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Is there a true black hair color?

Black hair is often considered one of the most classic and beautiful hair colors. When we think of black hair, we typically imagine a rich, dark shade that looks glossy and healthy. But is there really such a thing as “true” black hair, or does even the darkest hair have some undertones that affect its appearance? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind black hair, look at how different undertones can affect its look, and see if there’s really any such thing as a single, true black shade when it comes to hair color.

The Science Behind Hair Color

Hair gets its color from a pigment called melanin. Melanin comes in two forms: eumelanin which creates brown and black shades, and pheomelanin which creates red and blonde shades. The more eumelanin present, the darker your natural hair color will be. Black hair has the highest levels of eumelanin.

However, even among people with black hair, the concentration and type of melanin can vary slightly, affecting the undertones. Two types of eumelanin contribute to hair color: brown eumelanin and black eumelanin. Higher levels of black eumelanin lead to jet black shades, while higher levels of brown eumelanin will make hair appear slightly lighter and warmer.

Undertones in Black Hair

When we talk about undertones, we’re referring to hues that are beneath the surface dominant color. These secondary hues subtly affect how we perceive a color. In black hair, common undertones include:

– Cool – hints of blue, ash or silver
– Warm – hints of red, gold or caramel
– Neutral – no strong warm or cool leanings

Having a cool undertone results in a black shade that looks darker and shinier. warm undertones provide a rich black shade with hints of vibrancy. Neutral undertones strike a balance between warm and cool for a true, soft black color.

Examples of Black Hair with Different Undertones

Here are some examples of how undertones can affect black hair:

Cool Undertones:

– A blue-black shade reminiscent of a raven’s feathers. Reflects blue highlights when light hits it.

– A jet black shade with an intense, polish sheen. May take on grayish tones in certain lighting.

– An ash black shade that appears darker and deeper than warm black tones. Provides high contrast with pale skin.

Warm Undertones:

– A coffee-inspired black shade with rich, warm brown highlights when light shines on it

– An espresso black shade with vivid red hues at certain angles. Creates a chocolatey tone.

– A black shade with caramel flecks and glossiness. Lends vibrancy against lighter skin tones.

Neutral Undertones:

– A true, soft black shade reminiscent of black ink. No strong warm or cool leanings.

– A raven black shade with a velvety look. Absorbs light evenly for a solid black appearance.

– A true charcoal black shade. A neutral, balanced undertone provides subtle depth and dimension.

Achieving a True Black Hair Color

When looking for a true black shade without obvious undertones, you’ll need to find a dye formula that provides a deep, neutral black tone. Here are some tips:

  • Use an ash black semi-permanent dye if your hair currently has warm red or caramel undertones. The ash will help neutralize those tones.
  • Try a blue-black dye if you naturally have lighter brown hair with cool undertones. The blue can deepen the black color.
  • Look for permanent dyes labeled “soft black” or “neutral black” for subtle depth without strong warm or cool undertones.
  • Use a salon-quality black dye for optimal intensity. Box dyes can result in faded grayish tones.

It’s also important to maintain the true black shade by using sulfate-free shampoos and treatments that enhance black hair color. Violet-toned hair products can help preserve a cool, dark black tone.

Celebrities with True Black Hair

Many celebrities have pulled off gorgeous true black hair looks. Here are a few examples:

Celebrity Black Hair Details
Rihanna Has neutral-toned, blue-black hair for an intense raven shade.
Zendaya Wears a deep soft black tone with subtle dimension.
Kate Middleton Her black hair has neutral undertones and a smooth, glossy look.

These celebrities showcase how true, neutral-toned black can look modern yet natural. Their hair has depth without strong warm or cool undertones.

How Lighting Affects Perception of Black Hair

It’s important to note that lighting plays a big role in how black hair color is perceived. Hair can look entirely different under warm direct light vs cool natural light. What appears neutral black indoors may take on warm or cool undertones when outside.

This is why lighting is crucial for getting an accurate assessment of your hair color. Examining your shade under both warm and cool light will provide a better sense of the undertones. Photos of black hair color can also be misleading depending on the lighting and camera settings.

Does Truly Neutral Black Hair Exist?

When you examine black hair very closely under varied lighting, virtually every shade has some level of undertone visible. However, it is possible to achieve a neutral-looking black shade that appears devoid of obvious warmth or coolness. This neutral black appearance may be the closest achievable version to a true black hair color.

While no single shade of black is completely neutral from every angle and in all lighting, advanced hair dye technology allows people to get incredibly close to their desired results. So in practice, if not in absolute technicality, a true neutral black hair color does exist.


Black hair has a beautiful, alluring mystique to it. But looking closely, we see that multiple factors including undertones, lighting, and perception affect its appearance. While no hair color is 100% neutral, today’s high quality black dyes can produce shades that appear free of strong undertones. So although a single universal black hair color doesn’t technically exist, the effect of true neutral black is certainly achievable. With the right dye and styling techniques, you can maintain rich, neutral-toned black hair.