners for toning hair ash blonde without lifting the base

When you need to tone and refresh blonde highlights without touching the dark hair underneath in any way, use Blondify.

These are ammonia-free liquid gloss toners which can be used with with either 10 or 20 Vol developer.

They pare very fast acting and process in just 10 minutes.

Which means that they don't lift the base in any way.

Like all of Ugly Duckling toners, they are based on color wheel principles.

Use 010A Natural Ash Blonde toner to color correct hair which is brassy and yellow-orange.

Use 010V Natural Violet Blonde toner to color correct hair which is pure yellow.



Q: Which are Ugly Duckling Best Selling Blonding Colors & Toners?

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V

Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 100V on pre-lightened hair.

Pearl Blonde Toner 10V

Pearl Blonde Toner 10V on pre-lightened hair.

Silver Grey

Silver Grey on pre-lightened Hair

Extra Cold Ash Blonde 10.1b

Extra Cold Ash Blonde 10.1b on pre-lightened hair.

Q: Which are Ugly Duckling Best Selling Fashion Colors?

Rose Gold

Rose Gold

Intense Violet Blonde 7.22

Intense Violet Blonde 7.22/7VV

Ruby Red

Ruby Red

Rose Gold

9.23 Rosy Beige Blonde 

Pretty Pink, Rose Gold Fuschia Pink

Mix of Pretty PinkRose Gold & Fuschia Pink. Achieved on Prelightened Hair.

Violet Root & Silver

Violet & Intense Silver Blonde 


Hair by Elona Taki

Products Used:

  • Brilliant Blonde Lightener for re-growth
  • Violet with Intense Silver Blonde 100B for root area
  • Intense Silver Blonde 100B for lengths
  • 20 Vol Developer
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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