DIY Hair: What Is Toner, and How Does It Work?
What Exactly Is Hair Toner?
Toner is a sweet little product that neutralizes brassy yellow and orange tones on bleached hair. It is usually purple-blue tinted. When applied to bleached hair, it takes it to more of an ashy, dusty, or platinum color. That means a much more natural-looking hair tone! It can also make your hair look shinier and healthier.
Toner is the term used for the product specifically meant to tone hair, but you can also use other products to tone your hair, such as hair dye or purple shampoo.
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.
Important Things to Know About Toner
- Toners alter the undertone of a hair color, but do not lift the shade. This is why they are meant to be applied to bleached or blonde hair and will not work on darker hair.
- Toner can help you manipulate the shade of your blonde hair to make it look cooler, dingier, ashier, or even different colors like pink or purple.
- You can use it all over your hair, or just in specific parts where you want to change the shade. For example, it can tone down just the part of your hair with highlights, or just at the roots to make them look more natural.
- The more you wash your hair, the more frequently you'll have to tone it. You can either tone it at home or go to the salon for touch-ups.
- You can use three different types of products to tone: purple shampoo, ammonia toners, or dye. I'll go into details about those below.
Using Ammonia Toner
What Kind of Toner Should You Use?
When to Use
How to Use It
Hair should already be blonde. Wait a few days if you've just bleached it a bunch to avoid over-damaging.
Follow instructions on the product. Usually you'll need to mix with a 20-vol developer.
This will not lift the color of your hair.
After bleaching hair. Gentler than ammonia-based toner.
Wash hair with it 2-3 times a week and leave in for 5-10 minutes each time.
Different brands have different strengths of toning.
Purple hair dye
After bleaching your hair
Mix a very small amount with white conditioner and leave in 15-30 minutes.
Make sure to use a small amount!
Wella Ammonia Toners
Wella has a great toner line called Color Charm. Check out this article for a complete guide to Wella toners!
An ammonia-based toner is actually a demi-permanent hair color that contains ammonia. It will change the pigment makeup of your hair shafts. So be 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, a well-known brand of toner, calls for you to mix 1 part toner with 2 parts 20 volume developer (click here for a guide to developer). The mixture is left in the hair for up to 30 minutes before rinsing.
Don't try to make up your own ratio or alter the instructions that you read on the bottle. Follow them! Each toner is different, and everyone's hair reacts slightly differently to the products. Give yourself the best chance at success and follow the directions.
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!
You might need to try a couple of different brands to get the strength of toning that you need.
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
When to Tone Blond Hair
Obviously, you should 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.
In general, you want to make sure that your hair is the desired level of blonde that you want, and that it's in a place where it can take more treatment (is not too damaged).
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!
Sometimes, you get unintended results. If you choose the wrong toner to balance your color out, you may end up with green hair! You can learn how to fix it by checking out this article.
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!
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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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.