Blonde, dark blonde, light brown or brunette? Are you and your client speaking the same language when it comes to colour change?

Do your clients truly understand what their natural hair colour is? While many women think they are ‘light brown’ or ‘mousey brown,’ a colourist will often describe the colour as dark blonde or a level 6. But when does blonde hair become brown hair and vice versa?



Language and communication between hairdresser and client is crucial or, to put it another way, miscommunication is very easy. It’s important not only for the hairdresser to know the natural level of the client, but also for the client to understand, as the colourist must take this into account when picking the level and tone for the desired end result.

Showing a colour chart to a client isn’t always helpful either. How often do you see a client stroking the colour swatches as you say you’ll add a bit of this and that to another? They’ll nod their heads knowingly, but you can be sure that most of the time they won’t understand. This means the language you use and the images you show are important to their understanding of the results.


Of course, as colourists you know that generally blondes fall between level 10 (the lightest blonde) and level 6 (darkest blonde), brown hair (brunette) then falls between 5 and 2, and level 1 is black. Where this can be confusing to the client is the descriptions used for dark blonde, medium blonde, and light brown through to dark brown.

Generally speaking though, most clients don’t know their natural hair colour, and get it wrong! For example, a client who is blonde through the length and ends, but has roots, always says they have brown hair (and hate their dark roots). Once you have established the client’s natural colour, educate them so they understand their natural undertone and why, as hairdressers, we take this into account, as it helps us determine our product choice.




There are two types of undertone:

Euamenalin which is black and brown and is responsible for how light or dark your hair is.

Pheomenalin which is a red or yellow pigment and is responsible for how much warmth you have in your hair.

So a client who is a natural level 7 (medium blonde) would have more Phemenilin in their natural colouring and less of the black brown pigments. Whereas a client who is a natural level 4 (medium brown) would have a high amount of black brown pigments and less of the red yellow.


One way of ensuring your clients totally understand the colour you are about to apply is by giving them a comprehensive consultation to identify the tones that will suit their eye colour, complexion and skin tone, as well as understanding their vision, lifestyle and fashion sense.

"We find clients can identify with names such as ‘stone’, ‘sand’, ‘oatmeal’ and ‘nude.’ The important thing is to personalise the colour and technique for each client and make certain they understand what the result will be."

Kerrie O'Reilly

Kerrie O’Reilly, TIGI European Technical Director, says: “Fashion inspires and dictates new shades. Each season we develop new techniques as well as names for the colours we are using. We find clients can identify with names such as ‘stone’, ‘sand’, ‘oatmeal’ and ‘nude.’ The important thing is to personalise the colour and technique for each client and make certain they understand what the result will be.

For 2019, we launched the TIGI Creative Consultation Expert. This is a global course designed to help advanced colourists elevate colour services and effectively communicate colour changes with every type of client. Colourists gain the expertise to adapt their style and language so they can communicate effectively with each client’s individual tribe as well as their personality.

It’s an approach to consultation that focuses on how you can personalise a colour to suit every client, allowing you to confidently meet their vision using tones that are the most flattering to their complexion, style and the season.”

Find out more about TIGI Creative Consultation Expert courses in your area.