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Creating A COOL Brunette Tone

Creating A COOL Brunette Tone

We love a warm brunette tone and let’s face it, most of them lift that way and fade that way. But, there are a few exceptions to this and sometimes it is truly someone’s wish to be on the cooler side. Not only that , but sometimes they can actually wear that tone well! 

Let’s look at why and how to achieve it best…

It’s in the middle of summer and a brunette comes in with her gorgeous tan and bright blue eyes. The key here, is the bright blue eyes. Someone with a bold tan and blue eyes has the ability to carry ash very well. The reason is their skin tone has a ton of warmth reflection and the eyes hold the secret to how they will lift and what they can carry well. The cooler tones will pop those eyes and complement the skin well. Not only that, but maybe they have a finer texture which is generally easier to lift through. So, we know it's possible and well, who doesn’t love a good challenge? 

The things to communicate WELL: 

This tone almost always fades quickly. In 2 weeks or even less, warmer pigment will start to shine through. That is only about 2-3 washes for most people. If this is someone who washes their hair every day, re-think the decision for a cooler tone. Help them understand everything that you can. The elements of simple ocean air will fade a tone like this and it’s not really a big deal, they just need to be aware and ok with it. The warmth that will shine through will not necessarily be similar to a raw lift. It will just simply be warmer than the synthetic tone. 

Product choice is extremely important. Using clean ingredient shampoo + conditioner is a MUST to avoid stripping the tone out. Drugstore shampoo is not going to cut it here. Yes, all clients should be using recommended products, but it is especially true for these clients who want a cooler tone. 

You may not be able to achieve this look in just 1 session. Depending on the density and texture of the hair, this color can take up to 3 sessions to really achieve the brightness you are looking for. Yes, you may be able to finish with a cooler tone, but that does not mean it will be bright and reflective. Your lift almost always needs to be at a level 9 to create to avoid a client feeling washed out or drab. Go in depth with your client and explain each thing so that they trust the process with you. Show them what their hair journey may look like with photos etc. This part of the consultation is huge and probably the most important. It doesn’t necessarily matter that they might not understand the terms you’re using. It is refreshing to see a stylist who even KNOWS the terms and that helps create comfort within the appointment. 

The process:

The lightener choice is almost always going to be foiling lightener and the technique chosen should be teasylights. 


Because foiling lightener expands, it has more lifting capability than a clay lightener. This does not mean you cannot use clay, just know the reason why you’re choosing which. If you tend to want to blur the top of the hair on the foil and upstroke, clay might be a better option for you. If you want maximum lift near the top, avoid the upstroke and go with a foiling lightener. This is a personal decision as to the type of artist you are, however there is also reason for both options. 

Teasylights allow for MOST lift. Because the hair is in such a tiny section and should be almost see through, the lightener has a bigger chance for more lift. If you want to see MORE brightness closer together try a pattern of 3 back to back teasies and then a space or weaved teasy. 

Using a 10 volume developer when starting is suggested as this will provide lift through the entire painting service. About ½ to ¾ of the way through, switch to a 20 volume so it can essentially catch up. There is almost no reason to start with a higher developer unless you are just focussing on a face frame and are on a tight schedule. The higher the developer, the shorter lifting time it has. 

Make sure to shampoo any leftover lightener out as applying a gloss on top can reactivate the lightener and create a base shift. 

The glossing choice should be considered carefully as this can go “muddy” fairly fast. Because brunettes have a lot of underlying warmth, it’s sometimes necessary to be aggressive with your gloss. Always remember that glossing a level lower than your lift will knock out more warmth than going overly ash with your formula. If this is someone with a great amount of porosity, meaning they have been lightening their hair for a long time or this is a 3rd or 4th session, you may need to add more warmth than expected. 

In the below formula, I used a fairly cool gloss because this was her first lightening session and I knew her hair could support it. However, if this was a person who had porosity to consider, I would have switched out the 07VB for something like 08WG. 


Her lift was a 9 yellow and I chose Redken Shades EQ 1oz 08V and ¼ oz 07VB with 10 volume to gloss. I left this on the full processing time of 20 minutes and sealed with a PH balancing mask. As you can see, the result is cool, but reflective. There is no over deposit and there’s a slight shimmer of warmth left. 

The trends continuously change, but for now I don’t see a lot of the silver finishing coming back unless it’s for gray blending. Avoiding that is key when using a cool gloss. If you find your finishes are going very muddy or flat, try switching out a heavy cooler pigment for a gold/copper. Porosity will suck up about 30% of any warmth in your formula. Always remember that violet does have red in it, but blue is a very strong pigment and will overtake with the chance given. 

This is a beautiful tone to create on the right person. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive with brunette glossing. Their hair can generally handle it. A level darker goes a long way. 

Want to strengthen your formulation skills and gain more confidence creatively? Check out our online tutorials and 5 STAR online course, The Confidence Behind Formulation. This course has already changed the way thousands of stylists see formulation now. See you inside!