What Level is My Hair Color? Everything You Need to Know About Hair Levels.

Level 7, Level 5…what are hair levels? The ever-changing world of hair colors can be dizzying for anyone, especially for those new to the hair color game. So how do you figure out what level your hair color is? What does that even mean?!

Keep reading for a breakdown of all things hair color, including the different levels and what they entail. You’ll be an expert in no time!

What are hair color levels?

Hair color is measured on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the darkest black and 10 being the lightest blonde.

The higher the number, the lighter the shade. These are called hair levels or numbers and this is known as the Hair level system!

In between those levels, there are five main hair colors: brown, red, brunette, blonde, and black. 

The shade within each of those five colors is determined by how much light they reflect. The more light a hair color reflects, the higher its level will be.

For example, a deep brunette would be considered a level 3 because it reflects less light than a lighter shade of brunette. On the other hand, a platinum blonde would be considered a level 10 because it reflects the most light.

Hair levels on the lighter end of the scale – from the lightest brown to the blonde range – have more white and yellow pigments.

Lower levels can cover dark black and the darkest brown to reddish brown tones like mahogany and burgundy.

Hair colors like light brown, ash browns, dark blonde and medium blonde hair lie somewhere in between.

It’s a universal hair color number system used by professionals all over the world!

Now that you know how hair color is measured, let’s take a look at the different levels on the hair color chart. 

hair levels chart infographic

What are hair types?

In addition to the numerical scale, hair types can also be classified as “virgin,” “pigmented,” or “lifting.”

Here’s what each of those terms mean: 

Virgin hair is your natural hair color that has never been treated with any type of chemical service and still has its natural pigment. 

-Pigmented hair has had some sort of color treatment before but still has a decent amount of natural pigment present. 

-Lifting refers to hair that has been heavily lightened or bleached. This kind of hair doesn’t have much natural pigment left and can be very damaged.     

It’s important to know your hair color level as well as type because that will determine which kind of coloring service you need and how much processing your strands can handle.

For example, if you have virgin dark brown hair or medium brown hair and you want to become a blonde, your stylist will need to do a double process color service—bleaching followed by coloring—to achieve your desired look.

However, if you have pigmented dark brown hair and you want to go blonde, your stylist may only need to do a single process service using a bleach + tone technique. 

Hair color is a real science and an art and a reason why we should appreciate professional hair colorists so much!

How do you know what level your hair is?

If you’re looking to change up your hair color, it’s important to know what level you’re starting at.

Your natural hair color level or base level will determine how drastic of a change you can make and what volume of bleach, hair dye or toner you’ll need to use.

The easiest way to figure out your level is to consult with a professional.

They can quickly assess your hair and give you an accurate starting point.

However, if you’re looking to do it yourself, there are a few things you can keep in mind:

  • First, take a look at the ends of your hair. If they are significantly lighter or darker than the rest of your strands, that’s a good indication of what level you are.
  • You can also hold your hair up to natural light. If it looks more yellow or orange, you’re likely a level 7 or below.
  • If it looks closer to platinum blonde, you’re probably a level 10.
  • And if your hair has any red tones, that means you’re somewhere in the middle.

Knowing your level is the first step to getting the perfect hair color!

Watch and learn: How to determine your hair color level step-by-step.

Here’s a great video from the experts explaining the hair level system and how to tell your hair color level step-by-step.

What is the highest level of hair color?

The highest level of hair color is 10, which is the lightest blonde. This shade is often described as “platinum” or “white-blonde.”

It’s a cool, light blonde icy shade that can be difficult to achieve and maintain.

If you’re interested in trying this look, be sure to consult with a professional colorist to ensure that your hair is healthy enough to withstand the bleaching process.

And once you’ve achieved your desired shade, be prepared to put in some extra effort to keep your hair looking its best.

Regular trims and deep conditioning treatments will help to keep your hair looking shiny and healthy.

How do I lift my hair color level?

To change your hair color a level or two, you can lighten it for a subtle lift or bleach it.

If you are looking for a more subtle change, then lightening your hair may be the way to go.

This can be done by using a high-lift color or lightener and toner. Lightening your hair a level or two can brighten up your look and give you a whole new lease on life.

If you want to go from dark to very light, you’ll need bleach. Be careful when bleaching your hair as it can change your hair texture and damage your hair if not done properly.

When bleaching your hair, always use a protein treatment and deep conditioner afterwards to help repair any damage that may have been caused.

Bleached hair always draws warmth so you’ll need toners like purple shampoos to get rid of any brassy tones.

If your hair darker than light brown, you’ll likely need to bleach your hair more than once to get the best base for lighter colors.

Although you can bleach your hair twice in one day, it’s best to leave a few days in between processing to give your hair time to recover.

Highlights are always a great way to lighten and brighten your look without over processing your hair.

What are the levels of hair dye?

Thankfully, whether you’re starting with natural locks or a box dye, this chart remains the same – making it easy to figure out where you are in the range and decide where your next journey will take you.

Knowing this information can help you pick out the right hair dye shades for you- whether it’s a subtle change or an all-out transformation.

All hair colors can range from Level 1 at its darkest to Level 10 at its lightest, so it’s important to choose something that works best with your existing color.

To play it safe, start with a few levels lighter than your existing shade and see how that looks before gradually increasing the color.

What are hair tones?

Hair tones and hair levels are two very important concepts in hair color.

Put simply, hair tone refers to the overall color of your hair, while hair level refers to the darkness or lightness of your hair.

To put it another way, hair tone is the color you see in the mirror, while hair level is the number of steps you have to take to get there. 

Hair tones can be either warm or cool, and they are determined by the amount of pigment in your hair.

Warm tones generally have more yellow tones or red pigment, while cool tones have more blue-based shades or violet pigment.

And if you have neutral tones it means that you can wear warm or cool tones! Lucky you!

If you’re not sure what your hair tone is, just use our handy checklist below!

If you have cool undertones:

  • Your skin tone is pink or pale.
  • You blush easily!
  • Jewel and pastel colours are so your thing.
  • The colour yellow washes you out and does not look good on you.
  • You have blue not green veins in your wrist.
  • Pearls and silver jewellery look awesome on you.

If you have warm undertones:

  • You have red or golden tones in your natural hair.
  • Your skin tone is golden, tan or olive.
  • You might have freckles.
  • You have green not blue veins in your wrist.
  • You suit bright or rich shades better.
  • Gold jewellery looks awesome on you.
cool or warm undertones infographic

Which hair color suits me?

You can also find out which hair colour suits you by taking our quiz!
Just answer a few quick questions to find out what other hair colours most suit you!

Which Hair Color Suits Me?

Parting words.

Knowing your hair level and tone is an essential part of getting the perfect hair color.

By understanding these concepts, you’ll be able to choose the right color for you and avoid any costly mistakes.

Plus, once you know what toner you need to use, achieving that gorgeous shade will be a breeze!

Good luck on your journey toward fabulous hair!

This article was written and reviewed by:

  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
    Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!

  • Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant
    Hair Stylist & Color Consultant

    I’m Enza Piazza, your go-to hair stylist and color consultant with over 23 years of professional salon experience bringing vibrancy and life to hair of all hues. My Italian roots from sunny Sicily infuse passion into every snip and color, a passion that’s been recognized with top honor awards including bridal and party hair at the National Hairdressers Federation’s Championships. After training in Surrey, UK’s most prestigious salons including Head Master Academy, I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and set up Enza Hair Styling, offering tailored hair care for 13 years, and treating each client like family. Away from the salon, I cherish moments as a proud Nonna to grandson Joseph and as a playful companion to my Jack Russell, Bo.