Art + Science of Hair Color: Home vs. Salon Color

It is supremely tempting to grab a box of color while you’re in the local Walgreens, but is that $7 box worth orange hair?  Many times we see the model on the box and want color just like hers but we don’t take into consideration that natural level, contributing pigment, and tone are what create our final result.
Prior to any hair color service it is imperative to consult with a professional stylist who has received advanced training in hair color.  Not all stylists have the knowledge to perform color services.  They should evaluate your hair for texture, density, porosity, and condition and inform you of what type of color service your hair can handle.
Semi and Demi hair color to enhance or neutralize your natural level and tone can easily be done at home.  Follow the directions provided and always do a patch test for allergies.  Going darker with semi or demi color can be done at home but be aware of what your desired results are.  It is very easy to pick a color that is too dark and very difficult to remove. Any permanent color going lighter should be done by an experienced colorist.  It requires a precise application technique, timing, and removal to achieve the best results.
If you have experienced a home color mishap it is best to see a professional colorist for any and all corrective coloring services.  Fixing a botched home color service can be a long and expensive process because it is much more intensive than a regular color service.  Color removal can take anywhere from 30 min to 4 hours+,  then an additional color service or services must be performed.  It is best to avoid the corrective coloring process all together by putting the box down..

Art + Science of Hair Color: Caring for Your Color Treated Hair At Home

Color is not your enemy.

Let me repeat that, color is not your enemy.

The loss of porosity is your enemy.

According to Curl Chemist/Tonya McKay Beckeer of, “. . . porosity is the term used in the science of hair care to describe how easily water and other matter can diffuse back and forth through the cuticle layer and into or out of the cortex . . . Increasing porosity of hair has been found to correlate with decreasing tensile strength of the hair. What this means is that as the porosity goes up, it becomes much easier to break the hair.”
Prior to receiving any color service it is important that your hair is in great condition. Permanent hair color requires the cuticle of the hair to be raised in order to remove and deposit pigment leaving the hair more porous than its original state.  Processing highly porous hair or over-processing normally porous hair will cause hair to become dry and weak.   Once hair has become highly porous no amount of deep conditioning will restore hair back to its optimal state.
Color treated hair needs a lot of TLC to reinforce its protein structure and maintain its moisture balance.   It is important to shampoo with  -lauryl or -laureth sulfate free shampoos and frequently deep condition with both protein and moisture conditioners.  Use wide tooth combs for detangling, avoid thermal styling whenever possible, and protect your hair from sun exposure.  It is also imperative to regularly trim the hair to remove damaged ends.

The proper time frame for your color re-touches is 6-8 weeks.  Why?  When your hair grows past the 1/3 – 3/4 inch mark your color becames a much longer and expensive process. (when done right).  I  know we natural hair folks like to stretch our services because it is “healthier” for our hair, but corrective color services can cause more wear and tear on the hair.

Art + Science of Hair Color: Navigating the Salon Color Menu

You’re super excited about getting your hair colored . . . then you look at the salon menu.  Anxiety.  What services do you need to get from where you are to where you want to be?  If you book the wrong service it’s likely that you will leave the salon with only a fraction of what you really wanted.  And those prices!  This guide is not definitive but hopefully it helps you navigate the color menu.

Hair is divided into virgin hair and color treated hair. 

Virgin hair is hair that has not ever had any color (semi, demi, permanent, or lightening) or all previous color services have grown out and been cut off.

Color treated hair is hair that has experienced a color service (rinse/semi, demi, permanent, lightening) at any point of growth along the hair strand.

Virgin hair and color exposed hair are treated vastly differently within some color services which affects the pricing and time frame.

Common Salon Hair Color Services

Glaze/Gloss: High shine clear or translucent semi or demi color.

Average Pricing $20-$45

Single Process:  All over solid hair coloring with demi or permanent color going darker or lighter within 2-3 levels.  So if you’re a level 2 a single process color can only move you to a level 5.

Average pricing $50-$80



Double Process: All over solid hair coloring going darker or lighter beyond 2-3 levels.  In a lightening session, a bleach product mixed with ammonia is used to remove melanin from the hair.  Then the hair is enhanced or neutralized with a color toner.  In a darkening session a color filler is applied to the hair, processed, then the desired level is applied to the hair and processed.

Average pricing: $85-$150



Partial Color/Block Color/Splash of Color:  A single or double process hair color is performed on a defined segment of the hair usually 1/4 to 1/2 of the head.

Average pricing $45-75



Partial Highlight: 1/4 to 1/4 of the head is highlighted within foils by either single or double process method.

Average pricing $70-$110



Full Highlight:  Whole head is highlighted within foils by either single or double process method.

Average pricing $90-$150



Freehand Painting/Balyage/Pintura/Ombre: Full or partial highlighting hair painting without using foils/paper.  Creates natural highlights.  Stylist must be highly trained to paint the hair properly

Average Price $95-$250


So what if you want an all over color with highlights?  Then you will probably need to book both of those services.

Single Process + Partial Highlight average pricing $120 – $250

Color Correction

Color correction is a varied process. It can mean removing unwanted tone from a greenish blonde then toning the hair to platinum blonde.  It could mean taking a head of hair with 4 different colors on a hair strand and making the hair a uniform color.  It could mean removing 5 years of black hair color and creating a bombshell caramel. Each color correction is a unique challenge for the stylist and client

Most color corrections take more than 2 steps to complete and are often charged hourly. Pricing can reach $500+



Art + Science of Hair Color: Applying Theory

Lets put the theory of hair color together so it makes sense

Ground rules

Hair Color can only do three things
1. Darken natural hair color
2. Lighten natural hair color
3. Enhance or neutralize the tone of natural or color treated hair

The Hair Color Level System goes from Level 1/Black as the darkest color to Level 10/Lightest Blonde as the lightest.

*Most of HairLoveArt Studio’s clients have Level 2/Darkest Brown or Level 3/Dark Brown for their Natural Level.*

All hair has Natural Remaining Pigment (NRP) from Dark Red to Pale Yellow. Shade of NRP is determined by  Natural Level.

When lifting/lightening the Natural Level any hair color formulation must consider the NRP at the Desired Level.

To enhance the NRP at the desired level we use analogous warm colors in our hair color formula.

To neutralize the NRP at the desired level we use complementary cool colors in our hair color formula.

Grey hair has no pigment.

Semi Permanent and Demi Permanent color can only darken, enhance, or neutralize natural or color treated hair

Permanent color can lighten and tone up to 3 levels (high-lift color can life 4-5 levels) in a single process

Lightener can lift up to 9 levels.  A toner must be used to enhance or neutralize hair after a lightening service.




Art + Science of Hair Color: Tonality

Tone is the warmth or coolness of a color and is another  major consideration when formulating color.

Warm tones are red, orange, yellow and are usually described as auburn, copper, gold, or honey.

Cool tones are blue, green, and violet and are described as pearl, smokey, bronze, and platinum.

Cooler Hair Color


Warmer Hair Color



Art + Science of Hair Color: Artists Color Theory

Think back to elementary school art class when you learned the Law of Color.

Red, Yellow, and Blue are Primary colors

Green, Orange, and Purple are Secondary colors

Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Red-Violet, Blue-Violet, Blue-Green, Yellow-Green are Tertiary colors

(the chart is wrong, primary colors are always named first)

Colors that are opposite on the color wheel (complementary colors) are Blue/Orange, Red/Green, and Yellow/Purple

Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel are analogous colors.

Remember in the last post we talked about the underlying Natural Remaining Pigment (NRP)?

  • Complementary colors are used in hair color to neutralize NRP
  • Analogous colors are used in enhance contributing pigment.

Hair coloring systems are based on lightening or darkening  the natural level and enhancing or neutralizing NRP to create the desired effect.