How to Tone Hair Like a Pro at Home [The Ultimate Hair Toner Guide]

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Have you ever wondered about the secret to gorgeous blonde hair with no brassy tones? Let us tell you; it’s all about hair toning!

But toning by yourself can be quite tricky, and not all people have time for frequent salon visits. That’s why in this article, we’ll tell you how to tone your hair like a pro!

What Is a Hair Toner?

Hair toners are products that “coat” bleached or dyed hair to emphasize or hide certain tones. In other words, they don’t change or alter the hair color itself. Instead, they change the undertones to warmer or cooler tones.

They come in different shades like violet, purple, blue, green, orange, and more. By following the color wheel, a hair colorist chooses one of these shades to neutralize your hair color. For example, blue or purple toner is often used with bleached hair to remove unwanted brassy tones.

Speaking of hair colorists, professionals often use salon-level toners that are highly pigmented since they’re knowledgeable enough to use them. But there are toning products that are less damaging and more suitable for at-home use.

You can also use a hair toner to maintain the vibrancy of your hair when you don’t have enough time to visit the salon.

Interestingly, hair toners can come in many forms: glosses, tinted shampoos like purple shampoo, and conditioners.

Why Do I Need Hair Toner?

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Bleaching your hair before coloring is never enough to get the desired results. In most cases, you end up with unwanted undertones that affect your overall look. That’s where a hair toner comes to the rescue.

Say you wanted ashy blonde or silver hair, so you did a dye job at home. But later on, you found strands that had musty orange tones. You can remove these undertones and make your hair color look even by using a toner.

Also, a toner comes in handy to make flat hair look lively and tone down bright red-colored hair.

What Are Hair Toner Types?

A hair toner has three types: permanent, semi-permanent, and demi-permanent. Here’s a brief roundup of them.


A permanent toner alters your hair undertones and lasts for around 20 washes. However, it’s the most damaging because it’s an ammonia-based toner that opens the hair cuticle and removes moisture, causing your hair to go dry.

Professionals use this toner when hair has big blotches of unwanted undertones. For example, say you want to go platinum blonde but still have lots of yellowing after bleaching your hair. In this case, a permanent toner is suitable.


A semi-permanent toning product is pretty much a toning shampoo, as it has pigments that remove unwanted undertones.

It’s the least damaging of the three types but lasts less (up to 6 washes). That’s why it’s the best option if you have damaged hair that you don’t want to damage further with heavy products.


A demi-permanent toning product, also called gloss or glazer, doesn’t last as much as a permanent toner (about 12 washes) but isn’t as damaging because it’s not ammonia-based.

It’s perfect for giving your dyed hair a quick refresh. For example, you can use a demi-permanent toner if you want to remove brassy orange or yellow undertones from your lightened hair.

Using a demi-permanent toner is also a great idea if you’re starting to notice a couple of gray hairs because it can turn them into natural-looking highlights.

What Is the Difference Between Purple Shampoo and Hair Toner?

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Many people confuse purple shampoo and hair toner together. So, are they the same product? Well, kind of. Purple shampoo falls under the umbrella of hair toners because it’s a toning treatment that removes unwanted brassy tones.

However, unlike hair toner, it can’t tone other shades like red, green, and whatnot.

Another difference is that purple shampoos are a mild form of toner, so you need to frequently reapply them to get rid of the brassy tones.

When it comes to application methods, purple shampoo is much easier than hair toner because you only need to apply it to the hair and then rinse. Hair toner, on the other hand, gets applied like a box dye.

So which should you choose, purple shampoo or toner? There’s no set rule, but if you only need to maintain blonde hair and remove brassy tones, use the purple toning shampoo. If you have undertones other than yellow, use a color toner.

What Is the Best Toner for My Hair?

Now that you know why toning hair matters, you might be confused about which toner to choose. The short answer is that it depends on the hair color wheel!

A color wheel has colors that cancel the ones opposite to them. So, your hair toner should be the shade that’s on the opposite side of your hair’s unwanted undertone.

For instance, according to the color chart, you can neutralize orange tones by using a blue toner and yellow tones with a violet-based toner. Neutralizing red tones is tough for beginners, but you can use a green toner or shampoo with green pigments to tone brownish-red hair.

To tone dark brown hair and give it an ashy hue, use a blue or purple toner that’s formulated for darker shades. Of course, let’s not forget about the fun, bold colors; you can remove green tones with a pink or red toner.

How to Tone Brassy Orange Hair at Home

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Most people end up with brassy tones after bleaching their hair blonde. Sounds like you? Here’s how to tone hair without stepping a foot outside your house.

Step One: Select the Toner

To tone your hair into a stunning blonde color, you have to pick the right toner shade.

So, reference the color chart and select either ash (blue in toner terms) or violet color toner. If your undertones lean towards orange, choose ash. And if it’s more violet, select purple.

If you can’t figure out your hair’s undertones, hold some strands onto a piece of white paper and look at their hue.

Step Two: Determine Your Hair Level

After finding out your hair’s undertones, you need to determine its level. This is because if it’s not light enough, you’ll have to bleach it again.

To elaborate, if you want your hair to be at shade 10, but it’s currently at shade 8, you need to lighten it up two more levels. And if you have dark hair (level 6 or darker), you must bleach it, or the toner won’t work.

Step Three: Choose Semi or Demi-Toner

Choosing between semi or demi-toner depends on your hair type and how often you dye it. If you dye it a lot and have fine hair that damages easily, you should go with a semi-toner. It won’t harm your hair much since it’s ammonia free, and it’ll fade quickly.

On the other hand, if you want your hair color to last and don’t mind dealing with some damage, choose a demi toner. But keep in mind that you’ll need to mix it with a volume developer in a 1:2 ratio, respectively. The developer will unseal your cuticles and guarantee that the toning product works.

Step Four: Let the Hair Toner Work Its Magic

Now, it’s time to tone your strands. First, apply the toner or toner and developer mix to your damp hair using an applicator brush.

However, make sure to apply it to your hair quickly to evenly tone the unwanted undertones. Then, leave the toner on your hair according to the instructions on the product’s bottle. Most products need to be left for 45 minutes or less.

Once the time is up, take a hair strand and see if it’s reached the desired tone. If yes, rinse and condition your hair to moisturize it. And voila!

You just toned your hair without the need for a pricey salon visit.

5 Common Hair-Toning Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

Before you tone your hair at home, you should know about these common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Using the Wrong Toner Color

It might be tempting to use the leftover violet toner to fix your golden undertones instead of buying a brand-new blue one. However, doing so won’t give you the desired shades, and you’ll have damaged your hair for nothing. You should always use the right toner color, and if you can’t figure it out yourself, ask your hairstylist.

Leaving Toner Too Long or Not Enough on Your Hair

This is another mistake people make when they tone their hair at home. There’s this misconception that leaving toner for a longer time will make it look better. But the truth is, it’ll only weaken your hair and make the color look dull.

Conversely, not leaving toner on hair enough won’t remove the brassy tones. So, make sure to follow the directions on the back of the toner’s packaging.

Using Box Hair Dye to Tone Your Hair

Box dye doesn’t tone hair, conversely to what many people think. So, using it as a toner won’t give you that silver hair you dream of. Instead, it’ll damage your hair without removing any undertones.

Using Purple Shampoo Incorrectly

Not all purple shampoos are similar. Some will require you to dilute them with water before using, and some come ready to use out of the package. So always read the instructions before putting any product on your hair.

Not Toning Consistently

All hair toners last for 20 washes max, so if you only tone once and never touch your hair again, the brassy tones will return.

To fix this, try to maintain a consistent toning schedule. We recommend once a month because it’ll give you the desired result without damaging your hair too far.

Does Toning Damage Hair?

Using toners is damaging because it removes the natural oils from your hair, so it causes dryness—especially if it’s color-treated hair. However, it’s less damaging than hair dyes.

To avoid extensive hair damage, do a sample test on a couple of hair strands first and see the product’s effect. Also, avoid using toner too much, and don’t forget your hair masks and conditioners!

How to Tone Your Hair Without a Toner

If you don’t have a toner at home, you can make a homemade one. However, bear in mind that it won’t have the same effect.

For a DIY toner, you should use apple cider vinegar because it’s acidic enough to remove golden undertones. All you need to do is add four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to two tablespoons of water and leave the mix on your hair for 15-20 minutes.


Will Hair Toner Lighten My Hair?

No, toner doesn’t lighten the hair. If you want a lighter color, you should use bleach.

Do I Apply Hair Toner to Wet or Dry Hair?

Hair toner doesn’t work on dry hair and will become too diluted on dripping wet hair. Instead, your hair needs to be damp.

Is Toning the Same as Coloring Hair?

No, toning removes unwanted tones, while coloring hair completely changes the hair color.

What Is the Best Way to Tone My Extensions?

You can tone your extensions the way you do your natural hair. But wash the extensions with alcohol and sulfate-free shampoo first. Also, beware of the extensions getting tangled while toning to prevent patchy spots.

How Often Should I Tone My Hair?

There’s no rule of thumb. But for the most part, you should apply toner around once a month. But beware that doing this will dehydrate your hair, so use a moisturizing shampoo and deep conditioner to lessen the damage.

Final Thoughts

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Toner is an excellent product to get the desired hair color you’ve been dreaming about. And as long as you follow proper hair care after toning, the damage is going to be minimal. Now, it’s time to show off your vibrant tresses to the world!

Paulina Romain

Paulina Romain is an entrepreneur and artist in the beauty industry. She is the founder and owner of The Art of Ink Studio, where she provides services such as permanent cosmetics, microblading, and artistic ink, focusing on personalized body art. Additionally, she owns Mill Pond Salon, through which she aims to deliver big-city salon services in the comfort of a small town. Apart from her hands-on work in her studios, Paulina Romain is also active on social media platforms like TikTok, where she showcases her fine line and cosmetic tattoo work. Furthermore, she's been in the salon and beauty industry for over 14 years and operates Team True Beauty with Sam Romain. This platform includes a blog on various beauty-related topics and marks the opening of two beauty brands by the couple.

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