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Colouring At Home – How Light Or Dark Can You Go?

Considering lightening your lovely locks? Contemplating adding a bit more depth?

We explore the possibilities and limitations around lightening and adding depth when colouring at home.

The Colour Levels

The base colour level indicates the depth of a colour. Level 1 is darkest black. Level 10 is lightest blonde.

Start by establishing the colour level of your natural colour. Send us a hair selfie which shows your natural colour (a pic taken outside in natural light is best) and our professional colourists can let you know what your natural colour level is.

This is your starting point, and your colour goals will be to either maintain your natural colour level, or add or take away one or more levels of depth.

Levels of Colour Change

You can lift natural colour by 1-2 levels with our standard 20 vol developer. Our 27 vol developer will lift closer to three levels.

If you want to soften your colour further, you could consider adding highlights. Highlights will soften your overall colour and silhouette and add dimension.

Half Shade Adjustment:

If you like the colour you have and just want to adjust it so it’s slightly lighter or darker, we can help you tweak your colour. Blending a level 5 medium brown, for example, with a level 6 light brown will give you a colour result which is right between level 5 and 6. This approach can give you lighter or darker colour results in half level increments. Your perfect colour might just be right between two colour levels.

Thinking About Adding Depth?

It is always easier to add colour than to take it away, so we recommend adding depth gradually and in stages. If you add several levels of depth with one colour, and then find your colour is too dark, you would need to do a lightening process to lift out darker pigments.

Try a semi-permanent darker colour before committing to a permanent colour. A semi-permanent will deposit colour temporarily and is a great way to see if you are happy with darker colour results. Love your new colour? Then you can colour with confidence and change to a permanent colour.

If you are covering highlights or balayage, you will need to reintroduce neutral and warm pigments to your hair to achieve a balanced colour result. Neutral colours restore warm and cool pigments to hair which has had pigments removed.

Looking to Lighten?

Lightening hair which has colour in it requires a very different approach to lightening hair which is colour-free.

Lightening hair which has colour in it: Hair colour alone can’t lift or lighten your existing colour. So if you currently have colour in your hair and you want to go lighter, you will first need to do a lightening process, and you can then recolour with a lighter colour.

Bleach washes are a great approach to lift out older, darker colour pigments. They are quick, easy and effective and gentler than a conventional bleach application.

Lightening always reveals natural warmth. Adding cool tones after a lightening process will balance the warmth, leaving a tonally balanced colour result.

Lightening hair which hasn’t been coloured:

We have two different developers which can lift and lighten your natural colour:

  • 20 vol developer can lift by up to two colour levels (and provide grey coverage)
  • 27 vol developer can lift by up to 3 colour levels (and cover stubborn, colour-resistant greys)

It is important to consider the tone of the colour you use to lighten, as well as the developer. Our 27 vol developer is the better choice if you have previously seen unwanted warmth in your colour, or if you are looking for 2-3 levels of lift, or if your hair throws a lot of warmth.

We don’t recommend lightening by more than 3 colour levels, as the regrowth and tone can be difficult, and damaging, to manage.

Highlights & Balayage

If you want to soften your colour, you can consider adding highlights or a balayage colour application.

Highlights or balayage will give your hair a sun-kissed dimension and a lighter, brighter finish. Adding lighter sections or finer highlights will soften the appearance of your overall colour, while being less damaging than a full-colour lightening process.

Highlights applications will give you lighter strands throughout your hair which will soften your colour, adding dimension and texture. This approach is less damaging than repeated full length lightening processes.

The Shade’s Highlights Kit has everything you need to add highlights, babylights or balayage.

Our colourists can provide personalised colour advice to help you achieve your colour goals – 7 days a week.

Almost too good! I get daily comments on my hair.

Vanessa Ericson

Absolutely love it! Beige blonde is an amazing colour for me and covers my greys. Soft shiny hair and super easy.


Loved this colour. Honestly would say that it gave me a superior colour to the one normally achieved by the hairdressers. Felt smooth and silky too. Happy customer.

Lynne Slaterry

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