February 13, 2011

The “Level System” in Hair Color = Simple to Understand - Universal in Nature - a Must for Home Hair Coloring Success

Recent influx of emails, Posts in Group, Comments on Blog & questions with orders in Store . . . Have shaken me & reminded me to “review thy basics”.
Seems its time to review the Level System of Hair Color, the universal system: Colorists,Cosmetologists, Hair Color manufacturers, Stylists, use to calculate the hair color formula you should use. All of you new to Killerstrands trinity of web sites… please learn this method of categorizing hair color numerically in relation to depth of color and lifting capabilities. All hair color manufacturers use the LEVEL SYSTEM as a way of standardizing hair color charts and numbering color bottles and/or tubes. I have written about the subject many times throughout this Blog. I encourage you to read every post on the subject if you are new to Killerstrands and interested in Hair color education. The posts are not long and I try very hard to teach as simple as possible. You must speak in “levels” when asking questions, making comments, or helping out within the group. It simply doesn’t work if the comment is “ I have medium brown hair”…. that could be one of 6 colors, so learning the Levels is the beginning of learning the System known as the Level System which is the basis for all good hair color formulating. The LEVEL SYSTEM ranks hair color from Level 1 – being Black – and level 12 being the lightest blond possible ( just before ‘white’).
00001 level  system chart 001 This chart is a rather old chart about the level System, so it shows the ranking has been around for a while. Once you get the 1 through 12 levels down, it is then time to move onto the Tones. . . as you see in the above chart  - - years ago - -  they called tonal categories “Shades”.
This chart is a bit out-of-date. . .today in your color lines you will not find different tones in level 1 through 4 . . . why? Those colors {once you go below a level 5} are normally so dark you simply cannot ‘see’ any tones. Mainly what people want to do if they have hair that dark? ? ? Is to: cover their gray. Which takes a neutral . . or what I like to call a double Neutral ( 66/0, 77/0, 33/0, etc…) which just about every line carries now-a-days. If you have resistant gray, or a large percentage of gray ( over 25-35% Gray) I would highly suggest using the double Neutrals as your base . . . then mixing in a tonal choice with it for the best and most effective way to cover gray.
One of the problems you will face when coloring your hair is that most swatch charts display color selections on ‘white’ hair swatches. So right off the bat the color you are looking at is deceiving, it falsely leads colorists to believe that the color shown is the color they will achieve.
I want you to understand that those swatch charts don’t take into consideration the pigment contributed from the natural hair (DURP)  that will remain during the lifting cycle.
The percentage of “lift” in any color is directly related to its ammonia content and the VOLUME of the Developer used.
The percentage of deposit is directly related to the dye content in the tube of color, which is also known as pigment weight. The more dye molecules in the tube, the more depositing capabilities the color has.
Here is an older chart that displays the DURP ( dominant – underlying – remaining  -- pigment ) contribution left in the hair at various levels during the lifting process.
 0003 level system chart 0333
Primary, Secondary and tertiary colors can be found at any level of natural hair color ( see above). DURP is the color that is left in the hair AFTER the lifting process takes place. Knowing the colors that will appear at a given level of color makes sure you will choose the proper base color formulation to either neutralize of enhance the desired color. There are just so many factors that go into knowing this, and remember all you have to learn is your OWN HAIR, so that is a fairly easy task. As professional Hair Colorists, we must know every single hair color/texture and type  - - out there . . .  which is why it is hard to find a good Colorist.  It is not an easy job, it takes a lot of education, a lot of training and a LOT of experience to understand a wide variety of hair types so that you are excellent with every hair type that sits their butt in your chair.
The percentage of lift in all hair color is related to the ammonia content. (if not ammonia then a chemical that is a substitute for ammonia yet, does the exact same thing). I have discovered after doing well over 10,000 heads of hair, that when it really comes down to what people want with their hair color ( people that can have anything in the world…)……they really just want the proper color hair in the healthiest manner. I looked into “Organic Hair Color Systems” many years ago – and after using it for 2 months, I ended up with brassy blondes and just the wrong tones on all my Level 7 to level 12 heads of hair. I just could not live with – nor could my clients. I had never had a problem with that NOR a problem with unhealthy hair ‘AFTER’ coloring. So I just did a complete 180 and went back to the hair color ( Wella, Renbow ) I had used from Day 1 and everyone was happy again. So for those of you with questions about that, I tried – and discovered what people want is properly colored hair that is Healthy when finished.
Lets try to understand what Hydrogen Peroxide does to hair color. As it is important in the process. . . The action of depositing hair color molecules into the cortex of the hair shaft - - - is partly triggered by oxidation - - - which is achieved by the addition of Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) - - TO, the color. The color molecule in permanent hair color is just too large to penetrate the cuticle of the hair shaft - - - without first altering its structure with Hydrogen Peroxide. Without that peroxide the color will only stain the outside of the hair - -  its really a great concept to understand if you want to understand the hair coloring process.
After the peroxide ( developer) is added to the color, it begins to oxidize or lose an oxygen molecule.This creates HEAT  - - in and on the hair shaft, which expands the cuticle layer so that the color or dye molecules can penetrate.
Once the developer is completely oxidized, it turns into ‘water’ ad its chemical action stops The color molecules return to their original size and become part of the structure of the cortex of the hair. Then the cuticle closes - - trapping the color molecules ‘INSIDE’ !   The Color process is complete.
          killer tip 01                                                                                                                       The reason for the importance I stress in knowing the Level System ?? Saying, “I have dark brown hair and want to put light brown slices in my hair….does NOT FLY! !!  . . .because there are about 4-5 levels that could be misconstrued for what “Light Brown” hair is & 4-5 for what dark brown hair color is. A requirement for being a group member is knowing and understanding the Level System - - so just give it a go.
The Level System . . . is truly a GODSEND when it comes to hair color. Talking about it, calculating the next formula , , , just a multitude of problems are solved by having this ‘system” put in place and having a guide that is universal.
Level system
So everyone PLEASE take 10 minutes, study the chart and swatches . . . what you always need to know is:
  • what Level/{Tone} your VIRGIN hair is???  (your hair with ZERO color) Then,
  • what Level/{Tone} your hair color is now??  .Then many times the reason this System is referred to is……. you are trying to calculate your  NEXT hair color formula . So the 3rd question would be:
  • What Level/Tone do you DESIRE your hair color to be?                                                                                                
Of course,there are a number of other small rules that all must be paid attention to once you have the Level System down. The main point I want you to know is that there is a solid… successful… system of hair color called the LEVEL SYSTEM.. That contrary to what many think, it is NOT A GUESSING Game. Not at all. It is an actual chemical calculation that once 10 questions are answered, you input the Levels in answers to the questions ( which by-the-way are ALL taught throughout this BLOG ), and POOF you have your answers to your DESIRED Haircolor.
I’m going to pick the one rule that most need to try to understand as it makes the biggest difference in trying to change your hair color……..IF YOU HAVE OLD HAIRCOLOR ON YOUR HAIR PRESENTLY, it completely changes the Rules of the Level System. If you have “virgin” hair ( no color at all) you have the most flexibility  - -  the widest range of what you can do. Lying about it doesn’t help either. . .( believe it or not a lot of people do!). What they make is a product called VANISH,  http://killerstrands.myshopify.com/products/vanish-color-remover]
In our store which actually reverses the way the hair color went into your hair. It does not use Bleach . . . it does not use peroxide – it is the most gentle hair color remover on Planet Earth. Yes, it takes a lot of time to execute properly - but if you think about what it does . . . it is nothing short of a miracle. So please don’t doubt it…………it will be the beginning  of a new head of hair for you.

Here is a common example of what many of you write in …. asking our help with…you should get a better idea of hair color and “lifting” from this example.
The person’s DESIRED hair color is a LEVEL 7
The person’s VIRGIN  hair color is a LEVEL 4
Subtract the VIRGIN Level from the DESIRED Level
Add the difference to the DESIRED color level. This will give you the proper Hair Color LEVEL to use, to achieve the DESIRED results.. { remember this is on UNCOLORED HAIR, so the results and entire operation works easily – it all changes once you color that hair once}
DESIRED LEVEL OF COLOR………………………….………. Level 7
NATURAL LEVEL OF COLOR  (subtract)……………………….Level 4
DIFFERENCE …………………………………………….       -- 3 Levels

DESIRED Level of Color………………………………………    Level 7
DIFFERENCE (add) …………………………………………  + 3 Levels
Level To Use …………………………………………..  – Level 10 Blond
Using a Level 10 color with a BLUE base would be perfect. . .  and if there is a lot of strong DURP, I want to begin educating you on using the straight pigments we carry in the store. They are by Paul Mitchell and work exceptionally when the DURP is strong.There is a BLUE pigment that would work perfectly in this picture..

Hope this Post has educated many of you in the basics of the Level System, if it isn’t quite clear, my best suggestion is to keep reading the many posts over and over….I didn’t learn this until I was in my late 30’s so it is possible for people of all ages to understand – repetition is the best method to make it clear.
35 comments on "The “Level System” in Hair Color = Simple to Understand - Universal in Nature - a Must for Home Hair Coloring Success"
  1. Great Information! It is always good to learn from different colorists. One platform artist mentioned adding the natural level plus the desired level. Ex. Natural level 4 plus Desired level 7 equals choosing a level 11 haircolor. Your method sounds even better! Also, I wondered about the Vanish product! I will be checking it out! Thanks!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. To that last post, please re-post for me. I clicked the wrong thing and deleted the whole 9 yards....So sorry. KC

  4. can i use color oops?

  5. From well over 500 people who have come to me in tears....................never EVER use that product.

    VANISH, is the perfect answer , does not damage hair.

  6. I have a base colour that is ash, about level 7-8 and wanted to go blonder. I tried Koleston Perfect Level 12 in violet Pearl and ended up pale apricot in electric light (the ends were gorgeous in any light)! A hairdresser gave me highlights to blend it, but it's only after using a violet shampoo/conditioner for months that it is looking any better, but now my roots have come in! Aargh! What do you suggest?

  7. I am a level 3 and would like to be a level 9. Is that possible to do?

    1. This is not achievable with hair color. You would need a double process.

    2. Just out of curiosity what does a double process involve for this person who wants to go lighter? Are we talking bleach here?

  8. Do a search on this Blog ....up in the top left hand corner....for "VANISH, hair color removal". That will give you 5-6 posts to read about how you must remove dark hair color before you can go lighter...the technology does not exist to do it any other way.
    Also read about the shampoo train, you may combine both, remove your present dark color and only THEN can you go lighter.

    If you are serious about learning how to go about this we are training Crib Colorists in our Yahoo Group:

    please join our group


  9. How do you decide the developer strengths when using the formula for color choice? For example: natural 2, desired 6, use 10 at 20 volume or 30 volume or even 40 volume?

    1. If you want to lift more than three levels -In this case four- you need to bleach.

    2. Why couldn't this person use a 40 volume developer to get around those 3/4 lifts of colour. Is 40 volume more damaging than bleach?

  10. What does use 10 at 20 mean?

    I would love life if it was that easy , I truly would.
    Its just not that simple and you need a MINIMUM of 14 questions asked and answered to get hair color correct.
    Like what if she has bleach underneath that Level 2?
    If she did and you tried to go to Level 6 you would end up with lots of hair on the floor!
    You NEVER EVER want that to happen in your career. That news will travel so fast, u might as well start looking for another job.
    I'm trying to make a point.
    Read this Blog from beginning to end.
    Its FREE and its education from Sassoon Academy which is the best in the world. You cannot lose by doing that.

    Clients have a tendency to lie, I know, because I use to before my life in the hair world and I would bust people all the time!
    Then I learned that they can tell almost everything you've done....at least the good ones could.


  11. I am a natural 3; currently a 9; and I want to be a 6, then do I need a 3 to recolor my hair?

  12. NO.
    Wanted to catch you as it doesn't work that way when going darker on lighter hair.
    Its hard we try to come up with "Rules" and "sayings" that you will understand and can refer to while coloring hair, because....there are so many "exceptions to the rule"
    We try tho.

    You would need to "fill" the hair,
    then re-color.
    Applying a Level 3 will end up in a muddy mess, I'm afraid


  13. I'm a level 1 and want to be a level 4, now what do I need yo do. Can I go to Sally and purchase these products? What do I look for?

  14. Personally I would never go to Sally's for anything having to do with hair color over the last 7 years, this Blog is filled with people who have gone there and ended up with their hair destroyed by improper instructions and products. Run for the hills before you go there !
    My best advice is to join the group that is one of the hardest hair colorings to accomplish correctly, its worth the money to have it done professionally.

  15. Hello there. I have a few questions. My friend is a level 1 all virgin hair. She wants a level 4,in red I used the examples from above and ended with the result of using a level 7 what does this mean? and for developer would it be 30 volume ?

  16. I would like to take a virgin level 2 up to a level 8 for a high intensity dip dye. How can i do this without multiple treatments.

    1. You would need a hair decolorizer (bleach) and a 40 volume developer.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. What tone colour is 0/88 plz

  19. Which line of color are you speaking about? Its a booster ONLY, they are made to add to hair color to give it extra color to fight DURP.

  20. My hair is naturally Dark Brown, I've dyed my hair black then bleached it to add red. Done tht maybe 4 times, its now a faded red and I want to go ash brown. Wht steps should I take ?

  21. Oh, my dear that is just something I would never do. Bleach is not a color remover it is a hair lightener. You are misusing products, which will surely end in damage for your hair.

    I would encourage you to do some reading on the Blog.


  22. hi there! So i colored my hair silver but the color is currently fading away. How do i restore it back to a bold silvery color?

  23. Use our BOOST & BURST in SILVER BULLET....its a wonderful silver hair color restorer, we hear nothing but compliments about it.


    Shampoo -- then leave in for 2- 5 minutes and Condition using the same timing. After the first test run you will be able to determine the timing you will want to use all the time !



  24. This advice is very different to what is commonly thought. Desired level 7, Customer's Virgin Hair Color 4. Solution. Apply 7 (always apply the desired hair color, otherwise what's the point). But because this is a 3 level lift (7-4=3) you need to adjust the developer strength accordingly. In this article there is no mention of developer strength, but that is the key point when coloring! 3 levels lift, use either 30 Vol or 40 Vol. Happy Coloring !

  25. I have a new client in their late 50's. he is a white blonde. he wants to be a soft brown. I would like to use shades eq as the filler and color fusion/cover fusion ...can you help me with a formula..thanks

  26. Dora, I put a lot of effort into this Blog for you and everyone....and I really only answer questions from people that I can see & hear that have actually read the Blog and then still have questions...that is what I look for when trying to decide which questions to answer. I am not trying to be MEAN or PICKY or RUDE, I am trying to be fair. There is only soooo many hours in 1 day. So I MUST choose wisely on 'who' to answer.
    I don't like Shades EQ - to be frank ....I feel the quality sucks and the color range is off.
    I just don't like recommending color lines I have tested and do not like. Your RESULTS....are 'my' calling card!

  27. Can you please explain *why* this formula works? I believe I have understood you correctly, I just wonder why it is that I should apply a dye so many levels higher than what I am trying to achieve?

    For example, if I was an all virgin hair level 5 wanting to go to a level 7 I would need to use a level 9 with the appropriate developer. Correct?

    So *why* does this work to achieve a level 7?

    What would it look like if I used a level 7 colour instead? Would it be too dark?

    I'm one of those people who can't quite get their head around something until I know why it works!?

    Thanks for all your hard work.


  28. You need a strong developer and a powerful hair color to lift dark hair, the color molecules are large and they do not like coming out of the hair strand. So after 50 years of hair color the LEVEL SYSTEM was formed according to both science and actual results.
    Most likely the example I showed of using a LEVEL 10 to lift that Level 4 hair color to a Level 7 JUST MAY NOT BE STRONG enough. There is a lot of heavy DURP on dark hair, much more than on light hair....so the DURP may prevent the lightening from happening correctly as well.
    hope that helps

  29. I noticed nobody said thank you... So..Thank you for taking the time out to write this blog and answer questions.

  30. I'm confused. I'm a level 3 virgin - I want level 8 - so the difference is 5. Then add the difference of 5 to 8, that equals 14..There is no level 14 color. Currently my hair is not virgin and I've been using level 8 for years -


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