Hair Toner Tips and Techniques

Professional advice on using hair toner effectively to rid the hair of unwanted hues. You’ve probably heard the expression ‘bleach and tone’. Toning hair is most often done to neutralize brassy (yellow or yellow/orange) pigments.

But not all hair toner processes are reserved for going blonde. Anytime you add another color to tone out unwanted pigments, the process can be considered toning. Though it’s most often done after lightening hair with bleach.

using hair toner to achieve beautiful blondesBleaching hair leaves it in a raw-pigment state, unlike hair color which deposits artificial pigments onto the hair after lifting. Bleach only does the lifting part of the coloring process, so you need to add back pigments to create a ‘natural’ look.

The same goes for a washed out color or a process that has grabbed too much blue or grey pigment. Toning will add back what is needed to correct the color balance.

The most effective product to use for toning hair is a semi OR demi permanent hair color.

These types of pigments are considered deposit only hair colors. Designed to sit mostly on the outside of the hair shaft, so they don’t contain ammonia and only require a low volume of peroxide. Some semis-permanents, like Manic Panic which is a direct dye product, don’t use peroxide at all.

This page provides details on which products to use for effectively toning hair color and tips on how to use those products for best results.

Get the hottest looks in hair color!

Use hair toners to achieve the hugely popular metallic and pastel hair color shades


Zotos Porosity Equalizer helps ensure even results from your hair toner by preventing over-porous areas from grabbing too much ash or other pigments and taking on an unwanted tone. It will balance the porosity of the hair which tends to make colors last longer and fade more evenly.


If you’ve been lightening your hair with permanent hair color, you’ve probably noticed that it’s become more difficult with time to get the brassy-yellow tones out.

That’s because as we mature, our hair naturally darkens and the underlying pigment deepens to a point where the neutralizing pigments in hair color can’t combat the yellow/orange tones as effectively.¬†You may need to kick it up a notch and pre-lighten by bleaching your hair.

If you’re mixing hair toner for most blonding processes, look for a light or lightest ash blonde tone. However, because overly porous hair tends to absorb mostly the ash tones from hair color, if you’re coloring this type of hair, you may need to add in some neutral… even a bit of light golden blonde.

A porosity equalizer like the Ion product we recommend will help to fill in those porous areas on the hair strand and prevent the hair from grabbing the blue/grey pigments that result in an over-toned look.

If you still get a muddy looking color, forgo the ash entirely.
Wella Color Charm Demi Permanent Haircolor
comes in a range of shades so you can customize your hair toner to your specific needs.

Don’t forget the
Activating Lotion
! It’s a critical ingredient for mixing this product. Without the developer, you won’t be able to use the color.


A true platinum blonde is off the charts light, as far as the international coloring level system is concerned. It’s white. Completely lacking in pigment. And devoid of any telltale signs of yellow!

Manic Panic Amplified Cream Formula Virgin Snow
temporary hair color is a perfect toner for achieving a beautiful translucent platinum blonde.

NOTE: Hair must be lightened with bleach to the pale yellow stage (like the inside of a banana) before toning to get platinum. If there is too much pigment left in the hair, the toner will not have enough deposit to neutralize it. Learn more about bleaching hair.


use hair toner as a glazing to add shine and enhance color

A color gloss can liven up a dull blonde or brunette shade or deposit a more favorable hue if your shade is dull or slightly off-tone. And it’ll amp up the shine, making your hair look healthier!

Sometimes highlights are just too light, especially in contrast to a very dark natural color. Or a haircolor process can end up being a bit off from the shade you’re trying to achieve. In that case, using a hair color to deepen the tone works nicely to restore some balance to the hues.

Redken Shades EQ Color Gloss
is a deposit only color that works very well for brightening or deepening hair color tones from blonde to dark brown.

This color is great for covering dry, damaged hair because it adds a beautiful shine to the hair, sealing down the cuticle layer and making hair appear healthier and feel softer. Another major plus with this line is the option of a clear gloss which can be used alone or added to any of the shades to dilute the pigment. This provides a more transparent color and maximum shine!

Be sure to use only with Redken Shades EQ Processing Solution.






Color safe cleansing

Make sure your shampoo and conditioner products are safe for colored hair. Some cleansers are too harsh, scrubbing your precious pigments right out of the hair shaft! We want to preserve those tones. A non-lathering cleanser like DevaCurl No Poo is a great option. It maintains the shine and luster of your color by adding moisture and gently cleansing.

Hair Toner Application

Apply to either towel dried hair (for moderate toning) or dry hair (for maximum toning). Start the application in the area that needs the most correction.

Let the toner process for the full time recommended by the manufacturer in cases where a lot of color deposit is desired. Keep in mind that semi and demi-permanent shades process darker than permanent hair color. In cases where only slight toning is required, 5-20 minutes will suffice. It all depends on the porosity of the hair and how much correction is needed.

To gauge whether the hair is at the color you want, lightly scrape a fingernail (inside a glove) down the hair shaft to remove most of the product so you can get an accurate look at how far the color has processed. Even this can be a bit deceiving though, so if you’re unsure, spray a section with water and use a towel to rub off the color to expose the hair and have a look at it in good natural light.


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