Hair colour numbers provide a reliable approach for stylists and colourists to precisely describe the shade you’re looking for, from dark brown to baby blonde and all in between.

hair colour numbers

However, if you’re anything like us, you may have found yourself perplexed if your hairdresser begins quoting figures or you see them scrawled on the box dye that you just purchased.

We’ve got you covered, so don’t worry. Read on to find out more about what each number denotes so that you can ensure your hair is precise as you desired and envision it the next time you visit the salon or purchase that box of colour.

How do hair colour numbers work?

To categorize and distinguish between different hair colour shades, hair colour numbers are used.

The depth, tone, and strength of each shade are usefully described by this system of hair level numbers, which aids stylists in choosing the right shade for their customers’ hair.

On a scale from 1 (black) to 10 (the lightest blonde), the base colour is represented by the first number, which describes how light or dark the colour is. If your hair colour is 5.0, for example, it would be light brown.

Which ones make up your hair tones are indicated by the second number (and sometimes the third number). After the period mark, there is a number that displays the secondary and primary tones.

different shades of blonde collage

The following are the tones:

  1. Ash/Blue
  2. Violet
  3. Gold
  4. Copper
  5. Mahogany
  6. Red
  7. Mat/Green
  8. Mocha.

So if your preferred hue is 2.7, it would be a dark brown with a matte or green tone, whilst 9.2 would be a light blonde shade that is iridescent and has both warm and cold tones. Simple!

What about letters?

To indicate the tone, some hair colour and dye manufacturers use letters rather than numbers. These letters start with A (ash) and end with V (violet).

Because the same letter might signify different tones in varying brands, this can be misleading. B (blue), R (red), C (copper), G (gold), or N (natural) are the most common choices.

For example, 5N would be a good option as it wouldn’t drastically alter your tone if your current shade is 4N and you want to go a little lighter.

However, 6G would be suggested if you wanted to make a greater change in terms of lightness and tone shift since it has both more lightness and a warmer tone than 4N.

Make careful to speak with your stylist before making any significant adjustments since the letter at the end of each number does not necessarily indicate what shade that specific number will appear in; it merely denotes its tonal strength and intensity.

What is the base colour of your hair?

The base number and advice for choosing the proper shade is the first number on the hair colour chart.

The basic hair colour serves as the foundation for all of your hair colour fantasies, just like a canvas does for an artist.

This crucial initial step will define how dark or light your finished look will be, regardless of whether you want sun-kissed balayage or dazzling blonde highlights.


10 lightest blonde 9 very light blonde 8 light blonde 7 blonde 6 dark blonde 5 light brown 4 brown 3 dark brown 2 darkest brown

What is the hair colour of your natural base?

Your hair’s tone when no chemicals or dyes have been used is known as its natural base colour (or “level”).

The darkest areas of your hair, such as the roots or the areas around your ears and temples, are often where you can tell.

Virgin hair, which is often about a level 6 (light brown) on the colour numbering system, is hair that has never been coloured or dyed.

What does hair reflect colour or hair tone mean?

Your colourist will consider more than just the primary base shade when choosing your new hair colour; they’ll also pay attention to the tones and reflections that may further enhance and customise your hair colour.

Following their selection of the primary colour, the colourist will take a look at the two numbers on the colour chart that follow the period mark. These numbers represent any primary and secondary reflect or tone colours that may be used.

These levels may significantly alter how your hair colour appears in various lighting conditions; they can either enhance shine or neutralise it to remove unwelcome yellow or orange tones.

A.2 or an iridescent tone, for instance, may bring a cold violet appearance to balance out any warmth in blonde tones, while A.3 will give you lots of hair golden sheen!

Infographic on hair tone and reflection.


  1. Ash
  2. Iridescent
  3. Golden
  4. Copper
  5. Mahogany
  6. Red
  7. Mat
  8. Mocha


Watch and learn: An explanation of hair colour charts.

The numerous kinds of hair colour charts, the hair colour wheel, and the hair colour theory are all explained in this fantastic movie.


Step 1: Decide whether you want your hair to be light or dark. (colour wheel, base 1-10)

Step 2: Next, decide if you want a warm, cool or no reflection. (Tone & Reflect Chart 1-8)

For optimal results, avoid selecting a hair colour that is more than two shades lighter or darker than your natural base colour.

How do you use the numbers for hair colour?

It’s crucial to start by asking yourself some fundamental questions before choosing a new hair colour, such as what type of appearance you want.

Do you want something bolder or do you want something that seems more natural?

Do you want my lowlights or highlights to be more noticeable?

Following your responses to these inquiries, you will be better able to match certain shades to your desired appearance using their level and tone numbers.

When meeting with your colourst, it’s also good to bring images of looks you desire so they can get a sense of what kind of style/colour combination works best for you.

Parting words

Understanding how to utilize hair colour numbers may make attaining the appearance you’re going for easier, whether it’s a natural or bold one.

You may create a distinctive appearance that represents YOU by being familiar with the different levels and tones, being aware of the questions to ask yourself when choosing a new shade, and bringing samples from Pinterest or Instagram to your stylist’s appointment.

Therefore, don’t be scared—make room for your new colour right now!