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What Is Hair Toner and How Does It Work?

by Madison Reed October 05, 2023

Balayage highlights with Lazio Toner at Madison Reed Hair Color Bar

Image by Madison Reed

Do you dream of hair color that looks amazing, even between salon visits? Are you searching for ways to get your desired hair color? Maybe you want to know tips for maintaining colored hair? What if we told you there’s one hair care product that can help with all of these? It's called hair toner and we are going to discuss it in this post. What is hair toner and how does it work? Find out by reading on!

What is hair toner?

You’ve probably heard the name several times, or stumbled upon these types of products in our Hair Color Bars. But, do you really know what a toner is for hair color?

As the name suggests, hair toner is a product that…tones your hair. It can make it brighter or eliminate particular tones, such as yellow or red. The idea behind it is simple – by neutralizing or changing the underlying tones in your hair, toners help give you the gorgeous color you’re looking for.

The list of uses for hair color toner is lengthy. Here are the most common ones:

  • To restore color

  • To correct color

  • To adjust color

  • To enhance gloss

What kinds of products would be considered hair color toner? If a hair care product has the effects mentioned above, it can be classified as a hair toner. The list usually includes:

  • Tinted shampoos

  • Tinted conditioners

  • Some demi-permanent colors

  • Some glosses

  • Toning highlights

The most common way people use hair toners is to get rid of unwanted undertones. Yet, in many cases, they are used for regular hair care (e.g. tinted shampoos). It all depends on the type of product, so remember to read the description on the box before buying it!

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Do professional hair colorists use hair toners?

Yes. Simiar to permanent hair colors, toners come in two different versions: box and professional. Many colorists use them to personalize their clients' hair or to adjust them to their expectations.

How does hair toner work?

Your hair color is actually a mix of four tones: black, brown, yellow, and red. The last two are the underlying tones that can drastically impact the outcome of your hair color. Hair toners are aimed at neutralizing or changing these underlying tones.

The colors of hair toners are not random. They are chosen to neutralize particular underlying pigments in your hair. This is why, for blonde hair, you will often use purple shampoos, while for black hair, the solution will be completely different.

Let’s take a look at how hair toners work for particular hair colors:

  • Light blonde hair: In this case, you will usually try to neutralize yellow pigments. This is why the hair toners for light blonde hair are violet (or purple). After mixing with the pigments in your hair roots, the yellow tone will change to a more neutral one.

  • Medium blonde to light-brown hair: Here, the issue is orange, a mix of yellow and red. If you feel that your hair is resembling this color, you should get a blue hair toner. Again, blue contrasts orange, leading to a neat dark blonde or light-brown hair color.

  • Medium brown: This color is quite tricky since the underlying pigment is between red and orange. However, there is a hair toner capable of handling medium brown and that is blue-green. Just as brown is a mix of two underlying tones, this toner is a combination of two neutralizing colors, designed particularly for this hair color.

  • Dark brown to black: Finally, the darkest hair colors may also experience an overabundance of red pigment. In this case, you want to get a green hair toner. If you feel that your brown hair is more of a chestnut color, or that your black hair leans toward an amethyst hue, these toners will help neutralize those colors to help you get the color that’s right for you.

Hair toner – at home or at the salon?

A question that is often asked is, “can I use a hair color toner at home?” The answer: yes. When dyeing your hair, a colorist will often even recommend you use hair-toning shampoos. But you don’t want to overdo it. A hair toner affects the pigment in your hair roots, so extensive toning might be too much. If you're not sure how often to use the product, just ask your hair colorist for guidance!

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The takeaway

What are hair toners and how do they work? They are hair care products designed to neutralize unwanted undertones in your color-treated hair. Depending on your color, you can choose between purple, blue, green-red, and red hair toners. They come in various forms – shampoos, conditioners, or gloss – and you can apply them at home. Just remember not to use them too often!

Are you planning to color your hair? Make an appointment at your nearest Hair Color Bar and leave the rest to our licensed colorists.
Tags:  Toner