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What number is black hair?

Black hair color is often represented by the number 1 or 2 on hair color charts. However, the numbering system for hair color can vary between different brands and systems. Ultimately, there is no one universal number assigned to black hair dye. The hair color level system uses numbers ranging from 1 (black) to 10 (lightest blonde) to classify shades from darkest to lightest. In this system, level 1 is pure black and level 2 is dark brown or “off-black” that may appear black unless seen in sunlight. Most permanent and demi-permanent black hair dyes are level 1 or 2.

The Hair Color Level System

Here is an overview of the typical hair color level system:

Level Hair Color
1 Black
2 Dark brown (off-black)
3 Dark brown
4 Medium brown
5 Light brown
6 Dark blonde
7 Medium blonde
8 Light blonde
9 Very light blonde
10 Lightest blonde

As you can see, level 1 corresponds to pure black hair, while level 2 is almost black but with subtle dark brown tones. Most permanent and demi-permanent black hair dyes are formulated to achieve a level 1 or 2 color.

Why There Is No Universal Number for Black Hair Dye

While black hair color is typically level 1 or 2, there is no one standardized numbering system used by all hair color brands. For example:

  • Clairol numbers their permanent black shades 1N and 2N
  • L’Oreal Paris uses numbers 1 and 2 for their black shades
  • Schwarzkopf assigns numbers like “Jet Black 1” and “Black Brown 3” to their black dye shades
  • Manic Panic uses descriptive names like “Raven” and “Midnight Dream” rather than numbers for their black semi-permanent shades

As you can see, brands may use different numbers, names, or combinations of numbers and names to denote black hair dye shades. The numbering is not consistent across all brands.

There are a few reasons why there is no universal number used by all companies for black hair color:

  • Brands develop their own proprietary numbering systems and shade names to market their products.
  • Hair color formulas vary between brands, so shades that appear similar may have slightly different chemical compositions.
  • Regulations differ globally, so numbering systems used in one country may not be applicable worldwide.
  • No standards body regulates universal hair color numbers across all companies in the industry.

For these reasons, each brand uses their own system rather than following one universal standard. So while black hair dye is typically level 1 or 2, the actual number printed on the box could vary.

Does the Number Really Matter?

While black hair dye doesn’t have a universal number, the specific number used by a brand is not generally that important. Here’s why:

  • The numbering system is primarily for internal use by the company to identify shades.
  • The name and swatch on the box better represent the actual color result.
  • Levels 1 and 2 are so dark that the difference is hard to detect once applied.
  • Many brands offer an off-black shade for those seeking a very subtle dark brown tint.

Rather than focusing on the number, choose a black shade based on reviews, swatches, and your hair’s current color and condition. Numbers provide some guidance, but the name and look of the shade will give you the best sense of how it will actually look when applied.

If you want jet black hair with a bit of dimension, a level 1 permanent dye is a good option. For a natural off-black with barely detectable brown undertones, you may prefer a demi-permanent level 2 black shade. But the brand, formula, and your hair’s base color and porosity will also impact the final results.

How to Choose the Best Black Hair Dye

To find the perfect black hair color for you, consider the following factors:

  • Hair type and condition – Damaged or porous hair absorbs more dye, resulting in darker color. Healthier hair may need a richer formula for maximum coverage.
  • Current hair color – If transitioning from light brown to black, pre-lightening may be required first for an even result.
  • Desired shade – Jet black, off-black, or semi-permanent black – determine how dark and cool-toned you want the color.
  • Permanent vs. semi-permanent – Permanent and demi-permanent dyes last longer but cause more damage than semi-permanent options.
  • Reviews and swatches – Check reviews and shade swatches to see real results on similar hair types.

In addition to these factors, it’s always best to do an allergy test before dyeing your full head. And perform regular conditioning treatments to keep dyed black hair looking healthy, shiny, and vibrant.

How to Maintain Dyed Black Hair

Black hair dye has a tendency to fade faster than lighter colors. Here are some tips to make it last longer:

  • Wash less frequently, using a sulfate-free shampoo to minimize stripping of color.
  • Use a color-protecting or color-depositing shampoo or conditioner.
  • Limit use of hot tools like blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons.
  • Rinse with cool water and avoid prolonged exposure to chlorine and saltwater.
  • Use a deep conditioning hair mask weekly to boost moisture.
  • Trim regularly to remove dry, damaged ends.
  • Avoid over-washing and over-brushing.
  • Refresh color by re-dyeing roots every 4-6 weeks.

With proper maintenance and touch-ups, your rich black hair color can last for months. Just be gentle, use color-safe products, and enhance shine through deep conditioning.

Is Black Hair Dye Damaging?

All hair dye can damage hair to some degree. However, black dye in particular can be drying due to:

  • Multiple applications needed for full saturation on lighter hair.
  • Use of peroxide to pre-lighten hair before dyeing.
  • Warm, dark pigments that can over-process and dehydrate hair.

To minimize damage when dyeing black:

  • Opt for a demi-permanent or semi-permanent dye.
  • Use protein-enriched conditioning treatments.
  • Look for dyes labeled “damage-free” or “conditioning.”
  • Avoid overlapping dye on already saturated sections.
  • Dye less frequently, stretching applications to 6-8 weeks.
  • Use a moisturizing deep conditioner weekly.
  • Protect hair from heat styling and environmental damage between salon visits.

While black dye has risks, taking proper precautions and maintaining hair health can let you enjoy rich, dimensional black locks with minimal damage.


While there is no universal numbering system used by all hair color brands, black dye is typically classified as a level 1 or 2. The specific number printed on the box is not as important as the actual color result. When selecting a black shade, consider your hair’s current color and condition, the depth of black desired, and permanent vs semi-permanent options. Maintain dyed black hair with color-safe shampoos, conditioning treatments, and protective styling to keep it looking its best.