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Hair toners are the difference between a chic blonde and a brassy mess, but surprisingly enough, a lot of coloring enthusiasts don’t know a lot about them! Whether done in the salon or at home, hair toner can have a subtle yet extremely significant effect on the hair by helping to remove or neutralize excessively warm tones. Depending on your starting hair color the best hair toners can give you the perfect ash blonde or silvery platinum.
If you are wondering what hair toner is, exactly, I’ll be able to explain that in detail. After that I’ll give you the lowdown on the best hair toners on the market right now, especially for bleached and blonde hair.
I’ll help you understand if hair toner is right for you, and if so, which hair toners you should choose based on your needs. I also explain exactly how to use hair toner, along with some clever tips. To cap things off, I’ll give you some DIY hair toning tips!
Hair Toner Guide: Contents
- What Is Hair Toner and How Does It Work?
- 7 Best Hair Toners to Buy for Blonde and Bleached Hair
- Who Is Hair Toner Recommended for?
- Pros & Cons of Using Hair Toners
- Types of Hair Toners and Tips for Choosing the Right One for Your Color-Treated Hair
- How to Use Hair Toner at Home
- DIY Hair Toner to Try
Hair toner is a product that deposits the lightest hint of color unto the hair to neutralize brassy orange and yellow tones of bleached hair. Hair toners can come as sprays, dyes, drops, masks, and more, in all kinds of colors.
The idea with toners is that they allow small changes and subtle corrections to hair color, as opposed to stronger hair dyes that bring extreme changes. Hair toner can also increase the glossiness and shine of the hair, making dyed hair look healthier.
In this article, I will be focusing on hair toners made for blonde and bleached hair. These hair toners are like weak hair dyes that deposit a cool tint to the hair, which helps to cancel out unwanted warm tones like yellow and brass.
You can see this clearly if you look at the color wheel, where purple sits opposite orange, and blue sits opposite of yellow. When one shade is applied over the other, the result is a neutral tone.
So if you want to refresh your blonde or bleached hair, these 7 hair toners are right up your alley!
1. Balmain Paris Hair Couture Ash Toner
This hair toner comes as a spray that can be easily applied to dry hair. It’s a purple tinted toner that is intended to cancel out excessive warmth in blonde, bleached, and highlighted hair, and is one of the best hair toners for achieving that ash blonde look. This formula keeps the hair soft and healthy with silk hair proteins and argan oil. You can buy it from Luisaviaroma.
2. IGK Mixed Feelings Leave-In Blonde Drops
If you are a fan of playing around and mixing things at home, then this is one of the best hair toners for you. These highly moisturizing purple toner drops help to neutralize yellow tones for that ashy or platinum blonde look, and they are meant to be mixed with creamy styling products. You simply mix in your palm, apply, and let it work throughout the day. It is available at Sephora.
3. Wella T14 Pale Ash Blonde Color Charm Toner
Wella makes some of the best hair toners across the board, with a ton of different color options for different needs. This is a treatment that needs to be mixed with a developer, for a toning that is more intense and permanent than some of the leave-in toners on this list. It is made particularly for perfecting the look of bleached hair that has a lot of yellow in it. Order it online through Amazon!
4. Brite Hair Masque for Blondes
There are so many awesome things about this vegan hair mask. It comes in a low-waste container, and it is loaded with hair-strengthening emollients and proteins. This mask can be used multiple times a week, as it contains just a touch of toner to keep blonde and bleached hair looking chic. You can get it from Ulta.
5. Jerome Russell Punky Colour Hair Color Crème Platinum Blonde Toner
This product is essentially a light, semi-permanent hair dye… which is exactly what hair toners are! It lasts a while, and gives the hair this perfect white-blonde tone that has just a hint of purple to it. It can be applied like a regular hair dye, or mixed with your conditioner for regular use. You can order it from Amazon.
6. Manic Panic Semi-Permanent Hair Color Cream (Virgin Snow)
Manic Panic is known for making intense semi-permanent hair dyes in all kinds of gorgeous colors, and this gentle hair toner is one of them in a way. It works beautifully on severely bleached hair, as it also conditions and softens it, and helps to really repair it. After a few hours it removes all traces of yellow, for silky soft and silvery hair. It is ideal if your hair is already very light, and you want it to look truly platinum. Buy yourself a jar through Amazon!
7. SunGlitz Beige Blonde Brightener/ Toner
This is one of the best hair toners for extra TLC. It comes in an oil base, so much like a hair mask, it does an amazing job of conditioning and nourishing the hair. It can be used in between coloring appointments to keep brass away and maintain the hair’s shine. It is available for sale at Overstock.
Hair toner is recommended for almost anyone who gets regular coloring services that also lighten the hair, or for those who have naturally light hair. The most typical use of hair toner is for those who bleach their hair.
Bleaching the hair is not coloring it – it’s all about removing color from the hair. However, when pigment is removed from the hair, often it ends up looking yellowish or somewhat orange, instead of ash blonde or platinum. Hair toners change the undertone of the hair, and can help correct those warm tones to make the hair look more elegantly cool.
• Hair toners are recommended for those who bleach their hair, in order to give the hair a more sophisticated or particular tone. They can be done a few days after the bleaching treatment, or in salon right after the bleaching, depending on the formula of the toner.
• It is possible to use hair toners after the hair has been dyed, if the result is not perfect. Hair toners will lightly adjust the shade of the hair, especially if it came out looking too red or yellow.
• Sometimes blonde hair, whether dyed or natural, can look a little brassy, in which case hair toners are the perfect remedy for achieving a more neutral shade.
• For highlighted hair, hair toners can help blend together the different highlights and create a more seamless finish.
So what are the benefits and possible cons of hair toners for you to know?
• Hair toners correct hair dye mistakes.
• They give the perfect subtle touch of color.
• Hair toners ensure that your hair looks more elegant and sophisticated.
• Hair toners can be used at home in between coloring sessions, to maintain the hair.
• Some hair toners contain emollients and proteins to keep the hair healthy and shiny.
• Hair toners only work on very light or already dyed hair.
• As with any hair dye, hair toners do take a bit of a toll on the hair.
There are different types of hair toners that work differently on different hair colors, and you should know them all to choose the right one for your hair.
In general, to color correct your color-treated hair with a hair toner, you should be guided by the color wheel rule and choose a shade of the toner that sits opposite the overtone on the color wheel. Thus cool-toned and blue hair toners can neutralize yellow, orange or red undertones of hair, while warmer, red-based toners will cancel out bluish and green overtones of color-treated hair.
Hair Toner Dyes
Technically all hair toners are a type of hair dye, but some come exactly like hair dyes and are to be used the same way. These include the hair toners from Punky and Manic Panic. They should be applied to the hair with a hair brush and left in for around 30 minutes to one hour, before getting rinsed off.
Wella’s toner also requires a developer, which makes it particularly strong. There exist both stronger versions that contain ammonia, and ammonia-free versions, which are gentler on the hair.
These kinds of hair toners should only be used once or twice a month, and they are best for those with very stubborn hair that doesn’t let go of its brassy or yellow tints easily. If your hair is a little more delicate or if you are less experienced when it comes to hair coloring, you are best off avoiding these and sticking to gentler hair toners that can be used more frequently.
Hair Toner Masks
If your hair needs extra attention, opt for hair toners that come in the form of a treatment mask. They are usually supposed to sit in the hair for 30 minutes-2 hours, and they tone the hair while also conditioning it and seriously nourishing it.
Such hair toners can be used more frequently than stronger, hair dye-esque ones, and tend to be very gentle on the hair. They can be used as often as twice a week.
Mixable Hair Toners
Some hair toners, like the IGK blonde drops, are meant to be mixed into something else. In the case of the IGK product, it should be mixed into a leave-in product like a styling cream, while in the case of more heavily pigmented purple toners, a little bit should be mixed into a product that will be rinsed away like a hair mask or conditioner.
These are excellent choices if you prefer to tone your hair on a regular basis with something gentler, or if you like to play chemist at home. Regular semi-permanent purple hair dye can also be used as a mixing medium, and mixed into hair conditioner.
Leave-In Hair Toners
Some hair toners are meant to stay in the hair, so they can work throughout the day to slowly shift your hair’s undertones. These tend to be the weakest toners, which is why it is perfectly okay to use them throughout the day, and to use them multiple days a week. They can be used in conjunction with stronger hair toners that should only be used on a monthly basis.
These instructions apply to any hair toner that must be rinsed off, whether it comes in the form of a stronger, hair dye-like formula with ammonia, or a hair mask toner that is gentle and nourishing to the hair.
I generally do not recommend toning the hair immediately after bleaching it, because when you dye your hair at home it is very easy to damage the hair. Leave the immediate toning to the professionals and the salon, and if you’re doing everything at home, wait a few days after bleaching the hair before toning it.
You can also follow these instructions if you are simply maintaining the tone of the hair in between coloring sessions.
• Before you start, make sure you are happy with the lightness level of your hair. Hair toners do not lighten the hair – they only change its undertone. If your hair is not as light as you’d like it to be, you will likely be unsatisfied with the effect of the toner.
• If your hair toner requires a developer, mix the two together following the instructions on the container.
• Make sure to protect yourself from getting toner on your skin or clothes! You can wear a shirt dedicated to hair dyeing, or a button-up shirt that you can remove without having to pull it over your head. Also line up a towel, for protecting your neck, and perhaps even cover the perimeter of your hairline with vaseline to prevent staining. Wear plastic gloves during this process!
• Some hair toners are best applied to hair that is recently washed and towel dried, with just a hint of dampness. Others are best applied to hair that is totally dry. As always, read the directions on your product to find out.
• You are ready to begin applying! For the most even coverage, use a hair dye applicator brush.
• Section off your hair, and figure out where you want to apply the hair toner. If you want to apply the toner all over your head, then simply start by sectioning off the top part of your hair with a hair clip or a hair tie.
• Apply the hair toner with the applicator brush, starting closer to the roots and pulling it down towards the ends of the hair.
• Massage the toner in to make sure that it is covering all sides of the strand.
• Apply the hair toner this way, going one-inch clump by one-inch clump.
• Once you’ve finished applying toner to the bottom part of the hair, you can let down the top part that you’ve clipped and continue doing the same thing.
• If you have some hair toner mixture left over once you’ve covered your whole head, take it and massage it a bit into your roots and throughout your head. Make sure to be wearing plastic gloves when you do this!
• Once your hair is fully covered, clip it all up into a bun so that it doesn’t interrupt you or stain anything around your house. You don’t need to wear a shower cap.
• Now it’s time to chill! Read a book or do some chores while your hair is processing. Most hair toners need to sit in the hair for about 30 minutes, although mask hair toners can sit in the hair for two hours since they are very gentle. Follow the instructions on your hair toner container for the best results.
• When you’re done, hop in the shower to rinse out the toner.
• Rinse out the hair toner with just cool water. Avoid shampooing it, as this will fade its effects.
• Moisturize your hair with the help of deeply nourishing conditioner. You can even let it sit in your hair for a few minutes before rinsing it out.
• When you’re done, gently towel dry your hair. Avoid blow-drying it or using heat-styling tools, as these can damage the hair.
• Wait a few days before you shampoo your hair, and make sure to use a sulfate-free shampoo. Shampooing too often will dry out your hair and make the color/ tone fade more rapidly.
• To increase the effects of your hair toner, you may choose to use a purple shampoo.
Making your own hair toners is very easy, although getting it right is the hard part! Just make sure to mix a fresh batch each time, because it’s never a good idea to mix a few chemicals together and just let them sit there.
In this section, I recommend a 1:8 ration of hair dye to hair conditioner, but you may choose to adjust it depending on how brassy or yellow your hair is. You might find this ratio is too high or too low, so play around with it, but always err on the side of less hair dye lest your risk turning your hair purple or blue.
You will need:
• 1 part semi-permanent purple hair dye (to cancel out yellow tones) or blue hair dye (to cancel out orange tones)
• 8 parts white-colored hair conditioner
• A bowl
• A hair dye applicator brush
Pour the hair conditioner into a bowl, and then add to it the hair dye. Mix everything together until the mixture turns a very pale lilac or light blue shade.
Once it’s ready, apply it to your hair following the instructions I listed above. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, and then rinse out.
Photos via @rossmichaelssalon, @okevaaa, @arcorace_hairandbeauty, @llhairandbeautylounge