DIY Hair: What is Toner, and How Does it Work?

Toned with Colorance 10p
Toned with Colorance 10p | Source

What Exactly is Toner?

Have you ever seen someone walking around with yellow hair? And I don't mean like they picked up a bottle of Manic Panic's Electric Banana hair dye.... I mean they tried to go blonde, and it just came out a terrible mistake. Instead of Jennifer Lawrence, it was Lisa Simpson. That bad.

The problem is that they didn't use a toner.

What's that? It's a sweet little thing that neutralizes brassy yellow and orange tones on bleached hair. It is usually purple-blue tinted, and when applied to bleached hair, takes it to more of an ashy, dusty, or platinum color. That means a much more natural looking hair tone!

A toner is actually a demi-permanent hair color that contains ammonia. It will change the pigment makeup of your hair shafts. So be careful with toners!!

Using Ammonia Toner


When Do You Use Toner?

It depends on what you're using.

Obviously, you'd want to apply it after bleaching. But when is best?

If you go to the store and buy yourself a toner, say, Wella's Color Charm in Lightest Ash Blonde, you'd really have to wait until your hair is lifted to a very light tone of yellow. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting your product and not achieving the desired results. So, once you're at a light light yellow, you're free to tone.

The thing is, with ammonia toners, you have to be very careful. If you've just done a bunch of bleaching, your hair is already pretty fragile. If you can stand it, wait a few days. In those few days, I'd really try to stay away from shampooing. Shampoo will only serve to dry out your hair even more.

Once your hair is done being mad at you, you'll be ready to apply toner. Wella calls for you to mix 1 part toner with 2 parts 20 volume developer. The mixture is left in the hair for up to 30 minutes before rinsing.

Some people skip that whole thing, and tone using purple shampoo. Yes, that's really what it's called. I use Generic Purple Shampoo, which you can pick up at a Sally's or online. It's got a really strong purple tone to it, so when it's left on your hair for 5-10 minutes it will neutralize brassiness. This is great because you can use it to maintain ashy tones every time you wash your hair!

Another method people use to tone is to just use dye. This is technically not "toning," but it will serve the same purpose. The common theme here is using purple to neutralize yellow... So the logical formula to tone using hair dye would be to take a *small* amount of purple hair dye and mix it with a much larger amount of white conditioner. You'd apply the mixture for at least 15-30 minutes and then rinse out.

Using Dye as Toner

What Results Can You Get?

You can get a huge range of color tones, from warm honey to light ash, and even silver! Wella Color Charm Toners have even got some red, brown, and violet toners that can be used on dark hair. Do your research and figure out what sort of tints and tones you can create on your own hair!

Rose tone created with Redken Shades EQ
Rose tone created with Redken Shades EQ | Source

What's the Upkeep?

Depending on your hair washing habits, you may have to re-tone anywhere from 2-8 weeks in. Make sure you don't wash your hair directly after toning, because the color will start to slip out. The less frequently you wash, the longer your color will stay in. Not to mention, you really shouldn't be washing your hair every day... It strips out your natural oils and dries out your hair. Which is really not the best thing to do when you've just been bleaching and toning!

Hair toned with Artego
Hair toned with Artego | Source

Keep Conditioning!

Any time you mess with bleach or ammonia, it's a great idea to show your hair some love too. Use a leave-in conditioner, or apply a hair mask every so often! There are some really great ones that are so simple to make, and often use ingredients you probably have in your kitchen.

One of my favorites is to heat up extra virgin olive oil until it's warm to the touch. Sitting over the tub, lean over so your head is kind of between your knees, and your hair is flipped upside down. Massage the warm oil into your scalp to moisturize your hair and activate your hair follicles. This is supposed to help your hair grow too! Leave the oil in for as long as you're comfortable, but at least 30 minutes, before washing out with a sulfate-free shampoo.

Coconut oil is another great tool to use when moisturizing hair. Don't hesitate to look up different hair "recipes" to keep your mane soft and strong!

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Comments 7 comments

miss amanda 5 months ago

Great video and thank you for uploading sweetie! I hate to post this comment publicly but I couldn't help sense some sadness in you, or that you seem like you are going through a rough time in your life and I want to let you know that you are beautiful and to believe in yourself.

If for some reason you need some objective advice or feel like you need someone to confide in, my email is I'm not a weirdo or some pervert trying to hit on you, I'm a 26 year old female from LA who just felt like God wanted me to leave you a comment and to reach out to you. On a lighter note I personally bleached my hair today with 30 dev, baking soda and honey and it is DEFINITELY lighter, prob needs another session (or maybe bleach next time) but I really like the manic panic idea because I cringe at the thought of using ammonia after that second bleaching. My hair is already looking damaged after this first round. I wonder if a hilift dye would do anything significant instead of the 2nd bleaching.. does any1 have any experience w that?

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a beautiful mess 5 months ago from Virginia Author

Hi Amanda! Thanks for your comment, and your concern! I'm really great, I was just super stressed about my hair when I was filming. Doing it yourself and not knowing how it'll turn out is taxing!! Mostly concerned because I work in an office and did not want to go in another day with crazy hair that I couldn't cover up.

Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with a hilift dye! But cool to know that developer, baking soda, and honey works!

Megan 2 months ago

I highlighted my hair & the highlights are a super light yellow blonde. the rest of my hair is really dark brown. can I use a toner on all of my hair or do I have to individually pick out the highlighted hair?

Eloise 2 weeks ago


My original hair color is black and I used L'oreal wild ombre 102 for dark hair to dye my hair but unfortunately it turned orange and brassy. I did some researches online that purple tone would neutralize the color so I used Manic Panic Ultra violet to dye then I used Nak Blonde Toner but it's still a bit brassy and turned into yellow-ish kinda color. I wonder if I should try toning with purple hair dye one more time or just use the Nak toner.

Please help!! Thank you.

Ingrid 13 days ago

Nice article! Informative, thanks :)

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a beautiful mess 13 days ago from Virginia Author

Since you've already used the toner once, I'd try using purple dye again. At least then, you're not damaging your hair further! In my experience purple dye worked better anyways.

Mel 23 hours ago

Your article is very informative and helpful. Thank you for that. I have bleached hair and my hair is a mass now.

I want to go back to my natural brown hair but only problem is that I have premature grey hair problem. I hate when people comment about my hair and I dont want to dye my hair. Can i use brown toner once a month? Just to cover a bit of my grey hair?

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