January 01, 2012

Help With Box Hair Color

Ever wander into the color aisle at the drugstore and feel overwhelmed by all the choices?  I know I used to before I attended beauty school.  But now, I actually help people who I see perusing the colors, unsure of what to choose.

In this post, I'm going to help you decipher some of the color jargon, and really dive in to what will look the best on your hair.  Remember, these are tips, but ultimately you must decide what is best for your hair!

Semi-Permanent vs. Permanent Color

Goldwell hair color is a salon brand not found in drugstores.
  • Semi-permanent color is exactly as it sounds: semi-permanent.  This color will be truest for only about 6-8 weeks.
  • ALL SP's are deposit only color.  This means that you cannot go lighter with SP.  You can either go for your natural shade with hints of other tones (gold, copper, red, etc), or darker.
  • Permanent color is permanent until you grow it out or color over it.  You can go lighter or darker and this also comes in various tones.
So, which one should I choose then?
  • Go for SP if you're unsure of how it will turn out on your hair.  It's non-committal.  
  • Go for SP if you only want to go darker or just enrich the tones in your hair.  It's less damaging.
  • Go for P if you want to go lighter or want highlights.  
  • Go for P if you know exactly what color you want and how it will turn out.  
  • If you're still not sure, most SP's come in a corresponding P color.  So if you like the way the SP came out, go for the P!
Lightener (Bleach) and Toner
  • Lightener, or more commonly know as bleach, comes in a liquid or powder form and enables a person to lighten their hair.
  • The amount of peroxide in the developer (lotion mixed with bleach to activate it) will tell you how light you can go.  3% deposits color only.  6% will give you 1-2 levels of lift.  9% will give you 2-3 levels of lift.  12% will give you 3-4 levels of lift.  I believe that store brands only sell 6%-9%.
  • Toner is a semi-permanent color that helps tone the lightened hair to the desired color.  It comes in all various shades: red, copper, gold, violet, blue, etc.
When to Use Lightener and Toner
  • Use lightener if you're looking for highlights that are at least 2 levels lighter than your base shade.
    • For example: If my base shade is level 5 and I want some subtle caramel highlights, I will want to use a 9% developer to get at least 2 levels of lift.  Don't know what your color level is?  Click here.
  • To get my hair to that nice caramel color, I will watch the lightener as it processes and wipe off a bit when it looks to the level I want.  If it's ready, I will wash and shampoo only!
  • My toner will probably be a pretty, gold-coppery, semi-permanent color that I will apply to my lightened hair for around 20 minutes.  
  • I will then rinse and condition.  No shampoo, or you'll wash that color right out.
What Happens if I've Bleached My Hair and Now it's Orange??

  • All hair has underlying pigment.  They are the colors the hair goes through as the hair strand is lightened.
  • If you have black or dark brown hair, you will see your hair turn orange.  Gasp!  Therefore, you have two options:
    • Let the lightener sit on for longer until you see the tone you like.  But you might not get to do it in one sitting.  You might have to wash it out, wait a few days and try lightening again.  Never go longer than about 45 minutes!!
    • Use a blue toner.  Blue is opposite of orange on the color wheel and therefore counteracts the color by neutralizing it.  It will help remove that orangey color.
What Happens if I've Bleached My Hair and I Wanted a Cool Blonde and it Looks Too Gold??

  • Blonde gals don't usually see the orange stage, but they still have underlying pigment.  Their underlying pigment is gold.  And some blondes don't want that warmth.  So how to get rid of it?:
    • Use a violet toner.  Violet is opposite gold (yellow) on the color wheel and therefore counteracts the color.
    • There are also many violet shampoos out there to help keep your color cool.
How Do I Make Sense of the Color Names on the Boxes?
  • Most color names are described in "food" terms.  Caramel, honey, chocolate, etc.  They are easy to recognize and pretty universal.  
  • Any color that has the terms honey, caramel, or gold will be warm blonde.
  • Any color that has the terms copper, or bronze will be warm red.
  • Any color that has the terms chocolate, mahogany, or cocoa will be warm brown.
  • Any color that has the terms ash, or natural will be cool in all the colors.  Some naturals can be warm though, so use your eye.

So there you have it.  The basics of choosing an at home color.  Hopefully this post has helped you and won't leave you so stumped the next time you want to color your hair at home.  If you have any questions or want more specifics, email me!  Happy hair days!


Style-Delights said...

I don't color my hair, but your feature surely is very useful! Thanks for all the tips and the nicely written article!

CourtneyElizabeth said...

It's great to hear all of these terms explained by someone who is educated in the matter! There are so many myths about at-home hair color, I never know what to believe. I'm considering bleaching my ends to get an ombre effect, but now that I know about levels I'll probably go to a professional to get it done.


The Key To Chic said...

Such helpful and wise tips. I could have used this advice when I used to do my color at home. Thankfully, I now have a talented stylist who I trust. I had a mishap at home trying to go darker brown one time and that made me realize that it was worth seeing a pro :)

allen said...

nice info..that article is great to read...thanks

Anonymous said...

This is very helpful! I know a hairdresser who has been one for years and couldn't give advice this good! I am currently lightening my very dark hair and done stands to see what colour it would come out. It went a darkish/lightish colour and I panicked but you'd article helped so much!! Thanks

Anonymous said...

I was trying ombré and it turned somewhat orange and what do I do use light brown over or blonde I what

Sophie said...

I love the transition of my ombré highlights and I don't want to start over but both my roots/base color and highlights are too red/orange. Can I tone them both at the same time? I wanted a neutral to ash brown base with neutral highlights but instead I have a very light red brown base and brassy blonde both with hints of mild orange. I'm more concerned with toning my root/base color as it almost looks like hot roots or a ginger/redhead ombré which doesn't go with my olive skin color. Thanks for any advice! I really don't want to pay money at the salon!

thelovehanger said...

Yes, you will definitely want to tone. Is the color at the lightness level that you want it? If not, bleach again and then tone. But if it is at the lightness that you want, but just not the tone, then toning is your answer. If it's a reddish tone, you'll want to find a blue or ash toner. If you can't find one, then a purple toner will help but it may not get rid of all the red. Hope that helps!