Skip to main content

Your Guide to Toning Your Hair at Home.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 11.18.14 AMThis post is being written as pr your requests about more information about toning your hair at home. Today we are going to talk about toners, what they are, why we use them and how they work, so that you can be fully informed and in the know.

In the Salon, it has come to my attention over and over again that most people who are coming in for color, especially those of you going lighter, don’t fully understand what toner is and why it is important. So here is your rundown:)

What is toner?

Toner is very low volume hair color that deposits pigment or ‘tone’ to hair without really changing the level of the hair. Put simply, it corrects the tone of the hair without lightening or darkening the hair at all.

Is it the same as hair dye?

It is the same concept, but because we don’t use it to ‘lift’ (lighten) or darken the hair, it has a very low peroxide/ammonia content which makes it more gentle and far less corrosive. Basically, it is the same as semi-permanent color but it has less pigment to it…….so it is more translucent when applied to the hair.

Can I use box dye to tone my hair?

I advise against it because your box dye is going to use a far higher developer (peroxide, which activates the dye) than what you need. When all you need is to correct the tone, permanent box dye will be too harsh, and most semi-permanent box dyes will add more pigment than you want, and won’t be toning as much as masking your color. Think of toner as more of a subtle thing, like a pink tinged clear polish  coat on your fingernails instead of a solid pink.Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 11.00.10 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-27 at 11.00.32 AM

Why do we love toner?

Because generally, hair that has been artificially lightened with bleach or a hi-lift color is left with some warm pigment exposed in the hair, which can range from red tones, orange tones, yellow, pale yellow brassy…….Colors that many of us don’t like to see too much of, colors that scream Bleached!Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 10.44.37 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 10.48.36 AM

It is toners job to neutralize those tones, softening them into colors that could actually be considered real or natural looking.

Toner is also great for just boosting and reviving color that has faded, and adding shine and reflection to the hair.

So for all those icy blondes, cool gun-metal browns, soft pretty colors in just the right shade, toner is your bff.

When should we use a toner?

Many of you know the banes of having brassiness and faded hair color, especially after Summer rolls into Fall. A toner can work wonders for brightening up and refreshing dull, faded color.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 11.11.00 AMThe perfect time for toning is when your color looks dull, harsh, faded, or generally off. In between color appointments, or after a fresh bleaching job at home or in the salon.

If you rock bleached hair, you will want to have a Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 11.12.56 AMtoner on hand at home to keep your blonde hair from regularly defaulting back to that yellow baby chick look.

How do I know my shade?

Great question….This is where it gets more tricky. This is why hairdressers have to go to school to learn the fundamentals of the color wheel and the chemistry of the color that they use. Here is my quick answer. Check out the color wheel above. Now look at your hair. Identify the color on the wheel that you are seeing too much of in your hair. Is it sort of an orange-y yellow? Red? Weird Green/yellow?

Okay. Now identify the color that lays on the wheel exactly opposite the tone you first identified. For green/yellow, the answer is pink/purple

For red, the answer is blue/green. This is how the color wheel works. We correct and nuetralize unwanted tones in the hair by applying their opposites to them. So if you are trying to tone out red, you will want to find a toner with a blue/green base. Go ahead and google ‘hair toner with a blue/green base’ and see what pops up;)

Use this theory when choosing a toner to correct unwanted tones, like after your bleach your hair.

If you are just refreshing your hair color with a toner, choose your shade in as close to what you want as you can find. Simple.

Where do I get toner?

My favorite options for at-home toning……..You can use Wella Color Charm toners from Sally’s, they are generally a safe bet.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 11.27.53 AMColor Conditioner- Make your own toner! Identify the tone you want to add to your hair to either correct it or brighten it. Find your color in Manic Panic (or mix a few shades to get it right) Add a teaspoon of your color to your conditioner and mix well. Use it in the shower as you would regular conditioner, adding tone every time to keep it fresh.

You can also tone the hair with silver, pink, purple, turquoise or peach with Tinge Pastel Color Conditioner. This option is 100% chemical free, which it makes it especially great for fragile platinum blondes. It is a great option for those who want a little ‘tinge’ of color.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.55.13 PMWhile we are on the topic of toning, let’s talk about colored-hair care. The answer to keeping your toned hair healthy and vibrant is NOT a color-treated shampoo. Instead, opt for a cleansing cream to gently cleanse and condition the hair, without removing color. We ( along with many informed colorists) Swear by the Hairstory Studio New Wash, and their line of simple, nourishing natural hair products designed and formulated by hairstylists and colorists. Before you embark on your DIY color journey, be sure to be prepared with the tools you need to keep that hair bright and healthy. Here is a link to their shop, and if you are an independent stylist/colorist, check out how rad this line is for you and your clients. (When making your purchase, please be sure and tell them that How-to Hair Girl referred you! We love you for it, and for being here in general:)

Revive color and toner with Madison Reed Color Reviving Gloss. Use this gentle deposit-only formula to add tone, gloss, and massive softness in between your color services. This lovely stuff can be used to correct unwanted tones, to revive dull color, and to fill the hair when going dark-to-light, and it is sent right to your door!

I hope this post helps your DIY toning endeavors and allows you to find and master your hair shade. If you are a regular at-home colorer,  I  recommend using DIY hair color by Madison Reed, which is Resorcinol-Free.

If you purchase a Madison Reed Radiant Color Kit, you will receive not only the colors of hair colors your choice, but also the necessary tools to apply it. The entire line is designed for the DIY hair colorer.

Want DIY hair color inspiration? browse HTHG’s DIY color category and learn how to master your own color!

Interested in a DIY foil, Balayage, Dip-Dye, or Ombre? Check out the HTHG DIY color video library. Save yourself the salon prices and master these techniques yourself.

Also, I recommend a shopping stop at Beauty Store Depot for all your other DIY hair cutting and coloring tools to fill your toolkit.

For more on mastering your DIY hair color at home, check this post:)

Related News

Bridal Hair for Spring/Summer 2015

Emily from Peroxidefox brings us her thoughts on bridal hair for Spring/Summer 2015, inspired by...

Impressionist Garden Hair with Flora.Forager

Hi babes. I am really excited to introduce you to a woman who's creative work...

Words on Hair and Life with Jayne Matthews of Edo, Kindred Hair Sister

12 years ago, a girl friend and I decided to move to San Francisco. We...

One Comment

  1. Hanna

    So many choices

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart