What Is Hair Toner? A Complete Guide for Colored Hair Beginners

Hair toners are also known as semi-permanent hair dyes that do not change the overall color of your hair. You can call it the hair color fine-tuner. A hair toner realigns your hair color by removing unwanted warm undertones and replace them with the needed undertones.

There is a wide craving for new looks and one way to achieve this is by getting colored hair, most especially bleached hair. Contrary to regular hair dye, hair toner is a safer option for you if you’ll like to change your hair color.

Hair products manufacturers have made this craving achievable by producing hair care products that can serve as hair toners. These products include pigmented shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, mousses, and glosses.  

Ahead, this article details everything you need to know about hair toners and why using one on your hair wouldn’t be a bad idea.

What Is Hair Toner?

what is hair toner

Cassie Cohen, a hair colorist, says “they can enhance and mute tones while adding shine”. Hair toners are ammonia-based haircare products that are used in between the dyeing process and dye jobs. They are not supposed to add color to your hair or replace hair dyes.

A hair toner complements the action of hair glosses and glazes. They do not work to color your hair when your experience graying or fading. These semi-permanent dyes rather brighten the color of your already dyed hair. Also, it keeps your hair admirable for as long as you have the color on.

Moreover, you can see this hair product like the top coats you apply over your nail polish for a long-lasting finish. Most times, you’ll find colorists apply toners to blonde hairs to eliminate and replace undertones.

To use a toner to perfectly adjust your hair color, your hair must have been pre-lightened or dyed. Toners have warm tones like buttermilk, peach, and vanilla. The cool tones include marshmallow, champagne, and silver. Also, there are pastel shades of pink, lilac, and rose gold.

Benefits of Hair Toner

platinum blonde hair

Hair toners are the color-treated hair miracle. See the benefits you’ll get from adding a hair toner to your colored hair game:

Addition of warm undertones

Incorporating a hair toner in your hair coloring process adds more natural tones to your colored hair. It gets rid of the tones that may give your hair a funny look. For instance, a toner will tone down a vibrant shade like yellow, orange, or gold to a platinum blonde.

Hair toners fine-tune hair color by toning down the brassy undertones that may show up after getting your hair colored. It neutralizes these tones and adds a natural shade to your hair.

It retains hair integrity

In a bid to style and protect our hair, we load it with products that could be negatively affecting our hair. Hair toner is a color protector that helps to maintain your hair integrity and protect the strands from the adverse effect of environmental pollution and product chemicals.

Moreover, they lay over the strands like a coating. This way, they form a protective barrier that helps to balance hair porosity. Also, as a finish to the coloring process, an acidic toner will close your hair cuticles and restore the pH level to normal.

SEE: How Fast Your Hair Grows With These Tips

Hair toners add volume and shine to hair

The large molecules present in toners coat the strands of your hair and add volume to the cuticle. Consequently, your hair looks fuller and shinier. Additionally, hair toners help to revive hair color as it begins to wear out over time.

Hair toners are the pastel shades magic

If you like to make fashion statements with your hair color, you should know that toner is what makes those beautiful pastel shades. Pastel shades are formed by lightening and toning thereafter.

Types of Hair Toner

There are different types of hair toners for the different hair coloring processes. You should however note that the different types don’t mean one is superior to the other.

The three basic types of hair toners are classified based on their permanency. They are:

1. Permanent toner

Permanent toners are used for previously colored hair. They cover the strands with a new shade and last longer than any other type of hair toner. If you are going for a permanent hair dye, you should use a permanent toner for great results.

Purple hair dyes are a type of permanent toner. They are highly pigmented and as a result, may damage your hair shaft. Additionally, the application of these toners is usually immediately after bleaching your hair. Proper care can make permanent toner last up to 5 weeks.

2. Demi-permanent toner

This class of toners does not last for as long as the permanent toners, but they last longer than the semi-permanent toners. Demi-permanent toners make use of an ammonia-based formula. Also, they may alter the structure of your hair shaft.

Before you apply a demi-permanent toner, you should wait a few days after you have just bleached your hair. Otherwise, you’ll be exposing your hair to damage.

3. Semi-permanent toner

Next on the range of permanency are the semi-permanent toners. They are a good choice if you want temporarily colored hair. The color fades after about 10-12 washes. Purple shampoos are an example of semi-permanent toners.

You can wash your hair with a purple shampoo at home to revive your hair color and add warmer undertones.

How to Use Hair Toner

how to apply hair toner

Before you try to apply hair toner at home, you must have made prior consultation with your colorist. They will guide you on your color choice and what formula to go for.

If you have checked this information, follow these steps to tone your hair at home:

  • Mix the toner according to the instructional guide in the product pack
  • A proper and effective hair care routine begins with a clean scalp and strands. So, start with washing your hair with an appropriate sulfate-free shampoo
  • Then, dry your hair with a towel until it is damp. The moisture left in your hair aids even distribution and better output
  • Take a clean dye brush and use it to apply hair toner on your hair strands
  • Start with and focus on the areas of your hair where you want to eliminate the brassy and unwanted undertones
  • Afterward, you can go ahead to apply toner to other areas
  • When you have thoroughly applied the product, leave it to sit for 10-20 minutes
  • Then, you can rinse your hair with clean, cold water
  • After rinsing, treat your hair to shampooing and conditioning

In addition, while you leave the toner to sit, you can rinse off a few strands to see if you’re getting your desired result.

What is purple shampoo?

Purple shampoo is a semi-permanent toner that revives dye jobs. You can use them in between salon visits to maintain lightened hair. Hair coloring is governed by the color wheel. The purple pigment cancels out yellow and sets the balance for perfect platinum blonde hair.

Use purple shampoo to wash your hair once or twice a week and allow it to sit for up to 5-10 minutes. This toner doesn’t add color to your hair, the pigment just creates an illusion of lightened hair.

SEE: How and Why You Should Use Dry Shampoo

How frequently should I apply hair toner?

Subsequent application of hair toner after lightening or dyeing depends on how often you wash your hair. Furthermore, factors like your hair type, exposure to environmental pollution, sun rays, and hair products chemicals determine how long your hair color will last.

With proper care, hair toner should last about 2-8 weeks. After this period, you can reapply a toner if you notice dullness, or an undesired orangey or brassy look.   

Tips for Long-Lasting Hair Toner

Change your washing habit

Naturally, too frequent washing can strip your hair of its natural oils and expose it to damage. When you have colored your hair, you should cut down on washing your hair. Replace your washing kit with a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner that is safe for colored hair.

Condition generously

Colored hair needs extra conditioning to thrive. Treat your hair to leave-in conditioners and hair masques. Use the inverted method to massage warmed-up essential hair growth oils into your scalp and hair. After some minutes, you can wash out the oil with an appropriate shampoo.

Use hair color protectors

Color-safe shampoos and conditioners are good, but you should adopt hair color protectors to your colored hair regimen. You should apply these products in between color treatments to make the toning effect last longer.

Most importantly, you should use these products with professional advice or go to a salon to apply toner to your hair.

Shield your hair from the elements

Exposure to the sun dries out the hair. As much as you can, stay away from frequent exposure to sunlight. On the days when it is inevitable, wear protectors like a hat, a hair spray that acts as a sunscreen.

In addition, pool chemicals like chlorine can wash off color from your hair. So, when you go swimming, wear a shield over your hair and if possible, you should reduce pool visits.

Cut down on heat styling

Heat tools like a flat iron can be damaging your strands. For colored hair, it leads to fading. Reduce the number of times you use these tools on your hair. And, when you do, use a heat protectant before styling.

SEE: Grow and Shine Your Hair With Top-Rated Hair Serum

Choose an appropriate hair toner

Although there is a wide range of options to pick from and they all look beautiful, not every color will give you your desired look. Follow the color wheel and your colorist’s advice to pick a perfect shade.

For instance, toners for removing brassiness are not the same for brightening auburn hair. Pick a color that cancels out the one you are trying to remove. Additionally, pick a toner based on the permanency you want.

This video will guide you to tone your hair at home.


What is the difference between hair toner and hair dye?

Hair toner is considered a semi- or demi-permanent hair dye. While hair dyes will change your hair color, hair toners will remove unwanted undertones and not affect the color of your hair.

Moreover, hair dyes permanently affect the color and structure of your hair. On the other hand, toners are semi-permanent and only coat the surface of your hair strands.

Should I apply toner to wet hair?

You should apply hair toner when your hair is damp, that is, after towel drying. Damp hair is more porous and as a result, will aid even distribution of the product.

If you apply toner to dripping wet hair, the water may dilute the toner. Consequently, the toning effect will not last long.

Is purple shampoo a hair toner?

Yes, it is. Purple shampoo is a toner that you can use at home to get salon-looking blonde hair. Although it cannot totally replace a hair toner, it still makes for a good substitute to remove unwanted brassy undertones.


Hair toners are not totally strange to some people, especially those who have been in the colored hair game for a while now. But, if you’re just getting into it for the first time, toners may sound a bit foreign. These hair products are the colored hair game changer.

Whether you’re looking to get your dye job to last longer, or you want to revive previously colored hair, they are your best bet. As a first-timer, you should go to a salon to get your hair toned. This is because a wrong color choice or application can ruin your hair.

Most importantly, the longevity of your colored hair depends on your efforts to protect it from fading.

Thanks for reading.

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