All About Toning Hair

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I’ve talked about keeping my blonde bright in this post and shared some purple or blue-based toning products on Instagram, but I thought it may be helpful to do a bit more of a deep dive into why, how, and who should (or shouldn’t) tone their hair.

Toning can be done with semi-permanent hair color, like Redken Shades EQ, to help add a certain level of warmth, coolness, or “tone” to the hair. With semi-permanent hair color, it’s impossible to lighten the hair so toning can only deposit color and change the warmth/coolness.

At home, there are toning products (from shampoo to deep conditioners) to apply to your hair as a way to correct the color a bit. These don’t often have a wide variety of colors, as they are essentially designed to help maintain the color you left the salon with (assuming it’s a color you love). Each product has different application and processing directions. Some require just a few minutes, others require a longer time. Make sure to follow the directions of any product you buy.

Most often you’ll see toning products in the color purple. That is because blondes tend to be the most high maintenance about their toning needs. Bleached hair, or even virgin hair, is susceptible to dullness, brassiness, and absorbing things from water or pollution in the air, so the toning products are designed to counteract or correct undesired color changes.

Toning products that exist to deposit a bit of color, whether enhancing red hair or adding a mix of shine and warmth to a rich brunette shade.

Let me answer a few frequent questions about this process to further explain how or why to do this!

Frequently Asked Questions:

One. Can you tone your hair TOO much? Does it cause damage? Toning products can be a bit on the drying side, so be on the lookout for a deep conditioning mask, like this one, to both condition and color correct some brassiness at the same time.

Two. Can I use purple shampoo if I have brunette hair? You can, but I think you’d be happier with the new Virtue De-Brassing Shampoo. The blue will help cut out unwanted warmth in darker hair better than purple would.

Three. Can I use toning shampoo on virgin (not colored) hair? Absolutely.

Four. Does toning work on grown-out roots? It depends on what you’re starting with. Toning products cannot bring you lighter or brighter, so if you’re looking to correct warmth at the roots, a toning product could be helpful.

Five. What’s the difference between being toned at the salon versus being toned at home in the shower? Well, you’re likely to be 100% happy with the result of being toned by a professional at a salon than at home on your own, but it is–to be totally honest–a very simple process to manage at home if needed. You won’t be using the same products (like hair color) for toning at home, it’s likely to be in the form of a shampoo, conditioner, or both.

Six. Would a toner work for hair that is brassy from hard water? Yes! That is a lot of the reason why I have to tone my hair regularly.

Seven. What colors do what? If you look at the color wheel, the “toning” color should be opposite from the color you’re trying to get rid of.

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You can see on the color wheel that purple is opposite yellow, so purple products cut out the yellow in the hair. Similarly, blue is opposite orange, so if you find that your hair is brassy and too warm, a blue toning product will help counteract that!

Eight. What if I left the salon with yellow, gold highlights? Can I tone to fix it? So, this is complicated to answer. In a nutshell, if your hair is lightened with color or bleach and not processed past the gold/orange stage, it’s hard to counteract that with toner. Hair needs to be lightened to a certain level if you’re looking for a really bright, pure blonde. If you continually have brassiness in your hair, there is a possibility that it could be an execution issue.

I hope this helps explain the process a bit more. Toning shouldn’t be relied upon, as much as just an optional and occasional extra process to help control unwanted tones in the hair.

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Janna Vojacek says · 11.02.21

Love your hair in this post, what iron did you use?

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Kristi says · 11.02.21

Should you wait a certain amount of time to tone at home after getting your hair colored at the salon? (Toning with purple shampoo/conditioner.)

Thanks!

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Borter says · 11.02.21

I never hear anyone talk about green shampoos etc. But I know it exists! However, looking at your color wheel, I can see why the purple is not doing much for me and I need to go more blue/green

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Brittany says · 11.02.21

Thank you! So helpful!
Just to clarify, if the dye is a brunette/auburn color would you look for blue?

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cindy howell says · 11.03.21

if i have naturally copper/reddish/orange hair, and i want to enhance that. what would i look for?

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Trish says · 11.07.21

I recently had low lights and highlights at a salon. My color came out like straw. White with streaks of brassy light orange. It was horrible. Hairdresser tried to ignore it until I said- did you use lowlights? She said “i don’t know what happened, can you come back tomorrow?” She then foiled in 7N lowlights. This is the second time this has happened to me in the past 2 years (2 diff salons). My old girl used Pravana 8N on my roots with foiled highlights (we moved obviously). Cannot believe how hard it’s been to find new colorist. Any idea what they did wrong?

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Brittany says · 11.08.21

I have dirty blonde roots with very grown out highlights- I want my hair warmer!! Would you recommend toning and what colour? Scared the ends will go blonder and my grown out’ness will be more noticeable..

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Niesha Tanelle says · 11.22.21

Awesome content! Loved every bit of it. Now I know more about how tone my hair. Also, just recently I had learned how to recreate the best hairstyles using clip in hair extensions for short hair. That was good content too.

Will be waiting for more content. Keep up the good work!

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