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Decoding the Boxes of Hair Color - Part 4

*Post originally written by Olivia J on The Unknown Beauty Blog. If you see this post on another site, it has been stolen!*


I know many of you just go to a drugstore or a beauty supply and just pick a color according to the swatch or color on the box.  Then, you hope and pray it will turn out the way YOU envision it to be.

First, let’s understand those boxes of color.


B, R, Y, V, Gr, O, BG, BV.  These are all the letters which represent the colors.  Brands may use different letters to represent the secondary and tertiary colors.  Example: G for Gold.  Or they will use combinations like BG for Blue/Green (Ash) or BV for Blue/Violet.

When you pick up a tube of color, especially a pro brand, you will notice a number and a letter or two letters.  The number is the level of the color and the letter(s) describe the pigment color.

But wait, say you buy your hair color at the drugstore.  Some have the number and even a fancy decimal after it but no letters.  What do you do?

Remember this? Remember it from my last post?

  • Level 1-Black = Blue (brown) 

  • Level 2-Black/Brown = Blue/Violet (brown) 

  • Level 3-Very Dark Brown = Violet (brown) 

  • Level 4-Dark Brown or Dark Redhead= Red/Violet (brown) 

  • Level 5-Medium Brown or Medium Redhead=Red (brown) 

  • Level 6-Light Brown or Light Redhead= Red/Orange (brown) 

  • Level 7-Dark Blonde = Orange (brown) 

  • Level 8-Medium Blonde = Yellow/Orange (brown) 

  • Level 9-Light Blonde = Yellow (brown) 

  • Level 10-very light blonde/white (not grey) = Yellow/White (brown)

Let’s take a couple of colors from the Garnier Olia line. 

Here are three colors in black (bluest brown).


The first one (left) is just called Black and has a number of 1.0. 
The second one is Soft Black with a number of 2.0.
The third one is Soft Blue Black at 2.1.

The first one which is Black is the darkest and the bluest (B).  At level 1 (yes the numbering system above which ranks the natural color of your hair) this is as dark and black Garnier has.

Soft Black (BV) with a number of 2.0 tells me it is a level 2 which is really a black/brown.  Violet is beginning to be added to the color, thus “softening” the shade.  Since the name just says soft black and nothing like the next color, you can say this is an "N" series or neutral; it contains all the primary pigment colors

Soft Blue Black (BV) is probably about the same as soft black but with just a touch more violet (red + blue) for those who want that tinge to show more. Is there a difference between the this and the Soft Black?  Since it is a 2.1, it tells me it will contain more violet.  I would have named the color Black Violet.


Check out Darkest Violet (V).

The color is a 3.16.  Just take a look at the “3”.  Hey, did you see the level 3 is a very dark brown or a violet (V) brown!  Since, this one says violet, it contains just a tad more of that color but is generally a very dark brown.


Now, let’s look at the level 6 colors (level 6 is the light brown/light redhead).  Three boxes at the same level but different colors.

Light Brown 6.0 tells me both by name that it is a level 6.  Just in case, the number tells you that also.  Light Ash Brown and Light Intense Auburn are in this category but all have different tones.

Anytime a name just says the darkness of the color like Light Brown or Light Blonde, it means it is neutral (N).  It contains all the primary pigments which is important for those with grey hair.

Ash colors like the Light Ash Brown contains the BG or blue green pigments to neutralize warmth (red and/or yellow).

Light Intense Auburn contains the red pigments to emphasize and turn the hair into an intense redhead.


Check out the blondes, Medium Golden Blonde and Light Blonde.

Medium Golden Blonde is at the level 8 which is a yellow/orange brown.  And, in this case the yellow/orange is emphasized since it is stating it is Golden.  Anytime a color says golden, it means more yellow or yellow/orange.

Light Blonde is at level 9 which is at the yellow level.  But notice it is just light blonde and not some golden blonde or beige blonde.  This again contains all the primary colors of Blue (B), Red (R), and Yellow (Y) making it a level 9 “brown”.  Brown is neutral (N) and is necessary if you are a blonde with greys cohabiting your head!

Okay, so let’s decode some more hair color speak.

Copper is a red orange (RO). Beige is Violet (V) or even green violet or blue violet depending on the blonde hair outcome.  Other brands may have other fancy names like Mocha (golden brown), Chocolate (red brown), Garnet (red violet).

Basically, when you buy haircolor, look at the number which will tell you the level, then look at the letters if there are any or the name and you will know what color pigments it will contain.

Hope this will help you in picking out your colors at a drugstore. 
Stay tune for more!

As always, any mention of this blog will give an independent angel its wings or a rockin' angel a cool electric guitar!

*Disclosure: I don’t claim to be some great hair guru.  I just like to explain difficult beauty stuff.
*Links provided for your convenience. I have no affiliation.*


*pictures from drugstore.com



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