How to Apply Hair Toner at Home [Step-By-Step Guide]

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Asides from the dyeing and bleaching process, in-between routines like applying toner to your hair should be done with caution. If you’ll like to help yourself from the comfort of your home, you should know how to pick a toner for your hair color and how to apply it correctly.

While changing your hair color can be a fun way of recreating your persona, it’s not something that you should rush into.

Hair toning especially should not be jumped on. While it is protective for your colored hair, once you get it wrong, you expose your hair to damage.

This post details a concise guide to help you pick and apply a hair toner correctly.

1. Pick a Hair Toner

Do not be in a rush to apply toner to your hair. Getting your hair toned is beyond the application process. Toning is only effective with the right formula and the right color.

Based on color

To pick a color, a color wheel will come in very handy. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel will cancel out. For instance, to remove orange tones from your hair to get a perfect blonde, you need a blue toner.

To remove yellowy undertones, you need a purple ash toner to make your blonde ashier or platinum. Also, green toner cancels out red undertones that may pop up during or after dyeing brown hair.

Based on permanency

Furthermore, you should pick toner based on permanency. Based on permanency, there are three types of toners with different formulas. They include permanent hair toner, demi-permanent hair toner, and semi-permanent hair toner.

From the above sequence, permanent toners last the longest, and semi-permanent toners do not last for as long as demi-permanent toners.

Permanent toners work with permanent hair dyes. They help to neutralize and replace brassy undertones while extending the longevity of the color. A good example of such toners is purple hair dye.

Demi-permanent toners are ammonia-based toners. They are used to tone bleached hair days after getting bleach. This class of toners lasts between 20-22 washes before they fade. And by the time the toner is fading, the dye is most likely fading as well.

Semi-permanent toners best classify purple shampoo. They are a quick fix for unwanted brassy undertones that show up in blondes. You can use a purple shampoo from the comfort of your bathroom to revamp your blonde.

However, this touch-up does not last beyond 10-12 washes.  

2. Wash and Dry Your Hair

Hair toner should be applied to clean hair. If you are not toning your hair immediately after dyeing or bleaching, you should start the process by washing your hair. Wash your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo.

If you use a shampoo that contains chemicals like sulfate, silicone, and paraben, these ingredients may create a barrier against your toning process. This barrier will not allow the toner to deposit pigment on your strands.

When you wash, gently rub your strands and detangle gently so that the toner can easily reach the strands. After washing, dry your hair with a clean, soft towel. Dry your hair to moistness.

The moisture is necessary to aid the absorption and effectiveness of the toner. While you want to make your hair wet for the toner, it should not be dripping wet. Otherwise, it will make the toner run and render the whole process ineffective.

3. Mix Toner With Developer

Yes, hair toner does not color your hair. Yet, you need to mix it with a developer. The developer will activate the pigment molecules and make them deposit effectively on your strands. The developer enhances and makes your desired look more achievable.

Furthermore, developers come in volumes. You should get a 10-volume developer or a 20-volume developer to mix with your hair toner.

If you’re using a 20-volume developer, mix one part of the hair toner with two parts of a 20-volume developer (that is in the ratio 1:2). If it’s a 10-volume developer, mix one part of the toner with four parts of the developer (in the ratio 1:4).

Additionally, the developer makes the toner more viscous and prevents it from running.

4. Apply Toner to Your Hair

This is the main step of the toning process. In all you do, ensure that you do not apply toner to your scalp. Wear rubber hand gloves and use a clean dye brush to apply toner to your hair.

Start with the roots of your hair. Apply toner to the roots of your hair first to create more color depth so that when your hair begins to grow out, it will not create a contrast that draws attention.

Then, move on to the length of your hair. Apply your hair toner to the areas where you want to remove and replace undertones. When you have coated those areas with pigment, apply toner to other areas but sparingly.

Also, it will be better to avoid applying toner to the areas of your hair that do not need toning. Leave toner to sit on your hair for up to 20-25 minutes. During this time, it runs its course and successfully deposits pigment where necessary. 

5. Rinse and Wash Post-Toning

When the time has elapsed, rinse off the toner with clean, lukewarm water. Thereafter, wash your hair with sulfate-free color-safe shampoo and conditioner. Restore moisture to your hair with moisturizing products that are safe for colored hair.

How Long Does Hair Toner Last?

The longevity of toning depends on the permanency of your toner and your everyday activities. A perfectly toned hair should last at least, 4-8 weeks. This can be extended or reduced based on how you manage your hair.

Too frequent and prolonged exposure to UV rays, chlorinated water, and shampooing are some of the factors that determine the longevity of your toning.

Can You Replace Toner With Purple Shampoo?

Yes, you can. You can use purple shampoo to tone your hair at home if you can’t spare a salon visit. More so, it saves time and money. However, it does not last for long.

After 6-10 washes, the pigment the shampoo deposited will be out of your hair. To use purple shampoo, you need to dampen your hair like you would when using a normal toner. But, in this case, not by washing. You can sprinkle water to get your strands wet.

Thereafter, apply the shampoo and work it into a lather. Afterward, leave the shampoo on your hair for up to five minutes, then, you can rinse.

Can Toner Damage Your Hair?

Toning your hair can damage your hair under some circumstances. If you use too much toner, you’ll be straining your hair because of the developer in it.

In addition, if you use the wrong formula of toner on frail or limp hair, it may pose a threat to the overall health of your hair. For instance, ammonia-based toner can be too much for unhealthy hair and worsen porous hair.   

How to Get Hair Toner to Last Longer

Reduce exposure to sunlight

Frequent and prolonged exposure to sun rays can damage your hair, especially if you have just freshly toned your hair. UV rays can make toner fade quickly and shorten longevity. Consequently, you have to reapply too frequently. 

If you’ll be in the sun, wear a hat or scarf over your head to shield your hair from sun damage.

Cut down pool time

The chlorine in pool water is not a friend to hair toner. Just like sunlight, it shortens the lifespan of your toner. Moreover, the salt concentration in the beach water will do the same.

Although, if you must get into the water, you should protect your hair. You can dilute a leave-in conditioner with water and spray it on your hair before you dive in.

Reduce heat styling frequency

Toned hair remains your hair and generally, too frequent heat styling can be damaging your hair (regardless of how cute it is). The heat can fade hair color and make your hair dry, brittle, and porous.

However, if you must use a heat tool, apply a heat protectant before you do. Also, you should reduce the frequency at which you heat style your hair.

Shampoo less often

The more you wash your hair, the faster toner washes out. Generally, washing your hair too frequently can be rather counterproductive. The same applies to washing toned hair too frequently.

In between washes, use a dry shampoo to cleanse your scalp. And when you use wet poo, focus on your scalp and try your best to leave your ends out of the shampoo. Most importantly, do not rinse your hair with hot water; lukewarm water is just fine.

Take a second look at your products

A colored hair care regimen will be quite different from that for hair without color. Replace products that contain sulfate, paraben, alcohol, and silicone with products that do not contain any of these ingredients.

These ingredients make the color fade quickly and can alter the shape of your cuticles and hair shaft, making your hair porous.

Build an appropriate hair care routine

Build a care routine that works for colored hair. Swap clarifying shampoo for shampoos that are specific for color-treated hair; the same applies to your conditioner.

In addition, develop a conditioning routine. The more moisture in your hair, the longer toner lasts in your hair.

Pre-treat hair with a color guard product before you apply shampoo. When you have just toned your hair, stay away from washing and hair masks for the first two days.


When should you reapply hair toner?

Reapply toner when the last effect has faded, and the brassy undertones reappear. For some people, this takes up to six washes or a little over. You should not overuse toners, otherwise, you may need to solve a much bigger hair problem.  

What color of toner should you apply to gray hair?

Silver toner is good for gray hair. This toner makes the graying journey smooth by eliminating unwanted brassy undertones. Your hair color aligns, and it looks shinier and healthier.

However, if you cannot get a silver toner or make an in-salon toning appointment, purple toning shampoo will do just fine in eliminating the funny undertones.

Can you apply toner to your hair yourself?

Yes, you can. If you know what formula you want, and what color you need to eliminate the unwanted undertones, you can use toner yourself.

Good knowledge about the color wheel will come in handy when you want to tone your hair from the comfort of your house.

How long will it take for a toner to wash out?

Toners wash out based on their permanency and formula. For instance, a permanent toner will not wash out as quickly as a demi- and semi-permanent toner.

But you can wash out hair toner when you no longer want that color again. Use a clarifying shampoo to quickly get toner out of your hair.


How you apply toner to your hair is just as important as your desired look. Before you apply toner to your hair, you should identify what color your hair needs.

Also, you should take into account the permanency of the toner. Remember that you need a toner that will banish unwanted undertones. So, applying toner when your hair does not need it may put your strands at risk of getting damaged.

If you’re sure of your desired look, the toner you need, and how to apply it, you can go ahead to help yourself at home.

Thanks for reading.

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