Comparing color lines: Eleven, Pravana, and Redken Shades EQ
March 4, 2021
There are going to be two parts to this one, plus a follow up at some point. This one may not be as of much interest to the general public as the article on the reds will be, but it was important to me to share all of the results that I got.
If you need some refreshers at any point, be sure to check out The basics of hair and The basics of hair color,
Trying to narrow down a color line can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of subtle differences and nuances between different lines that are all fighting for the number 1 spot in your heart and your salon. Being the inquisitive person that I am, I saw a great opportunity to do some head to head comparisons when I learned that my main product line was also branching out into color.
I’ve been using Pravana as my main color line for both permanent and vivid colors, and had just recently switched back to Shades EQ from Redken for my demi-permanent color because I just was not getting the results I wanted from the Color Lush demis from Pravana. At first I had intended to compare just Shades and Eleven since they were both demi permanent colors, but I remembered being told that the Pravana Chromasilk could be used as a demi by using a 0 volume developer so it then only made sense to me to include that in the comparison where applicable as well.
It’s important to remember that each kind of color has its own merits in different applications. I could go into a lot of detail about why I would choose each one for different situations but that’s not really relevant to the overall article and could probably end up being an article all on its own.
For the purpose of these experiments I matched the Eleven swatches as closely as I could to what I had on hand from both Pravana and Redken. The included photos show the final results after the initial coloring next to an uncolored swatch to show you what each one went onto. A few pieces have some red hints that don’t reflect the true color, but instead that they got wet near a red direct dye. Each swatch was treated exactly how I would treat hair on a real human head with shampoo, conditioner, a leave in product, and a blowdry and flatiron finish.
It’s also important to note the main differences between each of these lines and that these are direct comparisons; because there are so many ways these can be combined to be used, it’s important to know what they act like on their own. Pravana Chromasilk is intended for a permanent full coverage, Redken Shades EQ is meant to neutralize unwanted tones and create an abundance of new ones, and Eleven is designed to be customized from a few base shades to create intricate results while also being able to neutralize unwanted tones as either an express toner or as a full demi-permanent color.
For this trial I felt like Shades EQ had the most pigment of the 3, giving the most violet colored results in person when applied undiluted, and the closest result to the company provided swatch. Eleven definitely gave me the most even results on the swatch and the closest to a neutral base without any extra work, and Pravana gave me the most silvery results of the 3.
N is usually a neutral or natural finish, falling somewhere between warm and cool. Of the 3 I felt like Pravana took a level darker than Shades and Eleven, and just a touch cooler than the other two. Eleven and Shades both came out almost indistinguishable from each other with nice even results and a nice shine.
It’s important to note that the red visible on the Redken swatch came from getting wet while being on the same ring as a swatch with a red direct dye and doesn’t reflect what the final results would be.
Slightly different N results
I know. “Sam why are you doing this?”
“Natural” results across different color lines are often broken down into categories depending on added tones that make them warmer or cooler. Because my main goal was comparing to the new colors being offered to me by Eleven, I stuck with matching their book as closely as possible. GA (Gold Ash) and GM (Gold Mahogany) are both listed as Pastel options from Eleven. The closest equivalent I thought of was Shades NW and I was pretty spot on.
Shades 9NW and Eleven 9GM are the closest match for each other across the two lines. I knew the Shades wasn’t going to be a match for the 9GA, but since I didn’t have any of the GI (Gold Iridescent) from Shades I included them together for this example.
With what I had available to me I had a direct equivalent to Eleven’s A and AA colors. Comparing the swatch books from Eleven and Shades pointed me at 9B and 10T as the closest possible equivalents.
Knowing that the ash and double ash lines from Pravana are meant more for helping to correct unwanted tones within a single application, I wasn’t surprised to see a tint of green in both results, but especially in the AA. The A and AA from Eleven delivered the same shade on both swatches, but the more heavily pigmented AA gave more even results. Both were still slightly darker than the company provided swatches. Shades also gave even results on both swatches, and would likely provide a good duplicate of the Eleven 9AA when mixed 1:1.
I’m kicking myself for not having enough swatches to have included a Pravana sample with the other coppers, but since I use the Pravana for full coverage and not as a demi in this application I chose to leave it out of the direct comparison. I can attest that they do have a lovely selection of coppers that provide good results. In this specific trial I compared Eleven’s 9C to the two closest equivalents I had on hand with Shades: 9AA and 8C.
In the Shades EQ line, 9AA is a double pigmented Auburn, not an Ash. It was a favorite of mine in color corrections for a long time, but on its own did not pack the punch that I remembered it having. 8C is a level darker than 9C and as such also wasn’t quite as vibrant. Eleven’s copper option delivered very nice end results that anybody looking for that bright coppery punch would enjoy.
I promise I don’t expect you to just know what that means, especially because the letters can mean different things across different color lines. Eleven’s VM is designed to give Violet Mahogany results, where Redken’s VRo is meant to give more Violet Rose results. I knew right off the bat that they weren’t meant to be direct equivalents of each other, but I was still interested to see how they looked next to each other.
VRo has a warmer and more pink finish, and the VM has a cooler and more violet finish. They’ve both got places to stand out, it’ll just depend on what you want your end results to be.
Overall so far I do like the color line from Eleven. I see a lot of potential for great collaborations and customizations from their color line because it’s so minimal, and I’m really excited to have the opportunity to do so. Instead of having every shade available to you to choose from, you can create the shades you’re looking for with ease. I’m unlikely to kick Pravana to the curb as a permanent line because it has generally worked well for me, but knowing that the Eleven color line is vegan, cruelty free, and comes from a product line I believe in and support makes me very likely to stick with the colors from them that I know work.
If you have questions about color, or hair in general, I want to hear them! Don’t forget to share what you learned on social media and subscribe for more content!