What Is a Hair Toner? Learn Everything You Need to Know Here

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Hair toner is a hair product that does excellent hair color math. It removes and replaces at the same time. Hair toners remove the funny-looking undertones that appear on your hair strands weeks after a dye or bleach job.

Colored hair is the new look, and a lot of women are turning that way. After changing your hair color, it does not stop there. Without proper maintenance, what you get is a mane with different and funny pigments.

These brassy undertones ruin what should have been a long-lasting blonde. The good thing about them is how much safer they are compared to hair dyes and bleaches. And there is more to this colored hair care product.

Read on to see everything you need to know about hair toners.

What Is a Hair Toner?

Hair toner is a hair care product that keeps your colored hair looking its best all through the period you wear colored hair.

During dye jobs, colorists apply hair toners to preserve and extend the hue. Also, in between, hair colors help to remove and replace brassy undertones.

Brassy undertones are the funny shades that appear in your hair after a few washes and exposure to harsh elements. They may look golden or orangey because your hair strands have become porous and over time, they have absorbed pollutants.

“Hair toners are mainly used after a coloring service, but they are also great to use as touch-ups to help keep your dye job looking fresh and glossy between services”, says hair colorist, Taylor Redman.

While hair toners improve the appearance of your colored hair, they do not add color to your hair. They tune your hair color and make it look brighter and refreshed as though you just had a dye or bleach job.

Toners are generally safe for your hair because they do not contain the harsh chemicals present in hair dyes. They do not penetrate your hair shaft and alter the structure of your cuticles. They are rather classified as semi-permanent hair dyes.

What Does Hair Toner Do?

Hair toner is a semi-permanent hair dye that adds natural tones to your dyed or bleached hair. Simultaneously, it removes orange, yellow, and gold shades. It introduces blonde, ashy, and platinum shades to your hair.

Hair toners give alignment to your colored hair so that it looks refreshed even after weeks and shampoo washes.

Moreover, it adds shine and a subtle vibrancy to color-treated hairs like blondes, brunettes, and redheads. Hair toners are also used to add pastel shades to your hair.

Beyond these benefits of fine-tuning your hair color, hair toners do a lot more. Unlike hair dyes, hair toners are protective. They preserve and add to the volume of your hair.

Its molecules coat your strands and improve the appearance of your hair while preserving and enhancing color.

Moreover, while you’re experimenting with colors, hair toners lay over your strands as protectors against the elements and other factors that alter hair porosity. As a result, you have healthy-looking colored hair.  

How Does Hair Toner Work for Colored Hair?

Hair toners come during or after hair dye or bleach. The pigment sits over your hair strands and reduces the appearance of brassy undertones. Your choice of toner depends on what shade you’re looking to eliminate.

For instance, to eliminate orange shades, you’ll need a blue toner. Also, to add icy tones to blonde hair to make it look ashy or platinum, you’ll need a purple toner. And for red undertones, you’ll need a green toner.

Hair dyes contain high concentrations of ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. These compounds open your cuticles and cause them to swell, which may eventually damage your hair strands.

To prevent this damage from happening, the molecules in your hair toners fill in these open cuticles and protect your hair.

In addition, hair toners work in between dye jobs to revive hair color and protect your hair as you reapply the dye chemicals.

What Does Hair Toner Do for Highlights?

Highlights create depth to color-treated hair. As mentioned earlier, hair toners are colored hair boosters. So, it helps to add depth to highlights. To the depth, it adds a glossy look.

Hair toners remove the brassy undertones and revamp already fading highlights. It makes the highlights look darker so that they align well with the color of the rest of your hair.

Moreover, the brassiness and fading highlights are inevitable if you have colored hair. These hair care products in your colored hair regimen help to neutralize and restore your highlights.

Is Hair Toner the Same as Hair Dye?

Hair toner is not the same thing as hair dye. Hair dyes change the overall color of your hair while hair toners enhance the color and eliminate unwanted undertones.

Also, hair dyes are permanent hair treatments. The pigment remains until it grows out or you cut your hair.

Furthermore, based on their formulations, hair dyes contain high concentrations of ammonia. Hair toners, on the other hand, do not contain as much ammonia. And some hair toners do not contain ammonia at all.

The chemicals in hair dye penetrate your hair shaft and can damage your hair strands. The molecules of hair toners cannot penetrate the hair shaft and cause damage; instead, it protects your hair from the damage of hair dyes.

Is Purple Shampoo Hair Toner?

Hair toners also come in a variety of hair care products like shampoo, conditioner, glosses, mousses, and hair masks.

Purple shampoo is a pigmented shampoo that is used as a hair toner. It is an at-home toner that neutralizes brassy, orange, and yellow undertones to re-emphasize a blonde.

It is a temporary hair dye. After about 6-10 shampoo washes (if you use a shampoo specifically for color-treated hair), the purple pigment that revitalizes your blonde fades away.

Like other hair toners, the molecules are larger, and it does not contain the ammonia and peroxide concentrations that alter the structure of your hair. Rather than that, the molecules coat the surface of your hair strands and temporarily fill the cuticles.

How to Use Hair Toner

How you use a hair toner depends on the results you hope to achieve. It is first influenced by the types of toners which will inform your choice of formula. The different types are grouped based on their levels of permanency.

When you can identify the look you want to see, then you can apply toner. Also, it includes the frequency of application.

Types of hair toner

Permanent hair toners

Permanent hair toner lasts the longest of all toners. After frequent washing for about 5-6 weeks, the pigment begins to fade. Hair colorists usually use permanent toners when you’re getting a permanent dye job. A good example of permanent toner is purple hair dye.

Demi-permanent hair toners

Demi-permanent hair toners are ammonia-based toners. On the spectrum of permanency, these toners come after permanent hair toners. Demi-permanent toner works post-bleach. You should use it for three days after bleaching your hair.

Semi-permanent hair toners

Purple shampoos are semi-permanent hair toners. They are the color-treated quick-fix that you can run from the comfort of your home. However, they do not last beyond 10 to 12 washes, and they need to be reapplied as often as three times a week.

How to apply hair toner at home

Before you start, read the instructional guide in the pack. Every product and brand comes with a method of mixing toner with the developer.

  • Start with washing your hair clean with a sulfate-free shampoo
  • Afterward, dry it until damp. The moisture will aid absorption and give better results
  • Use a dye brush to apply the mixed toner to the areas with unwanted undertones. Then, you can spread the product all over your hair
  • When you are sure you have covered everywhere, leave the toner on your hair for up to 20 minutes before you wash it off
  • When the time has elapsed, rinse off the toner with lukewarm water
  • Rinse all the color out and apply shampoo and conditioner appropriately

How often should you apply hair toner?

Generally, when you notice unwanted undertones, you need to tone your hair. Hair toners last for up to 3-8 weeks under favorable conditions.

However, too frequent heat styling, too much time in the pool, and prolonged exposure to sunlight can shorten this duration.

Other determining factors of how often you apply hair toner are your hair type, the permanency of the toner you applied, and how often you wash your hair.

Is Hair Toner Bad for Your Hair?

The side effects of hair toners largely depend on the formula of your toner. Purple dyes and ammonia-based toners penetrate your hair shaft, unlike purple shampoo which only coats your hair strands.

These chemicals may alter the structure of your cuticles and expose your hair to damage. Also, too frequent use of hair toners may be bad for your hair. Moreover, if you do not follow the correct application guide, your toner may damage your hair strands.


How long does hair toner last on hair?

Hair toner lasts anywhere around 3 to 8 weeks, on average. However, this depends on how you got it done. If a professional colorist did your toning, you should not need to reapply toner for up to eight weeks.

Also, how frequently you wash your hair, have your hair in the pool’s chlorinated water, heat styling and the type of toner you use determines how long toning will last.

Does hair toner cover gray hair?

No, it doesn’t. Hair toners will only blend your naturally graying hair, remove unwanted undertones, and make it look livelier and healthier. It eliminates dullness and adds a natural shine to your strands.

However, if the gray hairs are a result of wearing out hair bleach, hair toner can bring out the original yellowy or platinum blonde from within your hair shaft.

Should you apply toner to dry or wet hair?

Apply toner to moist hair. After washing your hair, towel-dry it to moistness before you apply hair toner. The moisture content in your hair is necessary to aid the even distribution of the product and yield better results.

Also, it helps you to manage the product. Applying toner to dry hair uses more product and yields unevenly toned hair.

Can you apply hair toner at home?

If you aren’t new to toners and you have a good understanding of how the color wheel works, you can apply toner to your hair at home. Some hair care product manufacturers have DIY at-home hair toning kits that you can help yourself with.

Additionally, purple shampoos are easy-to-use hair toners that you can conveniently use in the comfort of your bathroom.


Since the brassy undertones cannot be avoidable with color-treated hair, you certainly need a solution. Hair toner is a nice and subtle way of revamping your colored hair game either by yourself or through an in-salon visit. The color boost renews previously done dye and bleach jobs.

Hair toners are not hair dyes. They do not add color to your hair or change your hair color, instead, they bring out the colors that brassy undertones have masked.

Your choice of toner depends on the result you’re looking to get and for how long you want that look. If you have some level of experience with hair toners, you can apply toner yourself. Otherwise, you should consult your colorist.

Thanks for reading.

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