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Haircolor Basics: Hair Pigment Categories


Courteney Cox Opening of Disneyland's "Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage" All rights reserved

Quite simply hair coloring is the science and art of changing the color of the hair.

The natural color of human hair is first and foremost directly tied to hereditary factors. As scientists have proven, hair color is an inherited characteristic.

For anyone, whether a professional hair colorist, hairdresser, barber or hair consumer to be successful in altering hair color, it is essential that the true base hair color and pigmentation is understood.

It's also important to understand other factors related to coloring hair including the basic hair texture, porosity and elasticity.

Hair texture refers to the basic degree of coarseness or fineness of the hair.

Friends, DIRT and Cougar Town TV star Courteney Cox, according to her celebrity hairdresser Robert Hallowell, prefers to wear her natural medium brown hair (Level 3 or 4) in a rich hue of flat black (Level 1) created by Robert with a Goldwell color product.

Robert Hallowell is a huge fan of Goldwell color products. He has been using them for years and recommends them highly.

How Hair Pigment Is Derived

The cortex of the hair contains the basic coloring matters, minute grains of melanin or pigment.

Melanin has two possible manifestations. Eumelanin, which has an oval or elliptical shape is found in black and brunette hair and is a dark pigment. The higher the concentration of eumelanin, the darker the hair.

Phaeomelanin is a light pigment that is found in blonde and red hair. The higher the concentration of phaeomelanin, the lighter the hair. Unlike eumelanin, phaeomelanin is smaller, partly oval and has a rod shape.

A mixture of the two different pigments can be found at the same time in many people. Melanin an its existence is genetically predetermined. White hair contains no melanin at all and gray hair contains only a few melanin granules. Gray hair melanin is usually spread out throughout the entire head of hair.

Pamela Anderson At L.A. Times Festival of Books 04-28-07 All rights reserved

Many people's hair contains a mixture of the two: the more eumelanin there is in the mixture, the darker is the hair. The mixture (and the shade) varies not only from one person to another, but also across one person's head.

Hair color experts study the theory of color pigment. It is only through understanding hair pigments and correct color formulations that the correct color can be chosen and applied to hair color clients.

Although some scientists believe that the derivation of pigment is probably derived from colo-forming substances in the blood. The color of the hair, light or dark, depends upon the color and amount of the grains of pigment it contains.

Hair color is created by the movement of light rays either as they are absorbed or reflected by artificial pigment added to the hair in the tinting process, or by natural hair pigment.

Note: Actress Pamela Anderson is famous for her white blonde hair which her hairstylists have confirmed she "colors at home with a box of hair color". Pamela's white blonde hair would most likely be classified as a Level 10.

Natural hair color is created by the reflection or absorption of light rays by melanin. The size, amount and distribution of melanin determines the ultimate hair color.

Great numbers of large melanin molecules distributed throughout the cortex to create different colors. The various combination in the size, amount and distribution of melanin creates all natural hair color.

Natural Hair Color Levels With Contributing Pigments

Angie Everhart All rights reserved

When natural hair color level is evaluated with the idea of changing the color, the underlying contributing pigment should always be accessed.

Natural hair color level indicates the degree of lightness or darkness of a color. Every color can be made lighter or darker, ultimately changing the level. This can be done by adding white or black.

Hair colors both natural and color-treated are classified by levels on a scale of one to ten. One is always black and ten is always the very lightest blonde.

Note: Angie Everhart is famous for her rich ruby hair. Angie's red hair would be classified as a Level 1, 2 or 3.

Understanding where natural hair falls on the Natural Hair Color Level scale is very important to the creation, formulation and matching of hair colors.

Contributing pigments are the underlying warmth factor found under every natural hair level. The contributing pigment is exposed during the actual hair lightening process.

This contributing pigment ultimately has an effect on the final color result. It can either be enhanced or neutralized depending on the final goal. When not taken into proper consideration the contributing pigment can alter the new color in an expected way.

Natural Hair Color and Contributing Pigment is very important in understanding how to correct color mishaps which may also be the result of an unexpected contributing pigment issue.

Natural Hair Color Level Chart

Listed below are the list of the commonly accepted Natural Hair Color Levels with the corresponding Contributing Pigments:

Natural Hair Color Level Contributing Pigment
10 - Lightest Blonde - Platinum Pale Yellow
9 - Very Light Blonde Yellow
8 - Light Blonde Yellow-Gold
7 - Medium Blonde Gold
6 - Dark Blonde Orange-Gold
5 - Lightest Brown Orange
4 - Light Brown Red-Orange
3 - Medium Brown Red
2 - Dark Brown Red-Brown
1 - Black Dark Red-Brown

One of the reasons that some hair color consumers with Natural Hair Color Levels of 1 through 4 that lighten their hair color at home pull out unwanted red or orange tones is because the contributing pigment is in the red to red-orange color range.

Professional hair color experts understand the importance of following the Laws of Color when creating new hues.

When creating a new hair color, the contributing pigment mixed with the new artificial color creates the final result.


For anyone, whether a professional hair colorist, hairdresser, barber or hair consumer to be successful in altering hair color, it's essential that the base hair color and pigmentation is understood completely.

It is also important to understand other factors related to coloring hair including the basic hair texture, porosity and elasticity.

- Revised Publication Date: 12/15/11

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