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How The Hair Color Number System Works



  • Hairdressers use an international numbering system to describe the lightness of hair color in humans.
  • The color levels go from 1 Black all the way up to 10 Extra Light Blonde.
  • The most commonly occurring hair color in European hair is typically level 6 for France, and level 7 for North European countries.
  • Hispanics & Middle Eastern women typically have hair which is level 4-5.
  • Indians most commonly have hair which is level 3-4.
  • Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans) typically have hair which is level 2-3.
  • But be aware that there is a huge variety inside each race and country.
  • The first thing a hairdresser needs to do when a client sits in her chair is to establish what the true natural level of her client's hair color is.
  • Use a hair chart if necessary to physically check and assess.

Hair Color Levels


  • The hair color reflect refers to the secondary color which has been added in a permanent hair color
  • These colors are essentially enhancers.
  • This can rapidly get very confusing as there are 2 reflect systems out there.
  • In addition, every manufacturer has their own tweaks which makes life even more complicated.
  • Please realize that every manufacturer's formulation is unique.
  • Just because you love that JP Mitchell 10V it does not mean that an Ugly Duckling 10.2 ( that's what we call 10V) or a Matrix 10V is going to be the exact same thing.
  • Nevertheless, they serve at best as a guide to the manufacturer's intentions.
  • After that, you the colorist needs to try out and use different brands for the same color and find out which works best for you.
  • Also be aware that certain hair color brands are tuned warmer, others are tuned colder (JP Mitchell & L'Oreal for example are tuned warmer, more golden, whereas Ugly Duckling is tuned colder and ashier).
  • Some brands are really going for maximum grey hair coverage, others (like Ugly Duckling) are going for greater color vibrancy.


Color Reflects

  • To understand a hair color, just read the number from left to right.
  • The first number will always refer to the hair color level.
  • The numbers or letters after that refer to the reflects - there may be more than 1 reflect.
  • Below is how it is displayed on Ugly Duckling's tubes.
  • A 100 at the front means that the product has some degree of high lift built in.
  • Once again, the exact degree of high lift will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Ugly Duckling's Number System


  • An Ugly Duckling toner with booster inside will carry the number 100.
  • A no-lift Ugly Duckling toner will carry the number 10, which is the level of hair color it gives.
  • The letter V indicates Violet. A V toner is violet {purple} based - we use the terms violet and purple interchangeably.
  • The letter B indicates Blue. A B toner is blue based.
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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