How to Use a Hair Color Chart

Hairstyle for Round Face Shape

Hairstyle for Round Face Shape

Your Fool-Proof Guide to Getting the Hair Color You Want!

You go to the drug store and pick out the box of dye that has the model with the most gorgeous auburn hair. You glop the dye onto your pale blonde mane and shampoo, turning your bathtub into a red hot mess. Gazing in the mirror you find that your hair is more like Bozo the clown than Debra Messing. What went wrong?

Unfortunately, there’s more to coloring hair than picking a gorgeous model on a box. A hair color chart is a useful tool when selecting your future hair color. Next time you’re coloring your hair, rely on the help of a professional hair stylist and a swatch book to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the mirror during your big reveal.

swatch book for haircolor inspiration

Select a Hair Color That’s Right for You

Just because a color is gorgeous on a swatch doesn’t mean that it will be flattering for your skin tone. Knowing and understanding your skin tone will help you determine what colors will be right for you. You can figure out whether you skin is cool, warm, or neutral by looking at the inside of your wrist. If the veins on your arm are blue or violet, then you have a cool skin tone. If the veins are green, then your skin tone is warm. If blues or greens aren’t prominent, then your tone is neutral.

Beyonce caramel highlights

Cool tones look great with cooler hair colors which include anything with blue (also known as ash) or violet. Warmer tones are paired best with warm colors that have red, orange, or yellow in them. Neutral skin looks good with both warm and cool tones.The colors on a hair color chart are designated with letters that indicate the tones that are in them. For example, RV, stands for Red Violet; N stands for Neutral, and Y is Yellow The number represents the depth or lightness of the color; 10 being platinum blonde and 1 is black. The following are examples of hair color formulas available on a hair color chart:

1A: Darkest Ash; Black

5N: Medium Neutral; Chocolate Brown

8RO: Light Red Orange; Copper

Keep in mind that color lines (like Redken, Wella, and Paul Mitchell, to name a few) differ slightly, meaning a 5R (Medium Red; Auburn) can be darker or more vibrant depending on the brand. This is where your stylist’s professional opinion and experience can be helpful.

platinum blonde hair color

Know the Chemistry of Hair Color

When you look at a swatch book, it’s important to remember that the end result is dependent on your original color and what colors you’ve used in the past. Back to the pale blonde that turned into Bozo the clown. You would think that your hair would always turn the same color as the box promises. Unfortunately, hair color is more of a process. As professionals know, when you put red on light blonde, without mixing in a neutral, the color will turn…well…clownish. In the same way, if you put a dark brown color on blonde, the results will be a head of muddy green hair. So the next time you choose a gorgeous caramel swatch from the hair color chart, remember that your stylist is probably mixing two or more different color formulas together to achieve those J.Lo highlights.

Remember that Getting the Right Hair Color Can be a Process!

Any good hair colorist will tell you that she can’t turn black hair into platinum blonde in one sitting. If she tries, you may walk out with a chemical haircut, a.k.a. hairstylist lingo for frying your hair off. If you want to do an extreme change in hair color, keep in mind that for the best results, it may take two to four visits to the salon. It may be a tedious process, but ultimately, you’ll be much happier with the end result, and your hair will be healthier.

vibrant red violet hair color

Knowing more about the hair coloring process will help you avoid disappointment and unrealistic expectations. It also helps you select a color that’s achievable and flattering for you. So next time you get the impulse to try to go from Angelina Jolie to Jennifer Aniston with the help of a box from the drug store, think twice. Instead, by visiting a salon and discussing options from a color chart, you avoid unpleasant surprises.

Hairstyle Blog contributing author Lindsay Hausch
Contributing author Lindsay Hausch has provided clients with professional cutting edge color and cutting techniques at exclusive Paul Mitchell and Bumble and Bumble Signature Salons for the past seven years. She co-founded Sedona Beauty Team, which represents a team of artists that offer luxury, on-location beauty services. She enjoys writing articles that share her expertise. You can follow Lindsay on Twitter and FaceBook.