What does “hair level” even mean, anyway? How do you know what level your hair is? It can seem confusing, but "level" just a standardized way to refer to the lightness of your hair, and is usually the most consistent way to describe your base color. Instead of having to find the right words to describe your medium-toned strawberry blonde, you can just say your hair is at a level 7 and call it a day!
Let’s start with the basics! What does each level mean?
1: dark black
3: darkest brown
4: dark brown
5: medium brown
6: light brown
7: dark blonde
8: medium blonde
9: light blonde
10+ and above: platinum blonde to platinum white
This is the darkest range of natural hair colors. A level 1 is a jet black, with no brown tones to it! Semi-permanent hair color typically won’t show on level 1 hair at all, as the base is too dark for any pigment to be visible. From there, the hair will gradually get lighter as you move up levels, with level 2 being a dark brown-black, 3 and 4 being darker to medium brown tones, and level 5 getting into a medium to the lighter brown range. Level 3 or so is usually the very darkest base possible for a visible tint of color without pre-lightening. If your hair is in this range, you will get the best results with similarly dark colors to have any visible hue. Purple Rain, Wrath, Aquamarine, and Transylvania will be your go-to shades on a dark base like this!
These levels get more into a lightest brown/dark blonde range. Most of our deeper and highly pigmented colors will take well to hair at levels 6 and 7, and may just turn out a few shades darker or more subtle than they would appear on a pre-lightened base. Other bright, highly pigmented colors like Violet Dream, Sunset Orange, Poison, or Virgin Pink, and darker tones like Purple Rain or Phantom Green, should all work well on base colors in this range!
Getting into a more blonde range, a level 8 is generally the best base to see the majority of our colors turn out really vibrantly. With the exception of our pastel collection and one or two other colors, AF Colors will turn out accurately and vibrantly on a level 8 base. So colors like Violet Dream, Electric Paradise, or Iris Green will turn out best starting from at least a level 8 base (as well as any of the vivid colors mentioned for lower levels).
Not quite platinum but a very light blonde, a level 9 will take just about any semipermanent color that turns out on a level 8 as well as lighter shades, like Porange, Cosmic Sunshine, or Neon Moon. Depending on the porosity of your hair, some pastels may take to a level 9 as well, but this is usually the darkest your hair can be for pastel to turn out right! If you're unsure if your hair is light enough we always recommend a strand test before coloring all over and adding a few drops of a more pigmented shade to your lighter colors to get your color right. One issue with a level 9 base and colors like Sterling are the yellow tones in the blonde hair. Lighter blue shades and blue-based shades can interact with the yellow pigment already in your hair to appear more green than blue. When this happens, you can sometimes add in a few drops of a warmer color like Purple Rain to offset this effect.
Level 10 + above
This level of hair is a light platinum blonde, with very little blonde/yellow tones if any; however, as you get into the white blonde range of this level you can do just about any color in the world! Pastels will turn out best on a level 10 base or lighter since these shades are quite light. Feel free to punch up your pastels with a few drops of a darker shade or add in a darker version of your pastel to your conditioner to keep your color fresh! Blue tones in particular, like Poseidon, Periwinkle and Sterling will turn out most accurately, since there are no yellow tones to interact with the blue base of the shade. You may see AF colors turn out lighter and brighter, or the undertones of your particular color may show through more. For example, Wrath and Violet Dream both have pinkish undertones so they may appear more visibly pink on a light base, or Phantom Green’s blue undertone may show through more on a level 10 or lighter. If you achieve a level 10+ with a toner, know that the tones in the toner can interact with any AF shade you apply.
Natural Blonde Hair?
Since everyone’s hair is different, it can be harder to predict how a color might turn out on unbleached hair, even if that hair is naturally in a blonde range. This is because bleaching helps open up the cuticle of the hair, making it more porous and better able to hold pigment. How unprocessed hair takes color can depend a lot on your hair’s natural porosity, but in general unbleached hair tends to be denser and less absorbent. Natural base colors may not take pigment as well and you will usually see color fade faster. If your hair is naturally blonde and you don’t want to try lightening at all, sticking with colors that are on the darker and more highly pigmented side will still work best to give you the most vibrant and visible results!
How Light Can You Go?
It’s important to be realistic about what your hair can handle! If you’re starting from a naturally dark base, like me, then getting into lighter shades and pastels is a process that takes some planning and, most importantly, patience! We’ve all heard about people damaging their hair by over processing - the perfect color doesn't need to compromise the health of your hair. Lightening your hair gradually using high-quality products is the safest method and will minimize the risk of damage when lightening, but this means dealing with some less-fun hair colors in the meantime. Spacing out your lightning sessions will ensure your hair is lightened as safely as possible, though, and will make those hard-won pastels all the more rewarding when you finally get to your platinum base! Plus, with how conditioning and gentle Arctic Fox colors are, your hair will be feeling soft and fresh afterward whether it’s been lightened or not. But if you’re ever feeling unsure of how to get your desired color, you can shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or we always recommend consulting with a professional stylist to make sure your hair is being treated well. Your hair is worth that investment!