What Is Hair Toner, Anyway?

Magic, also known as a hair toner, helps to take out any unwanted warm or brassy tones after a color or bleach treatment. It is a product that can help personalize a color for each client. Hair toners can be in the form of toning shampoos, demi-permanent colors, or gloss. They are not meant to change the color of your hair, but to adjust it for a more natural, healthy, and shiny look.

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How does hair toner work and when to use it? Get all the answers from a professional hair colorist.

When Should I Use Hair Toner?

Color toner should ALWAYS be used after a lightening service of any kind has been performed. It helps to neutralize the unwanted undertones that can sometimes come from the service and allows you to customize your hair color. This is very helpful when your hair pulls more orange tones or your hair undercoat is coming through. In that case, a stylist will need to use a toner at a lower hair level. The same toner could be used for a client pulling yellow: the level can be at the same tone level, but never above what you’re lifting to.

Bright Blonde Hair Color

Instagram / @blassomhair

If your hair tends to pull orange or yellow hues, it will most likely require multiple sessions to go to a platinum blonde or white hair shade, and this would solely depend on the health of your locks. Using a toner to finish off the round of your going blonde journey will protect the hair strands and give them a healthier look.

Besides being the last step in any coloring process, you can use hair toner at home to eliminate brassy tones coming through. Also, you can schedule a toner-only service in between color treatments to freshen up the hue without going through a full-color service. Toner will only last about six to eight weeks, so plan salon visits accordingly. Again, the next appointment may be an all-over toner only or root touch-up with toner, which will preserve the integrity of your hair.

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Brassy Blonde with Regrown Roots Transformation

Instagram / @blassomhair

What Type of Hair Toner Do I Need?

The types of toners to use vary depending on what you are trying to achieve. One that works great on blondes may or may not work on brunettes, grays, or reds. Probably the most popular maintenance is a toning shampoo. For the blondies I recommend a purple shampoo, as purple cancels out yellow (think of the color wheel); brunettes would rather need a blue shampoo (again, remembering the color wheel, blue cancels orange). Purple and blue shampoo can be used once a week, in place of your normal daily shampoo.

Brown Hair with Blonde Balayage Maintained with Hair Toner

Instagram / @blassomhair

Other popular toners are demi-permanent colors and glaze. Demi-permanent gloss enters the first layer of the hair strand, so it will last a bit longer than just a glaze. Demi-permanent color will wash out after about 24 washes because, unlike permanent color, demi contains no ammonia and deposits color only onto the first layer of the hair.

A glaze alone will add shine and smooth your hair from the cuticle, but it only lasts for about a week. The upside of a glaze is that it can be applied at home and can be reapplied each week with no damage to the hair.

Dimensional Platinum Blonde Hair Achieved with Pre Toning and Gloss

Instagram / @blassomhair

How to Use Hair Toners

The best way to apply toner is to mix your toner with a developer and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. These recommendations can vary from one company to another, so be sure to double-check. Use an applicator brush or application bottle to apply, then continually comb through to make sure that your toner is applied evenly throughout the hair.

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I recommend using a wet comb for this type of application. Now, keep your hands away! Let the toner do its thing; it’s easy to keep watching it, but just let it work – it will usually take between 20 – 25 minutes to process. Once you’re happy with the tone, rinse and wash with a moisturizing shampoo and deep conditioner. I would recommend using a great leave-in conditioner as well.

How to Maintain Blonde Hair

Both brunettes with bleached hair toned cool blonde and natural blondes will benefit from toning hair to eliminate brassiness that creeps in due to heat styling, sun exposure, and the effect of the minerals in the water. Mind that removing yellow tones is not a damage-free step, so you need to compensate for it in your hair care routine.

Here are five of my must do’s after a bleach treatment:

  1. Tone. I exclusively use Redken, the color line is easy to work with and they mix beautifully together.
  2. Mask. I highly recommend the Formula 18 mask. It is an incredible intense instant moisturizing and repair treatment.
  3. Purple ShampooPallure is my all-time favorite! It is made with Argan oil and is fantastic. Use this once a week.
  4. Shampoo and Conditioner – The Save Our Strands (SOS) shampoo and conditioner, again from Pallure, are my go-to. This is a healing shampoo and conditioner for color-treated hair that a great for daily use.
  5. Leave-In Conditioner and Repair Oil – These products help your dry time, detangle hair, and add shine. By decreasing dry time, you will be increasing the health of your hair. I prefer products of Formula 18, but your preferred hair brand may also have quality options here.
Ash Blonde Hair with Highlights and Lowlights

Instagram / @blassomhair

The blonding season is right around the corner, so be ready. If you’re interested in viewing some of my blonding techniques or color and toning formulas, follow me on Instagram @blassomhair. Bring on the blondes!

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