Hair color is so much more than just a shade. Tone is just as important as the hue itself when it comes to selecting the right look. The warmth or coolness of a shade makes a huge difference in the overall effect—and it’s important that you’re able to convey this to your hairstylist when describing the look you want. Being able to communicate not only the shade you’re hoping to achieve but also the level and tone you want can make all the difference in how you feel walking out of the salon.
Here, we’ve put together all the info you need to talk about tone like a pro!
What Are Hair Levels?
The first thing to know when talking about hair color and tone is the system of levels stylists use to describe how dark or light the hair is. Levels range from 1 to 10, with 1 being the darkest shade of black and 10 being the lightest possible blonde. Generally speaking, most hairstylists agree that level 6 is the lightest brunette and level 7 is the darkest blonde.
It’s important to know the different hair levels so you can accurately explain to your stylist the look you’re hoping to achieve. After all, “dark brunette” can mean different things to different people, but “level 5” is universal.
Where Does Tone Come In?
If the level of your hair is the base shade, tone is the finish. Tone describes the degree of warmth or coolness in the hair. Do you want a golden, buttery blonde or rich, chocolatey brunette? Those are both warm tones, whereas icy platinum and mushroom brown both describe cooler hues.
There are five main tones when it comes to hair color:
- Ash: This is the coolest tone, with no hints of red or gold whatsoever.
- Neutral: This is a balanced tone, with equal parts coolness and warmth.
- Beige: Also known as “champagne,” this tone is almost balanced but can become slightly warm or cool, depending on the base color.
- Gold: This is a warm tone, with a significant amount of red and gold.
- Red: The warmest tone, red hair is both a hue and a tone.
So, if you want a cool, completely red- and gold-free brunette without a hint of brassiness, use terms like “ashy” and “cool-toned” to convey this to your stylist. Or, if you’re looking for a rich, summery balayage, describing your ideal look as “warm,” “gold,” or even “neutral” (if you want a little less warmth) will help you stylist know exactly what you’re looking for.
Tone Isn’t Just for Traditional Hair Colors
While tone is often used to describe traditional blondes and brunettes, it’s important to consider tone if you’re asking your stylist for a bright hue, too. Even colors like pink and purple, which already have red in them, can be warm, cool, or neutral. The same goes for blues and greens, which naturally lack red tones.
Whether you want a silvery blue look, bubblegum pink strands, or a golden copper shade, describing both the hue and the tone to your stylist can help them create the right formula and make sure you leave the salon happy.
Caring for Your Color
Caring for your hair color at home is crucial. Not only does it help preserve your color, but it can also keep the tone of your hair intact. A traditional purple shampoo, like Redken’s Color Extend Blondage Color Depositing Purple Shampoo, helps nix unwanted warm tones and keep blondes neutral or cool in a surprisingly simple way. On a traditional color wheel, colors that are opposite one another will balance each other out. Because yellow and purple are color-wheel opposites, purple shampoo helps balance unwanted yellow and gold tones, thereby effectively removing warmth and keeping blondes cool and ashy. To really keep warmth under control, use with a weekly hair mask, like Color Extend Blondage Express Anti-Brass Mask, which is formulated to work like a toner, effectively depositing purple pigment to neutralize warm yellows and golds.
While purple shampoo has long been the standard for keeping blondes cool, brunettes have, traditionally, had fewer options when it comes to caring for their color at home. But now, with Redken’s Color Extend Brownlights Shampoo and Conditioner, you can maintain cool, ashy, or mushroom brown at home. And, for those rocking their grays (whether natural or man-made), Redken’s Color Extend Graydiant Shampoo and Conditioner help eliminate harsh yellow undertones and deposit violet and silver pigments while also working to keep hair soft and manageable.