Hair Color Levels & Charts: Our Foolproof Guide To Choosing Tones & Dyes

hair color levels and charts

Navigating the world of hair color levels and hair dye codes can be difficult for amateurs since each company tends to produce its own system. Some will have numbers from 1-7, others from 1-10, and still more from 1-12. Dyes aren’t easy to sort out either. In general, the lower a number is, the lighter of a shade it will be, with the lowest number being almost pure white blonde and the highest being dark black. However, some manufacturers will reverse this situation, with the lower numbers being black and the higher numbers being blonde.

Unfortunately, the only way to truly understand hair color levels is to pick a brand and stick with it so you never have to cross over to a different system. These manufacturers also produce different product lines of dyes, which can be confusing. How can someone tell which is the best one when everything is so desperate? Well, we reviewed some of the most popular product lines from manufacturers and determined the best product from each one of the following:

  • L’Oreal Hair Color
  • Goldwell Topchic Hair Color
  • Pearl or Ash Blonde Hair Dye

Read on to find out more!

L’Oreal Hair Color

L’Oreal is one of the most well-known haircare and dye companies in the United States, even though the business is actually based in France. This manufacturer tends to focus on keeping hair healthy during the dyeing process and makes several product lines with a variety of gel and cream formulas. Some cover grays, some added shine, and some can even highlight after applying a base color. Unlike a lot of products, this manufacturer also includes the required tools and utensils, which many others avoid.

The right L’Oreal hair color will largely depend on what a user wants, but which is the best one?

L’Oréal Paris Couleur Experte Hair Color + Hair Highlights

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  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 5.8 x 3 in.


The L’Oréal Paris Couleur Experte Hair Color + Hair Highlights is a product designed to give the user and underlying color as well as beautiful highlights through its application. It’s available in a variety of colors, including unusual options like toasted coconut blonde.

This formula prides itself on being a simple two step process. First, the user dyes their hair. Then, they can go in with highlights and apply them where they wish in the hair. All of the required tools and materials are included in the package so buyers don’t need to purchase extra equipment. One of the most interesting tools involved in the kit is the rubber fingertip applicator, which includes teeth to help comb highlights through the hair while avoiding getting colors on the hands and fingers.

This product includes creme developer for the dye and highlights and also comes with a gel hair dye for maximum coverage and effectiveness. This combination is wonderful because it prevents drips, which can waste valuable product that is better spent on the hair.


The fingertip applicator that comes with this product for highlights can be difficult to use for the inexperienced since it creates chunky, thicker highlights.

L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme Permanent Hair Color

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  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 3.6 x 6.6 in.


The L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme Permanent Hair Color is a line of dyes that use a creme formula to produce colors that look natural but retain some gloss and shine. This product is particularly good at covering up gray and white hair and manages to be retained by strands which are damaged and stripped. After bleaching or another form of lightening, having a dye that works well for stripped and white hair.

Everything needed to use this formula is included in the box. These products are a color comb, a pre-color treatment, developer, the color creme, and a conditioning treatment. There are also gloves and instructions with each purchase.

This is a permanent hair dye, which means it should not wash out, even during regular shampooing and conditioning. The creme formula is excellent as well since it covers as well as a liquid but is easier to use with less spills.

The L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme Permanent Hair Color is available in just about every dye and tone imaginable, especially for blondes, brunettes, redheads, and those with black hair.


Sometimes the colors designed to be ash blondes or ash brunettes do not maintain their color for long.

L’oreal Paris Hair Color Feria Multi-faceted Shimmering Permanent Coloring

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  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 3.5 x 6.5 inches


Unlike the other L’oreal products on this list, the L’oreal Paris Hair Color Feria Multi-faceted Shimmering Permanent Coloring is designed to be semi-permanent, so it will fade and wash away after a period of time. One of its highlights, though, is that this particular line of hair dyes is full of color and shine, making hair seem happier and healthier after use.

Like other formulas, this product includes everything that is needed for the dyeing process in the box, including the gel dye itself, the developer, and an aromatic shimmer serum to truly bring out the shine.

This line of dyes is available in a host of creative and unique colors, including bright fox red, shimmery silver, gold, blue-black, metallic brown, and even rose gold. All of these colors create for a truly unique hairstyle, though it can also be a little confusing when trying to figure out how the dye codes work. In this case, remember that higher numbers tend to be darker with L’Oreal.


Because this dye is designed to be semi-permanent, it washes out fast. This means that users don’t get to enjoy their hair color for very long and will need to avoid showering regularly if they want to keep a look for more than a few days.

The Verdict – L’oreal Hair Color

Choosing the right hair color can be difficult, and it requires using the best product. For us, the best of the L’oreal hair color lines is the L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme Permanent Hair Color because the creme mixture is easy to apply, the color is brilliant without too much shine, and the formula is strong while being gentle on hair.

Goldwell Topchic Hair Color

Goldwell Topchic isn’t a well-known company, but its products are the darling of many beauty salons because it is easy to apply in its gel tubed formula and produces rich color.  For people who worry about distinguishing between codes and levels and want something simple and easy to use, this might be a good option. The formula is simple, mixes well with developers when needed, and contains very vibrant colors and a diverse array of shades and hues.

Goldwell Topchic Hair Color Coloration (Tube)

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  • Contains 2.1 Fluid Oz.


Goldwell Topchic is an unusual hair color company that actually doesn’t make many dyes beyond their tube formula. This formula needs to be mixed with a developer but produces a strong, defined color in a variety of shades, including browns and blondes.

The Goldwell Topchic Hair Color Coloration in its tube formula does not include PPD (Paraphenylenediamine), an ingredient that the company noticed many individuals were allergic to. Because the formula does not have this ingredient, it produces a long-lasting color that is gentler on the skin.

One tube of this product is enough to treat someone who has shoulder-length hair. The formula does cover up gray hair.


The tubes can be quite expensive (around $10), but do not contain a lot of product, which is terrible for individuals with exceptionally long or thick hair. Goldwell Topchic dyes also tend to have some problems when trying to create the darkest colors because the dye can run out if it doesn’t take to the hair strands properly. This can be averted by using the right developer, but Goldwell Topchic does not sell its hair dyes and toners with any developer or necessary tools.

The Verdict

When someone is searching for a way to dye their hair without an allergic reaction, the Goldwell Topchic Hair Color Coloration formula is a great option because it lacks PPD and tends to be gentle on the hair and scalp while dyeing. The gel formula can be applied quickly and easily too, which is great for amateurs who are unsure of how to dye hair on their own.

Pearl or Ash Blonde Hair Dye

When someone is seeking to create a pearl or ash blonde color, they have to seek out different brands. Fortunately, pearl or ash blonde tends to be at the farthest end of any scale, so buyers just need to know where to look. Some of the best brands to get this color are Schwarzkopf and Garnier, which work well and keep hair moisturized.

But which is the best one?

Schwarzkopf Keratin Color Anti-Age Hair Color Cream

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  • Contains 2 Fluid Oz.
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 3.9 x 6.6 in.


The Schwarzkopf Keratin Color Anti-Age Hair Color Cream is a formula designed to create a beautiful ash blonde that covers grays using a patented cream formula. The cream spreads easily throughout the hair but doesn’t run like liquid tends to.

Each package of this dye contains instructions, gloves, a pre-color serum, the color cream itself, an applicator bottle with the developer lotion, and a conditioner to use afterwards to protect the hair.

This formula is easy to apply and boasts skin-flattering pigments, which means the color is designed to better match the natural tones of a person’s skin so they don’t clash.

This product also boasts a low odor thanks to limited ammonia included in the formula.


The colors created by this product tend to be darker than those produced by other brands because of the limited ammonia.

Schwarzkopf Ultime Hair Color Cream

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  • Contains 2 Fluid Oz.
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 3.6 x 6.6 in.


The Schwarzkopf Ultime Hair Color Cream is a product that focuses more on producing shine than covering up grays, so it works well for individuals who want luscious, gleaming hair more than gray coverage.

This particular product includes a developer, the color cream, and an intensive care elixir to use when the dyeing is done. Individuals will need to get their own gloves, but instructions are included with each purchase.

All of the formulas in the brand line are fade-resistant for up to nine weeks of regular washing. The hair formula also resists brassiness and includes some blue to counteract the orange undertones that often come with lightening hair.

This product line does not contain any PPD.


Like the other Schwarzkopf product line, the Ultime Hair Color Cream tends to run darker than the dyes produced by other companies.

Garnier Olia Ammonia Free Permanent Hair Color, 100 Percent Gray Coverage

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  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 3.5 x 6.5 in.


The Garnier Olia Ammonia Free Permanent Hair Color, 100 Percent Gray Coverage is a powerful formula that relies on 60% oils rather than a host of other chemicals. As the name states, this dye brand is ammonia free, which reduces odor and provides a softer, gentler dye that is less irritating to the skin and scalp.

This formula is permanent and focuses on providing a rich, luscious color while covering up grays. After dyeing, the manufacturer emphasizes that hair will look healthy and be moisturized. Each container thus comes with a developer, the color cream, and a conditioner to treat hair after the dyeing process.

Each package contains gloves, instructions, and a bottle applicator.


Because of the oil formula, users discovered that the dye tends to be faint and washes out for several weeks after the initial application.

The Verdict – Pearl or Ash Blonde Hair Dye

When it comes to trying to create a true, natural pearl or ash blonde hair dye, it’s hard to find a good manufacturer because of the color’s rarity and lack of pigment. After reviewing the available options, the best one was the Schwarzkopf Keratin Color Anti-Age Hair Color Cream, which creates a natural-looking pearl or ash blonde that looks great, feels healthy, and doesn’t irritate the scalp.

What to Do Next

Hair color levels and hair dye codes can be confusing, but once you have the hang of them, you should never buy the wrong dye or toner again.  See more hair advice and beauty reviews here! We regularly post useful tips, tricks, and reviews to keep your hair happy, healthy, and perfectly colored and coiffed. You can also check out our complete range of color guides below:

How To Use Hair Toner

Our Bleach Bath Hair Tutorial

How To Fix Orange Hair

Using Henna To Dye Gray Hairs

Our Handy Maintenance Guide For Silver Hair

How To Choose The Right Shade Of Blonde For Your Skintone

Mahogany Color: How To Get It Right

Balayage Vs. Ombre Vs. Highlights: We Explain

How To Go From Red To Blonde Without Passing Through Orange

Why Does Blonde Hair Turn Yellow Or Brassy?

How Often Can You Dye Your Hair? And Other Semi-Permanent Hair Dye FAQ

Our Ultimate Guide To Getting Silver Gray Hair

How To Dye Your Hair With Peroxide

How To Remove Rainbow Hair Dye

How To Naturally Lighten Hair

Our Quick Fix For Yellow Hair

How To Get The Best Brown Hair With Red Highlights

How To Bleach Hair Correctly

Best Hair Toner Reviews

Best Ammonia-Free Hair Dye Reviews

Best Golden-Blonde Hair Toner

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