Hair color codes are used by hair color manufacturers and stylists to identify and mix different shades of hair dye. The codes help standardize hair color names across different brands. Each code refers to a specific combination of hair color levels and tones. Understanding the meaning behind the codes can help you select your ideal shade.
Hair Color Level System
The basic hair color level system classifies shades from lightest to darkest on a scale of 1 to 10:
|Level 2||Darkest Brown|
|Level 3||Dark Brown|
|Level 4||Medium Brown|
|Level 5||Light Brown|
|Level 6||Dark Blonde|
|Level 7||Medium Blonde|
|Level 8||Light Blonde|
|Level 9||Very Light Blonde|
|Level 10||Lightest Blonde|
Levels 1-3 are dark brunette shades, 4-5 are medium and light brown, 6-8 are progressively lighter blonde shades, and 9-10 are lightest blonde. Most natural hair colors fall between levels 4 and 7.
Hair Color Tone System
The tone refers to the undertone of the hair color. Tone letters are combined with level numbers in codes:
– N = Neutral or natural tone
– G = Gold or golden tone
– A = Ash or ashy cool tone
– B = Beige tone
– V = Violet tone
– RV = Red-violet tone
– R = Red tone
– OR = Orange-red tone
– O = Orange tone
– Y = Yellow tone
For example, a level 6 color with a gold tone would be 6G. An ash blonde shade would be 8A or 9A. Adding a tone helps further customize the shade.
Examples of Common Hair Color Codes
Here are some examples of popular hair color levels and tones:
– 1N – Ebony black
– 2N – Darkest brown black
– 3A – Dark cool brown
– 4RV – Medium reddish brown
– 5G – Medium golden brown
– 6N – Dark brown blonde
– 7A – Light ash blonde
– 7G – Light golden blonde
– 8V – Medium violet blonde
– 9N – Very light neutral blonde
– 10B – Lightest beige blonde
Decoding Hair Color Brand Names
Many hair color brands use their own naming systems but the codes allow you to decode the shades:
– L’Oreal Excellence Crème: 9.5A would be a very light ash blonde.
– Revlon Colorsilk: 50 Medium Ash Brown decodes to a level 5 ash brown.
– Clairol Natural Instincts: 2N Black Pearl is a level 2 natural black.
– Garnier Nutrisse: 61 Light Ash Blonde is around a level 6-7 light ash blonde.
Some brands may further specify tones, like adding the word “cool” or “warm.” But the basic level and tone letter provide the main shade meaning.
How Codes Help Hairstylists
Hair color codes allow stylists to consistently determine, mix and communicate shades across product brands. Stylists can use the codes to:
– Accurately assess a client’s natural hair color and desired shade.
– Look up and prepare a formula mixing different developers and dye.
– Explain color options using precise terminology based on levels and tones.
– Document a client’s color history and needs in their file.
This eliminates confusion and helps achieve the client’s color goals.
Using Codes to Choose Your Best Hair Color
When selecting a new hair color, it helps to use the level and tone codes to find your most flattering shade. Follow these tips:
– Determine your natural level by examining your roots in good lighting. This provides a base to select shades that will cover well and look natural.
– Consider your skin’s undertones. Cooler skin looks best in ash and neutral shades, while warmer skin is complemented by gold and beige tones.
– Look for codes closest to your natural level to minimize regrowth. For a subtle change, go 1-2 levels lighter or darker. Bolder changes can go 3-4 levels up or down.
– Stylists recommend staying in neighboring tones to avoid brassiness. For example, go from neutral to ash, not neutral to gold.
– Lightening more than 3 levels requires bleaching and risks damage. Tone within your natural level if you have dry or fragile hair.
– Boost shine and depth with darker lowlights around 2-3 levels below your main color. Lighter highlights can be up to 4 levels above.
Decoding Hair Color Codes is Empowering
Learning the universal hair color level and tone coding system allows you to accurately communicate your needs to your stylist. You can walk into any salon and use the codes to describe your ideal shade. The codes also help you shop for home hair color while understanding the finished results. With the secret decoder, you can choose stunning hair colors with confidence.