How To Tone Hair Color – Here’s Everything You Need To Know.

Toning your hair is a great way to add dimension and depth, or to simply change up your look.

But with all of the different products and terms out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Don’t worry, we’re here with everything you you need to know about how to tone your hair.

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about hair toning, from which products to use to how often you should be doing it. Keep reading to learn more!

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How to tone your hair step-by-step.

Toning your hair at home is easy, and it’s a great way to extend the life of your color between salon visits. Follow these simple steps for how to tone your hair, and you’ll be on your way to gorgeous, glossy locks in no time.

Step #1 Determine what color you want to get rid of.

First, determine the color of the unwanted pigment that you have in your hair.

Maybe you have green in your blonde hair and want to get rid of it. You would need to use something with red in it to neutralize that green. Red pigments cancel out green pigments on the hair color wheel (see our chart below).

If you have red hair and your desired color is a natural light ash brown, you would need to use something with green in it like a green shampoo to counteract the red tones.

Blonde and bleached hair typically needs a lot of toning to counteract the brassy yellow hair and brassy orange tones that show through.

Golden undertones especially naturally draw warmth so there’ll always be underlying brassy color as these colors fade.

For this, you would need a purple or violet color toner. Knowing the unwanted pigment or hair dye color is only the first step.

Step #2 Determine what kind of toner you need.

Next, you will need to figure out what type of color or toner you will use.

There are a few different types of hair color toners that can be used to achieve desired results.

Toning shampoo is an easy way to tone hair at home.

Semi-permanent toner and demi-permanent toner are both good options if the goal is to simply neutralize an unwanted hue.

For those looking for more dramatic, long-lasting changes, permanent toner is the way to go. Permanent toner is pretty, well, permanent, so make sure you’re confident in what you’re doing, or talk to a colorist!

When toning hair, you have to choose a color that is one or two levels darker than your current hair color. This will help to tone hair down any unwanted warm tones in your hair.

If you are looking to remove brassy tones, you will need to lighten your hair to a higher level in order to strip away the brassiness.

Step #3 Select the right shade of toner.

Once you have determined what type of toner is best to tone your color, it’s time to select the perfect shade!

Be sure to take into account the natural base color of your hair when making this decision.

While lighter tones will provide a subtle shift, darker shades will be more noticeable and can lead to dramatic results.

If you have brassy blonde hair with unwanted golden undertones, a violet-based color toner is your best bet to get back to ash blonde. For those with brassy brunettes and redheads, a blue-based color toner will work best.

And for those looking to achieve silver hair, you’ll want to choose an ash-toned product.

Use the color wheel below to help your desired shade.

Step #4 Apply the toner.

After you’ve chosen the perfect shade it’s time to apply hair toner!

Generally, semi-permanent and demi-permanent toners will need to be applied from roots to ends in sections that are no larger than two inches wide.

Permanent toners should only be used on new growth for best results. All toners must be left on the hair for about 15 minutes before being rinsed out thoroughly with cool water.

Now comes the fun part – application!

Start by pouring some of the toner into an applicator bottle or bowl and mix in developer according to package instructions (be sure not to exceed the recommended ratios).

Then begin at the roots and work towards the tips using an applicator brush or bowl/bottle applicator comb until all sections are thoroughly saturated with product.

When you’ve finished applying throughout your hair, let the mixture process for up to 20 minutes then gently wash and rinse it out thoroughly with cool water until all residue has been removed from your hair strands.

Step #5 Style and admire!

Once it’s all rinsed out, dry your hair thoroughly before making an assessment on your color. Remember that wet hair always looks darker!

And that’s how you tone your hair!

Hair toner before and after.

What is hair toner?

Toner, gloss, glaze, these are all types of toners you may have heard of that correct the color in your hair and keep it looking fabulous.

A toner is a demi-permanent color that, when mixed with a low developer, deposits color onto the hair. Its primary purpose is to refresh color, neutralize color, and get rid of any unwanted brassy tones in dyed hair.

When lightening someone’s hair, you will be left with an unflattering color if you don’t use a toner. This is because the lightener only reveals the underlying pigment and warmth in someone’s hair – which can be anything from red and orange to gold or yellow.

By using a toner, you can get rid of these unflattering colors and achieve beautiful tones like white platinum blonde or big blonde to cool mushroom browns.

Toner isn’t just for pre-lightened hair; it can also be used to refresh and adjust the color of hair that is already colored.

Brunettes or redheads can use toner to add a warmer or cooler tone, depending on their preference. If your goal is silver hair, you will need a toner to achieve that specific tone too.

Hair toner is is a must for bleached hair too.

It can be used to brighten highlights, lowlights, or just to give your overall color a boost. Some will just make your hair a slightly different color, while others will completely cover up any previous dye job.

They’re also used to counteract warm and brassy tones like orange and yellows in color-treated hair.

They typically only need to be left in for a few minutes before being rinsed out.

How does hair toner work?

Toners work by depositing a layer of color on top of your hair cuticle. They can be used on both natural and colored hair, although it’s more common for those with highlights, ombre, or balayage.

It’s all to do with hair color theory. This means using opposite hair colors to color correct unwanted tones like orange tones.

If you are trying cool down warm colors like brassy orange or even green tones in hair, you use blue and purple toners.

If you are trying to warm up cool tones like ash blonde, beige blonde or even silver hair or gray hair, you use yellow and red toners.

They are opposite colors on the hair color wheel that hair colorists use to figure it all out!

hair color wheel

Why do I need hair toner?

They are a great way to fine-tune the color of your hair, and it can also help to correct any unwanted tones.

For example, if you’ve dyed your hair blonde but it looks a bit brassy, you can use a purple toner to cool it down. Super light shades like platinum blonde and icy-white hair colors will likely always need toning.

Or, if you’ve dyed your hair brown but it looks a bit red, you can use a green toner to neutralize the red tones.

These miracle potions can also put some life back into dull, lifeless dyed hair.

If your hair is looking a bit flat, adding a hair gloss toner can give it some extra body and shine.

You can also use them to tone down hair color that’s too bright.

They can also refresh your hair color without having to resort to hair dyes again!

What are the different types of toners?

There are three main types: permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary.

  • Permanent toners are the most long-lasting, but they also tend to be the harshest on your hair. These are the most common salon level toners.
  • Semi-permanent toners or glosses are a bit more gentle, but they only last for a few washes.
  • Temporary toners are the least harsh and last for just one use.

Do you apply toner to wet or dry hair?

Again, it really depends on the type of toner you’re using!

Permanent, demi-permanent and semi-permanent toners should always be applied to wet hair, as they will be more effective and less damaging to your hair cuticle.

Temporary ones can be applied to either wet or dry hair, but they will last longer if you apply them to wet hair.

Toning shampoos can be used on either wet or dry hair, but they will be more effective on wet hair.

How often should I tone my hair?

How often you use them varies with what you want to achieve with your color.

If you want a color refresh – and not a full dye job – then you can use them every time you wash your hair.

If you are trying to correct an unwanted tone, then you may need to use them more often.

Some people even use toners or toning hair masks every time they color their hair, in order to keep the color looking fresh.

Can I make my own hair toner?

If you’re anything like us, you’re always on the lookout for ways to save money without sacrificing quality. So, when we came across DIY recipes for hair toner, we were intrigued. Could we really make our own hair toner at home? We did some digging to find out.

At-Home Toner Recipe.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 2 parts water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • A squirt bottle or small bowl for mixing
  • A old t-shirt or towel (to avoid staining clothes)

Directions: Mix all ingredients together and pour into your squirt bottle or small bowl. Apply mixture evenly to clean, damp hair, paying extra attention to any areas that look particularly brassy.

Leave the toner in for 15-20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with cold water. Sit back and enjoy your new, toned and shiny locks!

Creating your own hair toner at home is definitely possible, but it’s not necessarily recommended.

While there are some advantages to making your own hair toner, there are also some significant drawbacks. Without careful measuring and mixing, it’s easy to end up with a hair toner that’s either too strong or too weak.

And if you don’t use the right ingredients, you could end up damaging your hair. Best stick to products that are made for the job.

Can I tone my hair at home?

Yes! Depending on which product you use, you can for sure do it yourself at home.

Permanent toners are salon level toners which should really only be used by professional hair colorists, as they can be very damaging to your hair.

Semi-permanent and temporary toners can be used at home, but it’s always best to follow the instructions on the package.

Toning shampoos are the best way to tone your hair at home. These come in the form of a shampoo or conditioner, and you simply use them like you would any other shampoo or conditioner.

Just make sure to leave it on for the recommended time before rinsing it out!

Generally, you’ll want to apply the toner to wet hair, and then rinse it out after a few minutes.

You may need to shampoo and condition your hair afterwards with a sulfate free shampoo to get rid of any residue.

Best hair toners at a glance

TonerLooks likeBest forBuy it now
Dr. Fischer's Purple Hair Maskq? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B082WKCM2S&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=colouredhairc 21&language=en GBir?t=colouredhairc 21&language=en GB&l=li2&o=2&a=B082WKCM2SBlondes
John Frieda Violet Crush Intensive Purple Shampooq? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07X81V4F9&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=colouredhairc 21&language=en GBir?t=colouredhairc 21&language=en GB&l=li2&o=2&a=B07X81V4F9Blondes
PRO:VOKE Touch of Silver Toning Treatment Mask q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07NCX2VCC&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=colouredhairc 21&language=en GBir?t=colouredhairc 21&language=en GB&l=li2&o=2&a=B07NCX2VCCPlatinum and Silver hair
Scott Cornwall Colour Restore Cool Ash Tonerq? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B01C2YOVBK&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=colouredhairc 21&language=en GBir?t=colouredhairc 21&language=en GB&l=li2&o=2&a=B01C2YOVBKBlonde, bleached, highlighted and brunette bases.
Fanola Official No Orange Shampooq? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B071WWK11X&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=colouredhairc 21&language=en GBir?t=colouredhairc 21&language=en GB&l=li2&o=2&a=B071WWK11XBrunette
Scott Cornwall Colour Restore Deep Red Temporary Toner Dyeq? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B01C2YOV3I&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=colouredhairc 21&language=en GBir?t=colouredhairc 21&language=en GB&l=li2&o=2&a=B01C2YOV3IRed hair

At-Home vs Professional Toning

Should you tone hair yourself or leave it to the professionals?

If your goal is simply to brighten up your blonde shades or get rid of any unwanted brassiness, then at-home toning products will likely do the trick.

However, if you’re looking for a major color change – think going from blonde to silver – then you’ll probably need the help of a professional colorist.

The same goes for any situation where you’re trying to correct an existing hair dye issue – in those cases, it’s always best to seek out the help of a pro and book a salon visit.

Can I tone hair extensions?

Yes, you can totally tone hair extensions! Human hair extensions come in a wide range of colors, and it’s super easy to give them an even brighter look by toning.

The toning process also helps blend the natural color of your own hair with the extensions for an even more realistic effect.

Plus, some people view toning hair extensions as a convenient way of changing up their look without needing to do much else.

Toning hair extensions is a great option for whatever type of hair extensions you may have; so whether you want platinum blonde or rose gold mermaid waves, toning is the perfect way to get the hair makeover of your dreams!

How can I tone my brassy hair?

The easiest way to tone brassy orange hair is to use a purple shampoo or blue shampoo.

Purple shampoos contain purple or violet pigments that counteract the brass and leaves your hair strands looking super cool. It’s the best way to tone blonde hair.

Brunettes, you can use blue shampoo to counteract warmer orange tones.

You can also try using a DIY toning mixture made with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.

Just mix equal parts of the ingredients together and apply it to your hair.

Leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it out.

Is purple shampoo a toner?

Yes, purple shampoo is a type of toner. It works by neutralizing brassy orange and yellow undertones in blonde or brown hair.

Purple shampoos work on light brown to dark brown hair as well as blonde hair.

Simply use them like you would any other sulfate free shampoo or conditioner, and leave them on for the recommended time before rinsing them out.

You may need to use a toning shampoo more often if your hair is very brassy, but it can be a great and affordable way to tone your hair at home and keep it the right ashy hue for you.

How can I tone gray hair?

Keeping your gray hair looking gorgeous doesn’t have to be hard!

One of the simplest ways to tone gray hair is by using purple shampoo.

Shampoos with purple pigments provide brilliant sheen and neutralize yellow or brassy tones, leaving your locks looking soft, shiny and healthy.

Purple shampoo is incredibly easy to use; simply apply it like any other shampoo, lather into your scalp and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing out.

Voila! You’re ready to sport your silvery strands with style.

How can I tone my dark hair at home?

Dark hair like black hair and brunette can be prone to brassiness, especially if you have highlights or lightened sections.

One way to tone dark brown hair at home is to use a blue shampoo or conditioner.

These work by neutralizing the yellow tones in your hair with their blue pigments.

Simply use them like you would any other shampoo or conditioner, and leave them on for the recommended time before rinsing them out in the shower.

Will hair toner lighten your hair?

No, toners will not lighten your hair.

They are used to correct unwanted tones or to add new colors, but they will not make your hair lighter.

If you are looking for a lightening treatment, you should try a hair bleach or lightener.

How long does hair toner last?

Toners usually last around six weeks, depending on the person’s hair porosity and how frequently they wash their hair.

If you use heat on your hair, it will usually last for four to eight weeks.

After this, you’ll have to re-tone, or re-dye your hair to refresh your color.

Will hair toner damage my hair?

Does toner damage hair? It depends!

As always, if you’re going from no color to a major color change, that intense process can be hard on your hair.

But for the most part, toners are incredibly gentle and do not damage hair at all. Specifically, toners help refresh your color!

So rest easy knowing those few spritzes of toner aren’t risking permanent damage to those glorious locks. In the end, careful application of a gentle product is the way to go.

How do I remove hair toner?

Achieving the right hair tone may take a few tries, so if you’ve used too much hair toner and now it’s darkening your highlighted look more than you’d like, don’t panic!

The best thing to do to remove hair toner from your hair is to use shampoo and a clarifying rinse.

Start by washing it with shampoo several times – this helps strip away any excess product.

Then, after your last wash, pour a generous amount of the clarifying rinse onto your roots, lather it up well and then rinse out – this will help lift out any traces of dark color left behind.

How to care for toned hair.

Caring for toned hair is a lot easier than you may think! It’s all about getting a good hair care routine.

Firstly, it’s important to choose a good, sulfate-free moisturizing shampoo so that your strands don’t dry out and become brittle. Moisturizing shampoo also keeps your hair feeling nourished and replenishes its natural oils which locks the color in.

Make sure you use shampoos that are alcohol free and paraben free so they don’t dull or strip your color.

On top of that, you should also avoid hot showers — cool or lukewarm water is best.

Hot water strips hair of its natural oils and can dull the tone.

You could also use a hydrating mask or conditioner a few times a week for an added boost of shine. Hair coloring and toning can lead to damaged hair and over-processed tresses.

Investing in a deep conditioner or hair oil treatment once a week will also help keep your toned hair looking glossy and vibrant on all hair types!

Parting words.

So there you have it!

Hair toners can be a great way to enhance your natural hair color or correct unwanted tones from old hair dyes.

Just make sure to choose the right toner for your hair type and desired results.

And always follow the instructions on the package to avoid damaging your hair.

Or speak to a hair colorist who can recommend what’s best for you!

Good luck!

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Nicola Freeman

Creative Director & Owner

With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during Covid for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!