Hair Color Explained
Updated: Feb 26
When it comes to color , have you ever wondered how we go about determining how much lift we can do for your hair, why you might see warm tones, things that make your hair go brassy, etc.? If your answer is yes, read on. If no, read on anyway!
I have a lot of guests who want to color their hair and upon learning that their desired look cannot be achieved in one session, want to understand why. We talk about color formulas on the level system. We tell you that your hair is a natural level 3 or 4 or 5....etc. Level 1 would be a black; level 10 would be the lightest natural blonde. We are speaking in terms of natural tones; hair that does not have color on it. When we lift the hair, we expose natural remaining pigment or NRP. When you lift from level 1 (black) to level 5 (medium brown), you expose natural remaining pigment (NRP) which is red. When you hear brunettes say "I have natural red tones in my hair," that's their NRP. Heat can play a factor. Heat styling or being out in the sun will bring those tones out.
As you go lighter you expose other natural remaining pigments from red-orange at level 6 to pale yellow at level 10. (see chart below) A lot of blondes sometimes say their hair gets brassy. If they are living between levels 8 and 9, their NRP is yellow which shows through easily and makes them feel like it is glowing too much on the warm side. Again, heat brings those tones out.
When we are coloring hair, we determine what the end result is going to be based upon our consultation with you. We make a formula specifically for you based upon the result you are looking for and the specifics of your hair. The fun thing about Aveda color is that it is customizable down to the gram. We can cancel out the red warmth and add golden warmth to give you a rich chocolate brown. The red warmth is cancelled out by using the corresponding complimentary pigment. For example, to cancel out the red NRP we would put green in the formula.
If we are going up into the blonde levels, we expose more of the yellow-orange and yellows. If we need to cool these NRPs down, we add in violet tones. Adding blonde highlights to dark hair may take more than 1 session because there is usually color in the hair already and we have to use an enlightener because those pigments are pushed deeper into the hair. Whether the color was added at home via a box color or professionally makes a difference. A lot of box or home colors have metallic dyes which expose what is called banding leaving steps of color. We then have to even out the tone by coloring it to the darkest band that we see. That is a lot of levels of lift if you have dark hair. An example of banding is below.
Fashion colors - think of fashion colors like coloring on a piece of paper. We have to lift your hair to a pale yellow to yield the true color we are trying to reach. For example; say you have a pink marker and want to transfer that exact color from that marker onto a piece of paper. If you use white, brown and yellow paper, which paper is likely to provide a result closest to what you are trying to achieve? The white paper of course. The same is true with hair. We would have to lift your hair to a pale yellow to obtain the closest color result.
Depending upon the length and the integrity of the hair, we can sometimes get 5 or 6 levels of lift in one session. Most of the time if you are at a level 3 (medium brown) and wish to get to a level 8 (light blonde), we can bring you to a level 6 (dark blonde) or 7 (medium blonde) in one session and let your hair "rest" until the next session. There are a number of factors that have to be considered and we want our guests to understand why it sometimes not possible to obtain the desired end in one session while maintaining the health and integrity of their hair.
Hopefully this explains: - Why you might see certain tones in your hair. - Why you may need multiple sessions to achieve the desired end result.