Base Color of a Product

Woman choosing hair color at a beauty supply store
Photo: Lakov Filimonov/Shutterstock
Q: I am thinking about coloring my hair as it is sun-bleached and patchy. I know from previous experience that I have an ash base in my natural dark blonde. I want to color my hair a rich light brown without a lot of red. How can I tell the base color of a product (i.e. ash vs. red) so my hair doesn't end up gray?
A: Well, the easiest method is to select your hair coloring products from the beauty supply store as separate components as opposed to purchasing color kits from the supermarket or drugstore.
The separate color products are sold in differing quantities (with the common products, such as developers) being sold in bulk amounts, while the specific color elements are sold in single-application bottles. These bottles are labeled with specific terms that help to denote the color result that will be given by the product.
Among these terms is the base color used to create the shade. The common base colors are blue, blue-violet, violet, red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, golden-orange, gold, neutral, and green or drab. The "ash" tones typically fall under the blue and drab/green base colors. This may seem to limit your color choices dramatically, but the good news is that you can usually use a color with a "neutral" base with any natural color.
If the mix-and-match aspect of buying separate hair color products is really intimidating for you, or you really prefer the simplicity of buying the color kits, you can find base color information on the manufacturer's websites. L'Oréal and Clairol have "palette lists" that show their shade options broken down into cool, neutral and warm categories (and others that are self-explanatory).
So, if you want to use a DIY kit for your hair color, just do a little research online and you can find just the color you need.
See also:
How to color hair
Cool and warm hair colors
How to use the hair color wheel
Hair colors and our color palette