Toning is to hair colour what icing is to cupcakes. It’s the fine-tuning, finishing touch that transforms the basic into something truly finessed. And as anyone who has licked the icing bowl can attest, it’s also pretty great on its own!
Today there are many types of toning formulas at the disposal of salon professionals and the best pros curate a “toning toolbox” that provides the right toner for every shade and every type of hair. Our friends at Matrix help us to answer the most commonly asked questions about toners.
What is a hair toner?
Not to be confused with glazing or hair glossing, hair toners are essentially a hair colour product. With little to no ammonia, toners gently alter the undertone of hair and are described as demi-permanent or semi-permanent hair colour. Unlike permanent hair colour that stays put until it grows out or you cut your hair, toners fade gradually after six to eight weeks.
Because toners are low in ammonia, they don’t penetrate deeply into the hair strand—rather they lie gently on the surface of the hair, acting much like the topcoat used to finish off your manis and pedis! Given their low-ammonia composition it also means they’re a healthy choice for your hair, even if it’s damaged.
Why use a toner?
Toners are used to upgrade, enhance or refine hair colour. Here’s a snapshot of why toners are used.
- Neutralising |The best hair colour is clean and clear and free of unwanted tones. For example, a beautiful, cool blonde hair colour won’t exhibit traces of yellow and a lovely mocha brunette hair colour would be ruined by unwanted orange or brassiness. Toners neutralise any unwanted tones. A violet purple toner may be applied to blonde hair to cancel out unwanted yellow; or a blue toner used to neutralise brass.
- Double Process Hair Colour | Trendy hair colours like rose gold or pastel pink are usually a two-step process. First to lighten your hair and create a clean “canvas,” then using a toner to deposit the desired final shade (or shades).
- Pre-toning | Pre-toning creates a neutral base, eliminating unwanted warm or ash tones that might compromise the finished hair colour. A pre-tone is applied before your colour service and will help to keep your hair colour consistent as it fades.
- Colour Refreshing | If your existing hair colour has started to fade, a toner is a healthier way to bring it back to life than by re-applying permanent colour. Many hair stylists like to apply permanent hair colour to the new growth and use a toner on the rest of your hair to balance the existing shade and add shine.
- Colour Correction | Toners can be used to quickly and gently fix colour problems, like tones that go off or spots that might pop up as a result of inaccurate application.
- Grey Blending | If you aren’t completely grey, toning is a great way to blend your greys with the pigmented hair colour that you still have. Toners are sheerer than permanent hair colour, so you’ll get a reflective, dimensional grey coverage result instead of a solid hair colour look.
- Shine Enhancement | Sometimes your hair colour simply needs a shine boost. Toners to the rescue!
How are toners applied?
The good news is toners are quick. Most formulas take around 20 minutes to process. Your salon stylist will apply toners when your hair is damp and then shampoo you when time is up.
What hair colours are toners best for?
Why, all of them!
- Blonde Hair | Toners can remove unwanted warm tones, finish off a blonde shade with a fun tone like lilac or rose gold and add sparkle and shine to the overall blonde hair colour shade. To neutralise unwanted brassy tones at home try using a shampoo designed to illuminate and add shine to blonde hair. We love Matrix Total Results Color Obsessed So Silver Shampoo.
- Brunette Hair | You can add richness, depth and dimension to brunette hair colour with a toner, as well as neutralise colour that is too warm, brassy or ashy. Say bye-bye brass with Matrix Total Results Brass Off Shampoo, Conditioner and Blonde Threesome, a professional clarifying shampoo, conditioner and leave-in cream.
- Red Hair | Red hair colour really stands out, especially when it’s shiny and vivid. Toners can amplify red hair colour and restore the look of your red shade if it begins to fade.
- Highlights | Toner can add a level of refinement to your highlights by blending and balancing them. Toning balayage, foilayage or foil highlights makes them look subtler, more natural and frankly, more expensive!
- Pastel Hair | Pastel shades like pale mint green hair or pastel blue hair generally require the two steps described above—lightening, followed by a toner overlay. Toners can also be combined to create a rainbow of unique hair colours.
- Vivid Hair | The name says it all—the vivid hair colour we love is bright and bold! Toners keep vivid hair colour on point—refreshing them with healthy, low-ammonia formulas to maintain their original vibrancy. Matrix SOCOLOR Cult keeps vivid hair colour on point—refreshing them with healthy, low-ammonia formulas to maintain their original vibrancy. Ask your Price Attack salon stylist for more info.