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Lightening Your Hair At Home - Part One
The Colour Wheel
The first rule of lightening hair colour is that you cannot lighten hair that has been previously coloured without using bleach eg. you can't choose a light ash blonde packet colour and expect that it will remove artificial colour.
The second rule is that most home hair colours will usually only lighten one to two shades or levels of natural colour (excluding bleach products).
The third rule is that when you lighten any hair type, be it natural or artificial, there will be unwanted reflects eg. gold in the final result. The following information will assist you in achieving your goal colour result.
Hair is rated in shades/levels from black to lightest blonde. Black = one, darkest brown = 2, darker brown = 3, dark brown = 4, medium brown = 5, light brown = 6, dark blonde = 7, medium blonde = 8, light blonde = 9, lightest blonde = 10. Note that some companies have labelled their colours in a reverse order but you will be able to identify this on the packet.
When lightening hair, you need to make an accurate decision about what shade/level your hair colour is (natural or coloured). Then you need to make a decision about how light you want your target shade/level to be. Once you have done this, you need to decide on your reflect choice eg. natural (.0 or /0), gold (.3 or /3), copper (.4 or /4), red (.5 or /5), ash (.1 pr /1), beige-pearl-violet (.2 or /2) etc... Once you have done this, you need to look at what underlying pigment you are dealing with.
- Black (1) /darkest brown (2) /darker brown (3) /dark brown (4) = red underlying pigment.
- Medium brown (5) / Light Brown (6) = orange underlying pigment.
- Dark blonde (7) / Blonde (8) = gold underlying pigment.
- Light blonde (9) / Lightest blonde (10) = yellow underlying pigment.
Lightening Natural Hair: When you have decided what your underlying pigment is, you need to decide how to deal with or counteract (neutralise) it. The colour wheel will give you some indication on how to do that. The colours opposite each other neutralise unwanted pigment eg. to neutralise yellow, you need to use a violet based colour. That is the most simplistic form of reducing unwanted pigment. It can be a little more complex than that but the points below will simplify it for you.
- If you want a natural result, start by determining your natural shade/level. Remember that you may only be able to lighten up to two shades with store bought colours (bleach is different). If you are a level 6 (light brown) and you want to be a level 8 (blonde) with a natural result, look at what unwanted pigment level 8 will throw (gold). So you would choose a level 8 colour with an ash tone eg. ash blonde. The ash in the colour will counteract the gold and leave you with a true natural 8 level.
- If you are a level 8 (blonde) and want to be a level 10 (lightest blonde) with a natural result, look at what the unwanted pigment level 10 will throw (yellow). So you would choose a level 10 colour with a violet tone eg. lightest ash blonde. The higher the level, the less counteracting pigment it contains, so even though it may say ash, a level 10 ash is more violet and isn't as strong as a level 8 ash.
- If you are a level 4 (dark brown) and want to be a level 6 (dark blonde) with a natural result, look at what the unwanted pigment level 6 will throw (orange). So you would choose a level 6 colour with an ash tone. At a level 6, the ash is quite strong and will counteract the unwanted orange tones.
- * Note - this does not take into consideration any grey hair or highlights in natural hair. When dealing with grey or highlighted hair, the counteracting pigment will grab on this hair. This is only a problem if you have 50% or more. To stop this from occurring, you need to buy two separte colours. One natural and one counteracting. Don't worry, you won't waste colour. You use one bottle of activator and keep the second one unused. Then you mix 1/2 of the natural colour and 1/2 of the counteracting colour together in the activator. Make sure you put the lids back on tightly as you will be able to do the same thing next time you colour your hair.
- If your target colour is an ash tone, you would use the ash colour but may need to use a violet or ash toner on your hair after you finish colouring it to counteract. These may come in the form of a violet shampoo and conditioner, a semi permanent colour (6-8 washes), or a demi permanent (non ammonia 20 - 30 washes). Do not leave them on for the full amount of time as they will grab more quickly. Do a strand test by wiping off a little of the colour every 5 minutes with a damp towel.
- When choosing red, copper or gold shades that are lighter than your natural colour, remember to look at the underlying pigment of your target shade/level. If you are a level 3 (darker brown) and want to be a 5 (medium brown), you will throw some extra orange tones. This will mean that your outcome will be more vibrant (copper) than suggested on the packet. You may want to leave it like this or again, you can reduce the vibrancy by either choosing a less bright colour or by adding some natural colour into the mix. Use only one bottle of activator and half each of the bright colour and the natural colour (see above).
- If you want a natural colour with a little bit of warmth eg. golden brown, golden blonde and you are lightening your hair, you can use a natural shade as it will always throw a bit of warmth. By not counteracting it, you will achieve this result.
I have previously covered the numbering system in How to Choose a Home Hair Colour - have a look at this as it is a prequel to this information and may assist you in your colour choice with more clarity.