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Apr 18, 2004
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Credit to: http://styles101.homestead.com/haircolor2.html

So you've finally decided to color your hair after seeing how great your friends' color looks on her. So you rush to the store, buy that exact color and do it yourself at home. Come to find out, the color looks all wrong on you and you hate it. I can't tell you how many times this happened to me before I went to Cosmetology school. You ask yourself "why did this happen". Here's why...

When you're choosing a hair color, it's not as simple as picking up a box and getting that exact color match. Many elements factor in when coloring your hair:

Your Skin tones, eye color, hair color play a big role in which color will look great on you. You need to first determine whether you fall into the warm or cool category.

Cool Category:

If your Eyes are:

Deep brown or black-brown

Gray blue or dark blue

Hazel with white, gray or blue flecks

Skin Tone:

Very dark brown

True olive (most Asians and Latinos)

Medium with no color in cheeks

Medium with faint pink cheeks

Medium with golden undertones

Pale with no color in cheeks

Pale with pink undertones

Brown or bronze when I tan


Blue black

Deepest coffee brown

Medium ash brown

Medium golden brown

Dishwater blond

Salt and pepper


If you were two or more of these, then you fall into the cool category. Naturally cool people should avoid gold, yellow, red and bronze tones in hair color. These warm tones have a tendency to make you look sallow and drawn. The best shades, depending on your skin tone, are shiny raven-wing blacks, cool ash browns, cool blondes in shades ranging from mink to platinum and icy white. You're also fortunate enough to be able to wear many exciting "unnatural" colors like lipstick reds, burgundies, and orchids, purples

Warm Category:

If your Eyes are:

Golden brown

Green, green blue or turquoise

Hazel with gold or brown flecks

Skin Tone:

Brown with pink undertone

Brown with golden undertone

Pale with peach or gold undertones




Deep brown with gold or red highlights


Strawberry blond

Gray with a yellow cast

Natural golden blonde

If you were two or more of these, then you fall into the warm category. You should avoid blue, violet, white and jet-black hair, ash based colors which will seem to "wash out" your natural high color. Depending on your skin tone and your preference, you'll find dark, warm browns, rich golden browns and auburn, warm gold and red highlights, and golden blond shades look best on you. Highlighting is a great way to add warm tones to your hair.

Now that you know whether you need a cool or warm tone and you understand tones and levels, you're ready for the next step. Understanding the natural pigment in your hair and adding artificial pigment(color product). This is where the color wheel comes into play.(Scroll down to see Color Diagram)

Complimentary colors are colors opposite on the color wheel. Red-Green, Blue-Orange etc. What does this mean to you? Well, if you if you have golden blond hair, your hair tone is either red, orange, or yellow warm tones. So if you put a cool colored tone on like ash. You're hair is most likely to turn green.

Look at the wheel. Let's say you have yellow under tones to your hair, and you want to cool it to an ash. You decide blue undertone ash toner will do, since it is a cool undertone. Well, by doing this you'll end up with green hair! As you can see, on the wheel that blue and yellow make green. If you want to cancel out whatever undertone you have, you should use the opposite color on the wheel.

Tones & Levels

Another key factor is understanding tones and levels on color boxes. Tone refers to whether a color is warm or cool. The warm (golden) colors are red, orange and yellow. You may have noticed on some hair color boxes, there are references to "medium warm brown" or "natural golden blonde". This means the undertone of the color is warm - either red, orange, or yellow. These can be used to give hair a warmer look.

The cool (ash) colors are blue, green, and violet/purple (same thing). When the hair color names refer to "dark ash blonde" and so forth, it means they have a green, blue, or purple undertone. These you should be careful with. If you put a green or blue undertone color on a warm color (especially a gold/yellow color) hair, you will come out with green.

Levels refer to the degree of lightness or darkness of a color with 1 being the lowest (black) and 12 being the highest (lightest blonde).

Tones on color boxes:

G- Golden tone

N- Neutral

R- Red

R-O- Red/Orange

R-V- Red Violet

V- Violet

A- Ash

B- Blue

In other words, if you have brown hair with red highlights and you can't stand the red, then you would use the opposite color on the wheel to neutralize the red. In this case, the neutralizing color would be green (ash).

Apr 14, 2004
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Very helpful Smartstyle. Since you're helping us out here, may I use this piece for our next newsletter?

Apr 18, 2004
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Originally Posted by Kage_sCupotea Very helpful Smartstyle. Since you're helping us out here, may I use this piece for our next newsletter?
Sure thing

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