Hair Color Levels, Tones and Shades

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Hair color level - Garnier

What is a Level?

Levels refer to how dark or light a hair color shade is (regardless of whether it’s dyed or not), ranging from Level 1 (Black) to Level 10 (Lightest Blonde) for naturally occurring shades. Level 11 (High Lift Blonde) is not naturally occurring and offers our lightest blonde without bleach.

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Hair color tone - Garnier

What is a Tone?

A variety of neutral, cool, and warm tones are used to describe shades beyond just light to dark—natural, ash, beige, golden, copper, and mahogany are some of the tones you’ll find in Garnier’s wide shade offering. Similar to levels, each tone is assigned a number, listed in the chart below.

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What is a Shade?

A hair color shade is the combination of a level and a tone, and is listed in number format on Garnier Hair Color’s boxes.

UNDERSTANDING HAIR COLOR LEVELS AND UNDERTONES

 

Hair color level and undertones - Garnier

Hair color levels describe how light or dark hair color is, and each is represented by a number. Your natural hair color is a unique combination of pigments with undertones that range from red to pale yellow. As shown in the chart above, the darker your natural hair, the warmer your natural undertone.

When lightening hair, these warm undertones become exposed and may need to be neutralized with cooler shades and anti-brass treatments. For the most natural results, choose a shade that is either 2 levels lighter or darker than your natural, uncolored hair.

UNDERSTANDING HAIR COLOR TONES

 

Hair color tones diagram - Garnier

Hair color tones are all about how warm or cool a shade is, with natural tones being a middle ground that is neither too warm or cool. Each tone is represented by a number, as shown above.

  • Gold tones (3) add radiance and warmth to your complexion
  • Ash tones (1) counteract brassy hair and downplay redness in skin
  • Reds can be cool, like Violet/Burgundy (2) or warm, like Copper (4) and Auburn (6)
  • Natural or neutral tones (0) aren’t overly warm or cool and let your hair’s natural highs and lows show through

UNDERSTANDING HAIR COLOR SHADE NAMES

53 Medium Golden Brown - Garnier

Now that you know what the hair color level and tone numbering system means, here are some examples of shade names to show how levels and tones come together to represent shades. 

Example 1 - 53 Medium Golden Brown:

  • It is a Medium Brown (Level 5)
  • With a Golden tone (3)
  • It is a Medium Golden Brown
 

Example 2 - 7.0 Dark Blonde:

  • It is a Dark Blonde (Level 7)
  • With a Natural tone (0)
  • It is a Dark Natural Blonde

7.0 Dark Blonde - Garnier
535 Medium Golden Mahogany Brown - Garnier

When a shade number has two tones after the level, the second tone is called a “reflect” and adds a hint of color along with the primary, dominant tone.

Example 3 - 535 Medium Golden Mahogany Brown:

  • It is a Medium Brown (Level 5)
  • With a Golden tone (3)
  • And a Mahogany reflect (5)
  • It is a Medium Golden Mahogany Brown

UNDERSTANDING THE ULTRA COLOR NUMBERING SYSTEM

Designed to deliver vibrant results on dark hair, without bleach, Nutrisse Ultra Color has a unique numbering system. 

Each shade name is an abbreviation of the color result (V = Violet, IN = Indigo, BR = Burgundy) plus a number. Use the shade name plus the picture on the box to understand how dark or light the shade is and whether it has a warm or cool tone.

Numbering System - Garnier

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT GARNIER HAIR COLOR

Starting Hair Color - Garnier

Determine Your Starting Level

Your starting hair color level influences how light or dark you can go, and which Garnier product will deliver the best results. Need some help identifying your current hair color level and how light or dark you can go? Try our Shade Selector tool.

shade selector

Select Your Shade Using Levels and Tones

With most Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Creme, Olia and Color Sensation shades, you’ll be able to change within 2 levels lighter or darker of your existing hair color.

For a more dramatic change, try our Nutrisse Ultra Color Platinum Bleach kits and High Lift Blonde shades as well as our highlighting kits. 

 

find your shade
Find your shade - Garnier
Shade adjustment - Garnier

Once you’ve picked a level that’s up to 2 levels lighter or darker than your existing color, it’s time to think about tone. To offset brassiness, you’ll need cool ash tones (look for a “1” in the number). To enhance your skin’s warmth, go for golden tones (look for a “3”). 

Natural tones (designated by a “0”) are neither cool nor warm and are a good bet if you want your hair’s natural highs and lows to show through while covering grays.

Garnier Expert Tips for Choosing Your Shade

  • Found a shade you love? Check the before/after pictures on the side of the box to make sure it will deliver the results you want. Match your hair color at the roots (not the ends) to the “before” picture to see what result to expect. 
  • If your hair isn’t a match – especially if it’s darker than the pictures on the box – you will not achieve the color result you’re looking for.
  • Our hair color experts are always available to give you personalized advice! Another expert tip? Once you color your hair, you won’t be able to lighten it at home without using bleach.
  • If you’re debating between two shades, you may want to try the lighter one first. If you eventually decide to go darker, you can easily apply the darker shade on top of the other shade later.

Shade tips - Garnier