by: REY MEDRANO, beauty expert
WHY YOU SHOULD STOP TELLING YOUR HAIR COLORIST YOU SEE RED
... because most of the time it is not, unless you are talking about the primary color, Red (as seen in the title above), or any variation of it. Often times, color clients find themselves telling their colorist they "see Red" and it is usually not what they were aiming for. Or maybe their color looks different in the bathroom, compared to how it looked in the salon. Is it really red you see? Here are some of the basic rules of hair color, along with a few helpful ways to communicate with your hair colorist, to help you achieve the color you really want.
Believe it or not, the underlying tones of the rainbow actually exist in hair color. Think of the classic acronym, "ROY G BIV" . Here are the cliffs notes: Hair color ranges on a level system; 1 being the darkest and 10/11 being the lightest. Some of the old school hardcore colorists simply stop at 10 and ignore 11/12 on color charts. Within those levels of 1-10, there is a dominant underlying pigment that rules that shade.
EX: Level 1 would be considered Black which has blue as the dominant underlying pigment. As we creep up in shade level, so does the phase of dominant pigment. 1-blue; 2-blue/violet; 3-violet; 4-violet/red; 5-red/violet; 6-RED; 7- red/orange; 8- orange; 9- orange/yellow; 10-yellow. Theoretically speaking, we have only covered some of the color wheel in levels, but that's just how in goes in the hair color world.
Now, we have the joy of getting into the discussion of neutralizing tones! If I were coloring a client's hair, and I was trying to neutralize red pigment, I would go across the street on the color wheel, which would be green. That would be my main pigment to neutralize. Now this is important to know because a true underlying red pigment will usually only exist at around a level 6, between Medium Brown to Dark Brown. Any lighter will find you going into the orange and gold families. This is important to know because it determines how your hair colorist will approach neutralizing those unwanted undertones.
The problem comes in where clients claim they "see Red" but that has somehow turned into a general term to use when describing warmth (any range of red/orange to orange or orange/yellow). First, let me explain to you that there will ALWAYS be an underlying warm pigment in any color from Dark Brown(violet/red) to Medium Blonde (orange/yellow), and the ONLY way to be devoid of these warm pigments is to have your hair bleached of all pigments.
Now don't get me wrong, a little warmth is a good thing, but the level of desired warmth depends on what you want, plus what goes well with skin tones. Life gets trickier when you throw lighting into the mix. Is your bathroom light warm or cool? Is your work environment blasting fluorescent lighting, LED, or halogen? These lights WILL change the appearance of your hair color. Some "toned" blondes will look dingy, some brunettes will look brassy, some ash pigments used to tone can look muddy or even green under unflattering light. It is almost unavoidable so make your peace with it. Knowing your lifestyle will help you understand what terminology you should use with your colorist, and in turn, give you the most desirable results. Your colorist should be asking you these things anyway, and if your colorist doesn't care enough to know these things, I suggest you get to one that does! It is not your job to know how to do theirs, but knowing some of these basics will help keep you armed while in the chair.
- NEUTRAL - Neutral is a term I use with my clients to define a color that is balanced in all primary colors, and not leaning too warm or too cool.
- WARMTH - Warmth is the pretty self explanatory. A fire is warm. The dominant colors in a fire are red, orange, and yellow. This term can be used to express your desire for luscious golds, bright coppers, or vibrant reds. I even use the term "Warmth" when describing rich browns. It can also be used to describe what you don't want to see in your browns, mid tone blondes, or lighter blondes. (For the smart asses out there, yes I know there are blue flames as well, but note that I said "DOMINANT colors in fire". Take it home.)
- COOL - Let me just say here, I HATE THE TERM "ASHY". Thank you, cosmetic industry, for giving us yet another unglamorous term to describe something that could actually be beneficial for us. For cool tones, we go to the blue, violet, and green side of the wheel. These are great for giving beautiful depth at darker shades or to bring balance to lighter shades if the warmth goes out of control.
- DIMENSION -BRIGHTEN/DEEPEN vs HI-LITE/LO-LITE- I know this isn't quite on topic of our discussion of pigments, but since we're here, we might as well! I prefer to use the term "Dimension" when discussing using multiple shades and tones. For some reason, the average color client seems to think that a Hi-Lite is, or must be, blonde while a Lo-Lite must be any other random dark pigment. Brighten/Deepen can happen to any brunette that maybe wants a more natural, subtle, look of depth and dimension without worrying that the colorist is going to throw bleach or dark color in your foil packet or balayage and call it a day. Oh balayage... don't even get me started on that. I'm totally dishing all about balayage in a future blog, so dont you worry! I know streaks and stripes had their 15 minutes a few years ago, but most clients don't want that anymore, and the best way to be clear about that is moving into this type of terminology.
I hope this article is able to help educate any color client, and maybe arm you with tools to get your dream color at the salon. Terminology is everything when it comes to client/stylist communication. I will also advise that if you are not seeing a colorist that asks you these types of questions: Lighting at home or office, hair washing frequency, physicality/ sweat exposure, heat styling, sun exposure, then I suggest you find one that does. You want to trust your locks to someone who truly cares about the appearance and wear of your color. After all, you are their walking talking billboard. Oh, and unless we're talking red, like the color of this article's title, don't tell me you see it!