Haircolor = Algebra

Haircolor = Algebra

Do you remember learning about primary and secondary colors in grade school? Did you ever think you’d use them in day to day life? I use them every single day. Every time I do color, its a careful color and algebra formula. Yes algebra! Let me explain. Client wants Z color. Client has Y color. Z=Y+X and I need to solve for X. But X is a million factors in itself.

To break this down, I’ll need to explain a few basic terms: level, tone and undertone.

Level: the lightness or darkness of hair. (ie: 1= black…10=blonde)

Tone: the warmth/coolness of hair. (ie: ash blonde v golden blonde)

Undertones: the colors that come out as the hair lightens. This is where the real fun happens! 

Any factor can influence your undertone. How dark is your hair, what kind of shampoo you use (can deposit metals that pull brassier or uneven tones), previously lightened or colored hair, box color. These are all going to complicate solving for X.

If we are starting from black, hair would pull the following undertones:

Most people do not want to see red/orange or orange/yellow highlights in their hair, so this is when toner comes in. I include the cost of the toner in all my services because it is non-negotiable for me. This is where the color wheel comes in handy.

If you want to balance a color, you choose it’s opposite on the color wheel. However, you don’t always want to fully neutralize a color. Sometimes you want a little bit of gold (yellow/orange) left or maybe you want to go full copper (orange) so how do you enhance it without being brassy? These are the hairdresser secrets that take the good from the great.

Color formulation is tricky and requires a lot of skill, math, science and patience. It seems fairly basic when you have a natural client wanting to add highlights. When full color changes are involved, we have to take into the first 1/2 of your hair will be affected by your body heat and will pull warmer colors than your ends, so that requires 2 sometimes 3 formulas. If your hair is really long, your ends are thinner and will also lift faster so that will require another color as well. If you add grey into the mix, we have to formulate for completely white hairs which can go ashier because they have none of the undertones to fill them in so we need to add a tiny bit of warmth to the formula. If you’re feeling like the confused lady in the math meme, good. Now you know why you should pay to have someone else do your hair!

In addition to the basics, most people do not sit in my chair with completely virgin hair. They’ve highlighted before, or recently gone darker, or they have many different colors in their hair, all requiring different formulas. Or worse, they’ve used box color, which is every hairdressers nightmare. Why? Box color has the maximum amount of pigments and ammonia because its one size fits all. But if you’ve learned anything today, one size does not fit all!! Sometimes, not even on the same head! That’s just one reason but when I have to break through all the extra pigment from a box color client, it can cost more and cause damage. Just. Don’t. Do. It. 

Previously highlighted hair that’s brassy may not have been lightened enough. If it’s stripey or lacks dimension, I may need to add some signature pieces (darker colors) to break it up which can actually make your blonde look brighter. The health of the hair always needs to be taken into consideration as well. If you heat style a lot, this can cause your hair to break or your color to fade out faster. Healthy hair is beautiful hair! This is why I always recommend products to keep your hair strong and conditioned.

Most people color their hair themselves because they want to save money, or they go to junior stylists or Cosmetology schools. However fixing these mistakes is extremely expensive not only financially but on the health of your hair. My grandfather use to tell me Do It Right, Do It Once. That has never been more true than in hair color.


If you’re interested in a change or need your color fixed please email me!



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