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How the Shade Chart Works

The Ugly Duckling Hair Color Chart Explained


In this article, you will learn

  • How Hair Color levels work
  • How hair color reflects work
  • How levels and reflects are typically arranged to make a hair color chart.
  • How the Ugly Duckling hair color chart works.

The International Color Level System 

Hair Color Levels

Hair Color Levels Explained

First off, let's understand the how color levels work.

The color level system describes exactly the level of darkness or lightness of hair, or depth of the hair color.

Levels go from Level 1 (Black) to Level 10 (Extra Light Blonde).

  • Level 1 and 2 are 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
  • Level 10 is extra light blonde.

These are the numbers we as hairdressers should use when referring to a client's hair.

And these are also the numbers we use to describe the target hair color that you wish to achieve.

And subtracting one from the other gives you the number of levels you need to lift by (or to darken by).

What level hair color are you?

Take a second to use the hair color level system above to describe your own hair color.

There is of course a huge variability in terms of what color hair people have.

Scandinavian women can be from around 9.

Other European women (British, French) would naturally be more like a level 6 or level 7.

Indian, Hispanic hair is typically around level 3-5.

Asian hair (Chinese, Korean, Japanese) as well as African American is typically closer to a level 2.

Hair Color Reflects Explained

Now let's talk about reflects. 

These are the numbers or the letters after the hair color level.

They represent the secondary pigments we put into to a color.

At Ugly Duckling, we use the European system with numbers.

But you can use the American system too.

The 2 systems are essentially very similar and it is a good idea to understand both systems.

European System: .1 is ash, ,2 is violet, .3 is gold, .4 is copper, .5 is mahogany, .6 is red and .7 is chestnut.

American system: A is ash, V is violet, G is Gold, C is Copper, Rv is Mahogany (Red-Violet), R is Red and Dr Br is Chestnut (Dark Brown).

How does the Ugly Duckling Color system work?

In any Ugly Duckling color the hair color level will be first number reading from left to right.

So, for example, 6N or 6.13 or 6.73 are all Dark Blonde Level 6 hair colors.

After the decimal place come the reflects.

The first number after the decimal will be the primary reflect.

And the second number after the decimal will be the secondary reflect.

Let's Now Take a Practical Example

Hair Color Reflects

The hair color that you see pictured above is 6.31. It can also be written 6GA.

The color's level is 6, so it's a dark blonde.

The primary reflect is .3 or G, so it's gold.

And the secondary reflect is .1, or A, meaning ash.

So: Dark Blonde with a gold primary reflect and an ash secondary reflect.

That's a little long, so we give it a name also, Dark Beige Blonde.

But stylists would generally prefer going with the numbering system rather than using the name

But it's totally up to you. Either works.

The Ugly Duckling Shade Chart



When you bring the levels and the reflects together on a chart, it all makes sense.

Look at the first 2 panels above - these are Group One & Group Two in Ugly Duckling's color system.

Hair color levels (color depth) are measured from 1 to 10 bottom to top.

Hair color reflects (secondary color) are measured from left to right.

You can see the progression of the reflects as you go from left to right: 

Base Colors

The extra coverage colors (Extra Pigmentation for very resistant grey hair issues)

The reflects described above, going from .1 (Ash) all the way to .73

At Ugly Duckling we actually have two ash based lines: a regular ash, and a blue based ash.

Hairdressers typically appreciate the blue based ashes because they neutralizing yellow from levels 6 and up very well.

The regular ashes on the other hand are more green based are more suitable for darker bases. They will neutralize orange and red tones.

Note incidentally, that when a secondary color is repeated (for example 7.22, or 7VV) that simply means that the reflect is an extra vibrant reflect.

When there is a zero after a secondary color (for example 4.20, or 4V) it means that the secondary color is particularly intense. 


Now we get to Group three: the third panel above. 

This page is for high lifts, toners, additives and all types of fashion colors.

Here we no longer have regular numbering system.

We don't therefore use color depth any more, we only group by type of coloring product.

Going from left to right, the first group is high lift color, then toners & additives, then greys, then different fashion colors.

Rainbow Color (the last column) is a direct color range.

The rest of the fashion colors are permanent hair colors.


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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