What Does Hair Toner Do To Highlights?

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

*This article may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may earn a small commission for qualifying purchases.

Almost all of us have experienced going to the salon to get highlights without knowing why the hairdresser always uses toner at the end. What does it do? Even though it feels like just a shampoo that rests in our hair for a short amount of time, it actually is the most important part of the highlighting process.

Toner helps eliminate any brassy or warm tones of the hair after it’s highlighted. It doesn’t change the color of the hair but helps neutralize the undertone of the color to the desired tone. Toner evens out duller highlights to become more silky, shiny, and less orange.

Keep reading to understand why toning is so important for highlights and how to find the right one for you.

What Does Hair Toner Do To Highlights?

To avoid blonde highlights from looking brassy, orange, or dull, toner is used. Without toner, your highlights aren’t going to look how you want, and the hair won’t achieve the silky blonde color that’s often desired.

Overall, its purpose is to make your highlights have the right undertone so they look good and give the color more vibrancy so it appears healthy and natural.

How Does It Work?

You might be wondering: how exactly does it do this? Well, as you lighten your hair, you are exposing it to warm yellow, orange, or red undertones (unless your hair is naturally light blonde). When bleaching it, the bleach has to work through each of those pigments to lift the color away. Toners alter the highlights by transferring pigments onto the surface.

After the hair is highlighted, toner is lathered on the hair and sits for up to 45 minutes usually. This is a crucial step. It ultimately works as a camouflage that evens out the differences in the exposed hair. It refines the color, bringing more shine to the highlights and giving it that fresh look. It depends on the color of your hair and the toner used, but it can take orange, yellow, or brassy strands and make them ashy or even platinum.

It’s a demi-permanent shampoo, meaning it lasts up to 24 shampoos. Most people, especially blondes, tend to tone their hair often, even if they haven’t dyed it in a while. That’s because of the shine and enhancement it gives to the hair. Say you dyed your highlights over six months ago; toning it will make it look more recent and glossier.

Colored hair fades over time, and bleach-blonde hair forms a brassy tone as it oxidizes. That being said, after a while, you will likely need to tone your hair again. Once you notice your highlights turning orange or warm-toned, you know it’s time to color-correct. This can look like every 6 to 8 weeks if you’re a blonde and want your highlights to stay looking healthy and natural. You should use it in between coloring sessions at the salon and most definitely right after initially dying your hair.

Your Hair Without Toner

Before you tone your hair, the highlights might not appear as the color you were hoping for. For example, if your hair is naturally dark brown, your highlights without toner might turn out to look orange or yellow, not necessarily blonde. There is no need to fear, though; the dying process isn’t done, and it will end well.

If you want to skip the toner, you should have naturally blonde hair. Toning is a vital step to get your highlights to lift correctly and counteract the brassiness. Basically, it’s the icing on the cake for your hair and shouldn’t be forgotten.

How to Choose The Right Toner For Highlighted Hair?

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the laws of the color wheel. This is because you’ll need to know what colors cancel each other out and will even out your highlight’s undertone. For example, if you want blonde highlights and it’s lifting to a darker yellow pigment, you should use a violet toner to cancel this out.

Here is a chart that shows you what color toner to use depending on your desired highlight color and what pigment undertone you need to get rid of.

Hair ColorUnderlying PigmentNeutralizing Toner Color
Light pale blondePale blondeViolet
Pale blondeYellowViolet
Light blondeDarker yellowViolet
Medium blondeMedium yellowBlue
Darker blondeOrangeBlue
Light brownMedium orangeBlue
Medium brownRed-orangeBlue-green
Dark brownRedGreen
Heavy brownDeeper redGreen
BlackDarker redGreen

What are the different types of hair toner?

There are different kinds of toners to choose from, and each has its own purpose.

  • Gloss: You can find color-refreshing glosses for both blonde hair and brunette hair. They are simple to use and go on your hair after washing and conditioning. You then leave it on for 3 minutes and rinse it out. Glosses refresh and revive your highlights, making them colorful and shiny.
  • Salon-level toners: This type of toner includes a higher concentration of pigment. They should be left in the hands of professionals because of this high concentration.
  • Tinted Shampoos: These toners are arguably the easiest to use and very beginner-friendly. Blue and purple shampoos can simply be replaced with your regular shampoo. Their purpose is to eliminate any brassy tones and add vibrancy to your highlights.

If you want to tone your highlights at home and only need a slight color enhancement and color correction, tinted shampoos are a great option. Same with natural blondes and bleach blondes with bright yellow or golden undertones, it’s easy for you to neutralize this with a purple shampoo.

If you are a brunette, blue shampoos are effective at getting rid of darker, brassy tones.

For more intense color changes, the shampoos most likely won’t be strong enough, and you will need an ammonia-based toner. These toners are actually color-depositing dyes that change the pigment of your hair shaft.

It’s always a great idea to call a salon near you and ask for guidance on your decision or even book an appointment to get a professional to tone your hair.

Leave a Comment