hair-color-helpMany of you have contacted me or left post comments asking for hair color help. Salons have been closed for nearly 3 months, and when they do open it will be difficult to get an appointment.

Not only that, but a lot of people don’t want to put themselves at risk of getting COVID-19!

So, in light of these changing times I’m here to offer hair color help.

You probably know that I’m not fond of at-home hair color experiments, but I understand the predicament that you all are in and helping you avoid mistakes is the least I can do!


I’ve received a lot of comments/e-mails about the following topics:

  • Intermixing brands of color and/or developer
  • How to accurately measure hair color formula ingredients
  • Converting hair color formulas between brands
  • How to cover gray hair
  • Professional hair color substitutions at Sally’s Beauty Supply
  • How to use vivid hair color
  • How to create unique vivid hair colors

Luckily, a lot of you have great stylists that were willing to hand over your hair color formulas! The instructions aren’t always clear, but it’s a lot easier for me to help you with that information.

No matter what you do…don’t try to find a box color to “match” your color formula. Box color isn’t precise and it could complicate things when your stylist can color your hair again.


Intermixing Brands of Color and/or Developer


YES! It is okay to use a different brand of developer than that of the hair color you are using! However, I do not recommend mixing different brands of hair color together.

Here are a few things to take note of before you intermix brands:

  • If the color is oil-based then you MUST use the oil-based developer that it is meant to be mixed with! In this case it’s just best to stick with the same brand.
  • Pay attention to the consistency of the hair color. Developer comes in “cream” and “clear” form…some color works best with one or the other. If you’re not sure- go with the cream.


Measuring Hair Color Formula Ingredients


This is easy when you have a bottle of liquid hair color and the same size bottle of developer. Surprisingly, I’ve received an overwhelming amount of comments/e-mails on this subject…so even though it seems easy there are many people that need help in this department!

It’s always best to use a scale! It doesn’t have to be for hair color specifically- you can also use a food scale or postal scale as long as it is digital.

If you don’t have a scale- you’ll want to use a color key and a color beaker. You can get both of those items under $5 at the beauty supply store or online. The color key will ensure that you squeeze an accurate amount of product out of the tube(measurements are marked on the tube), and the beaker is for measuring the developer.


Converting Hair Color Formulas Between Brands


There are several brands that offer hair color conversion charts to help with formulating from another brand. You can view a lot of these charts from links on my Hair Color Resources page.

If you need help with converting a hair color formula please comment below or contact me via the link at the bottom of this post!


Covering Gray Hair


If you have your color formula then you should be good to go, but if you don’t it can be tricky because not all gray can be easily covered. Sometimes it takes a little trial and error…and your gray can change over time!

Here are some tips for foolproof gray coverage:

  • NN series colors are meant for gray coverage and are best with 20 or 30 volume developer.
  • If you don’t have a gray cover series to work with…remember that balancing warmth into your formula will help cover stubborn grays.
  • Demi-permanents are not a good idea for full gray coverage(but there is a demi by Redken that is meant for gray).
  • Demi-permanents are good for blending in patterned gray when your hair is less than 50% gray. This is a great low maintenance option!


Professional Hair Color Substitutions at Sally’s Beauty Supply


It’s important to remember that not all color systems are the same. Some brands are based on a 10-level system where another uses 12 levels. That’s why a level 7 isn’t always the same, so if you’re looking for an off-brand substitute pay attention to all of the details!

*My biggest  problem with Sally’s Beauty hair color is how unreliable levels and tones can be compared to what I am used to with professional color results.

There won’t be an obvious substitution for every professional hair color product/brand. I often suggest looking on as there are many professional hair color options available.


Using Vivid Hair Color


There are a lot of questions surrounding the vivid hair color topic, and it can be easy to get less-than-desirable results if you don’t know what you’re doing!

Almost everyone needs to lighten their hair before applying trend or vivid hair color…even some darker blondes are not light enough to get the desired results with certain colors(like pastels, neons, and lighter/brighter trend colors).

Here are some quick tips for vivid hair color:

  • The lighter the color, the lighter your hair needs to be before applying.
  • Vivid colors can be mixed to create custom hues. You can “test” the color by swiping a little with your brush onto a paper towel. This will reveal the true shade and is a great even if you are using a color straight out of the tube.
  • Vivid colors do not need developer.
  • You can use yellow to brighten up teal hair color without lightening the shade you already have.
  • You can use orange to brighten up pink hair color without lightening the shade you already have.

Links for my favorite vivid hair colors:


These tips are just a few of the things that have stood out to me in the past few months that troubled other readers. I could say SO much more, but it’s hard to include every detail about coloring hair.

Here are the most popular posts since salons closed:

5 Secrets to Mixing Haircolor

How to Buy Professional Hair Dye

10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color


If you still have questions about coloring your hair you can leave a comment below or contact me and I’ll get back to you in 24 hours or less!

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About The Author


Professional Hairstylist | American Board Certified Haircolorist | Makeup Artist | Beauty Blogger

7 Responses to Hair Color Help

  1. Just want to say what a great job you did with this post, keep up the great work!

  2. Ness says:

    Hey I wanted to know how to get a level 8 blonde with a gold tone. I have bleached my hair twice and put two box dyes of blonde over it as I thought it would help achieve the color I wanted, which it didnt. I would say I’m at a level 7 with a lot of brassiness.Before I applied the ash blonde box dye it was at a kind of strawberry blonde colour. Now its like a dark blonde orange.My hair is in good condition considering the bleaching sessions. How would I achieve my desired col our?

    • Erika says:

      Just to clarify…you want a golden level 8 blonde? I couldn’t tell because you also applied an ash blonde box color.

    • Erika says:


      I want to mention that you can’t go lighter with color(color cannot lift colored hair to a lighter level…only natural hair). So, you will have to lighten and tone. If you’d like to you can send me a message via the contact me page and I will give you more in-depth instructions!

      • Donna Fredericks says:

        My stylist uses Paul Mitchell permanent color mix of 1/2 8n and 1/2 9n. Can I use Kenra (same numbers) with Kenra developer, to get the same results? I have been unable to find the Paul Mitchell colors I need on Amazon, or in a beauty supply house, but have been able to find Kenra. I do not use Sally’s or others with off brands, and do not feel comfortable with Walmart.

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