How to Read Hair Color Numbers/Labels

Did you ever wonder what the hair color numbers and letters (“5GB,” for example) mean on the box of hair color?

It’s actually really quite simple and is almost a universal system used with all hair color lines. This article will teach you exactly how to read the hair color numbers/labels on the box. Let me explain…

Do you know what that letter / number combination on the hair color box means? Learn how to read hair color numbers / labels like a professional!

Hair Color Numbers:

The first part of the hair color number you should know about is the actual number. The number is typically going to be somewhere between 1 and 10 (sometimes up to 12, but I will explain that in a minute).

Think of the “1-10” numbers as a scale from black to platinum blonde. 1 is the darkest black, and 10 is the lightest blonde, and all the other colors are the shades in between.

Do you know what that letter / number combination on the hair color box means? Learn how to read hair color numbers / labels like a professional!

Like I previously mentioned, sometimes particular color lines will have a level 11-12. These are considered to be “high-lift blondes” that are lighter than a level 10 blonde.

So now that you know what the number means, let me tell you about the letter associated with the number….

Hair Color Letters:

The letter associated with the hair color refers to the base tone used in that particular color.

  • A – Ash
  • B – Blue
  • BV- Blue-Violet
  • C – Cool
  • G – Gold
  • M – Mahogany
  • N – Neutral
  • NA – Neutral Ash
  • NB – Neutral Brown
  • O – Orange
  • OR – Orange-Red
  • P – Platinum (Purple)
  • R – Red
  • RR – Really red (w/ no brown)
  • RB – Red-Brown
  • RC – Red-Copper
  • RO – Red-Orange
  • RV – Red-Violet
  • V – Violet
  • VR- Violet-Red
  • W – Warm

These are pretty much the basics of hair color, although some color lines might make their own unique tones to differentiate themselves from the competition. Usually, the color’s name will give away the base tone (ex: light ash blonde, etc.)

The other important thing you should know is that if it has double tones, like RV, it means that the first tone is the more prominent one, and the second is added to complement the first. For example, RV (red-violet), means that the color has more red tones with some violet.

Do you know what that letter / number combination on the hair color box means? Learn how to read hair color numbers / labels like a professional!

So when you put it all together, 5RV means a level 5 shade of Red-Violet (with more red than violet). 10G means a very light golden blonde.

I told you it was simple. To see what some of the undertones look like, check out 10 Different Shades of Red Heads or 10 Different Shades of Blonde Hair.


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Did you already know how to read hair color numbers/labels? Is there anything I left out? I’d love to read your feedback in the comments section below.

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