Last Updated on January 9, 2023 by Gaga
There’s this crucial step when you change your hair color that comes right after the highlight but just before the blow-dry style.
It’s the kind of step that makes all the difference for the blonde who wants to look icy platinum versus the blonde who wants to be ash grey. Or the brunette who wants to be mushroom brown versus the brunette who’s going for a cool violet undertone – get it right, and your hair exudes a perfect, shiny hue.
So, what is it?
What is Hair Toner?
Usually a semi-permanent hair dye, a toner deposits color back into the hair that has been previously highlighted. Highlighting lifts the darker pigments out of the hair by breaking them down. The toner can then come in and add color back in to create a shift in hue. If your hair looks yellow, you can shift it to a pale, icy blonde. Or if your color isn’t golden enough, you can tone it to reflect warmer light by increasing the gold in the toner.
They are wonderful, incredible tools. So how often and when should you tone your hair? It all depends on what you’re going for.
When to Tone Your Hair?
If you get highlights that are too warm naturally, you’ll want to add in a toner. The darker your hair is naturally, the more warmth you’ll get when you highlight it. Just after getting your highlights is a good time to tone. But there are other times it comes in handy as well.
Toners are only semi-permanent hair dyes, so they fade after a certain amount of time. A good time frame for a toner refreshment is about 6 weeks after your initial appointment. Stay consistent with these and your highlight schedule. Your hair is getting trained and the more regular you are with appointments, the better it will look.
Getting a toner to deepen your color is a good option as well. If you are a lighter color and are going dark again, toning it down can maintain a nice level of dimension while deepening your color to the level you want it.
Another good option for when to tone would be using a clear gloss/toner to add shine after your regular color appointment. This looks incredible on single-process color, especially on dark hair. It seals down your cuticle, adds shine, and leaves you feeling refreshed.
How Long Does a Toner Last?
Toner can last about 6 to 8 weeks. But many factors affect this duration and there are some things you should avoid to prevent stripping. For example, if you are using low-quality shampoo, your color can get stripped faster. Typically, with chlorides and sulfates, you’ll see these kinds of negative results.
It’s not fiction, there are plenty of products that strip your toner. Some of these include salt and sulfate-based shampoos, clarifying shampoos, chlorine in pools, direct prolonged sunlight, porous hair, drugstore shampoos with “extra strength” on the label, lack of moisture, and more.
The moisture piece is incredibly important for locking in color. Using quality shampoos and conditioners, oils, and heat protectants will protect your strands and keep your hair cuticles healthy. Healthy cuticles can receive color and hold onto it better than very dry ones.
Creating a foundation in your routine consists of a quality shampoo and conditioner, oil, and a heat protectant. Staying consistent with these will maintain your toner!
To protect your toner from the sun in the summer months, consider purchasing a sunscreen product designed for your hair. Always apply the product according to the directions and your color will be preserved. For chlorine, slather your dry hair in a moisture-rich conditioner and tie it in a high bun before entering the pool. The conditioner will act as a natural barrier to the water.
How Often Should You Tone?
I recommend sticking to the 6-8 week toning schedule for most types of highlights or when deepening your color. When going darker though, after several sessions, you’ll be able to space it out further to 10-12 weeks and add permanent dyes to your schedule.
If you had to get corrective color done, toning may be required more frequently in the beginning, like every 3-4 weeks.
Does Toner Damage the Hair?
Toners add a lot of shine and help seal down your cuticle. When using professional products, toners can be good for your hair.
However, some toners may contain a high alcohol content which increases shine but can affect the hair’s health negatively. Make sure you work with a trusted professional for applying quality toners if you’re worried about the health of your hair. They can guide you in the right direction, keeping your hair safe and healthy while combating yellow and orange strands left by the bleach.
Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.