In this post, I’ll be answering this question we received from one of our readers: “What does hair toner do to highlights?”
The thing is, getting highlights done is super fun.
It brings out your base color more and makes your hair more flattering and light-reflective.
It also adds a lot of dimension and body to your tresses.
Highlighting is also more low-maintenance than bleaching and coloring all your hair, which can lead to hair damage that’s way more challenging to heal.
But highlights still require a certain degree of care and maintenance, mostly with retaining its beautiful tone and hue.
That’s where toners come in.
You’re probably familiar with toning as the last step of the coloring and highlighting process when you’re seated at the salon.
But toning shouldn’t stop at your highlights appointment.
You need to regularly tone your hair too, whether at home or with your stylist, to maintain those gorgeous highlights.
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What Is Hair Toner, And What Does It Do?
If you’ve had your locks colored before, you know that toner is the last step of any bleaching or dyeing service.
It’s that glossy topcoat that gives your hair shine and a cool undertone that makes your blonde or light brown locks pop out without any orange patches.
Toners usually come in gels and glosses, so they look a lot less intimidating than hair dye and developers.
They’re meant to neutralize and de-emphasize warm tones that can take away from your color and look stark and distracting.
They zap away overly gold or copper tones, correcting the color of your bleached hair to pull it back to silver, platinum, or ashy shade of blonde.
Toners transform your hair color into something flattering before you can say, “Bye-bye, brassiness!”
How do toners deal with brassiness?
Toners contain pigments that sit on the surface of your hair shaft to cancel out any unwanted tones.
Don’t worry, though – these pigments don’t change the color or lightness of your hair, but merely add a “filter” to make your locks look more cool, natural, and understated.
You don’t have to worry about altering the color of your hair, no matter how much toner you use.
It doesn’t lighten or darken your hair’s shade because it doesn’t work the same as bleach, which works to lift your cuticle to strip your hair of pigment.
Other benefits of using toners
But toner isn’t just for adjusting the tone and hue of your hair.
It also does wonders for making your hair look more glam and polished.
Toner makes the hair smooth, shiny, and glossy to make it look more revitalized and alluring.
It also has conditioning properties that can eliminate frizz and tangles.
Because of all these, toning is excellent for hair damaged from highlighting or bleaching because it helps manage dryness and dullness.
It only takes about five to fifteen minutes to tone your hair, depending on what kind of toning solution you choose.
It’s quick but makes a world of difference in your final hairstyle.
Toner lasts a month or two in your hair, but that’s dependent on how much you care for your hair and what type of toning solution you go for.
Some types last longer than others – but we’ll get to that in a sec!
Do You Need To Tone Your Highlights?
The short is yes, you do. Hair toner neutralizes unwanted warm or brassy tones in your highlighted hair to bring out a natural-looking shade, as well as achieve a glossy look.
Blonde highlights are gorgeous and seem like they won’t give you any issues, but they need love and attention for proper maintenance of their cool, vibrant tone.
If you have dark hair with brown highlights, you might not need to tone very often.
But if you have blonde, bleached highlights at a level 8 and above on the lightness scale, you need to tone your locks often.
That’s because your blonde hair will probably go brassy and warm now and then.
The answer is simple.
As you shampoo your hair over time, you’ll be washing out the initial toner your stylist applied when you got your highlights done.
Before you know it, brassiness will start peeking through in the form of copper and gold tones that make your hair look unnatural.
Heat styling with your fave straightening iron and going out in the sun without spraying on some SPF in your hair can also speed up the process of fading your highlights’ toner.
What Does Hair Toner Do To Highlights?
Toning regularly will help avoid hair disasters that have to do with seeing orange streaks peeking through your otherwise perfect hair.
You don’t want to be caught dead in family photos with bright orange streaks in your locks, do you?
The point of getting highlights is to add depth to the hair, and toning will amp it up even more.
It adds dimension while getting rid of discoloration.
It’s also a great way to revitalize the color of your hair as a whole.
So when should you think about toning your hair again after getting highlights?
When your locks are looking a bit too gold or orange, or when the highlights aren’t blending nicely with your base color.
Toning will help your highlights blend in with the rest of your hair for a natural finish.
You can either apply toner to all your hair for better blending or just focus the solution on your highlights.
If you want to do the latter, know that it’s super easy to simply target the areas you want to tone without ruining the color of the rest of your hair.
Just section your highlights off before you start.
Toning is also a tremendous help for correcting highlights that are too light.
Brassiness can make your highlights look strange against medium-colored hair because they’re too bright and yellow.
Toner helps “darken” the hue of your highlights a bit, so they blend in better with your hair.
It’s the key to a look that is cool and moody, never stark, patchy, or overly warm.
What Color Should My Toner Be?
Before picking out the toner you want to use for at-home touch-ups, make sure you know what color your highlights need.
Picking the wrong color could be a huge waste of money, so be sure you understand color theory before buying toner.
The color wheel is a terrific tool for pinpointing what color toner you should pick out from the shelves.
The rule of thumb is simple: the color of your toner should be the color opposite the tone you’re trying to eliminate from your hair.
On the wheel, purple sits right across from yellow.
So if your blonde highlights look a tad bit too golden and you want to pull it back a bit, a violet toner is perfect for you.
And if you have copper or orange streaks peeking through, go for a blue toner, which gives you an ashier tone.
If you use a blue toner on hair that only has golden tones of brassiness, it will have no effect on your hair.
The same way with using purple toner on reddish brassiness – only the less common green toner will work to eliminate that.
Without the purples and blues from your toners, you can’t unlock ashy, cool blonde highlights.
You need to tone primarily with these colors, lest you be stuck with overly warm, unflattering tones.
Choosing The Right Kind Of Toner For Your Highlights
Once you know what color you should keep your eyes peeled for, it’s time for the next step – picking what kind of toner you want to use on your highlighted hair.
There are tons of types of toners, from permanent glosses to color-depositing shampoos and conditioners.
All of these deposit pigments neutralize brassy tones and pull your hair back to a more flattering color.
But not all toners are equal- some are better for your lifestyle than others.
First, let’s talk about professional toning solutions.
These come in three types: semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent toning glosses.
The more permanent your toner is, the longer it will stay in your hair. Let’s go through them one by one.
This is the least damaging of the three.
It only deposits pigment to the surface of your hair without doing any chemical damage, so it’s super easy to wash out – count on 10 or so washes for this type of toner.
They also condition and soften the hair, making it look shiny and smooth.
Because it doesn’t use chemicals to alter the structure of your hair, it’s perfect for those who tend to change up their hair color a lot and want to keep their hair as healthy and damage-free as humanly possible.
This type of toner requires a low level of developer to be activated, so there’s some damage dealt to your hair.
But it’s usually never enough damage to leave you with brittle, frizzy, and dry locks, so it’s worth it for the glossy and light-reflective look your highlights take on afterward.
Demi-permanent toners last a lot longer than semi-permanent ones, going for up to two months as long as you don’t wash your hair every day or abuse your heat styling tools.
It’s great for those who want their highlights’ tone to last long without committing to permanent toner.
However, one thing to remember is that demi-permanent toners are formulated with ammonia, which can be irritating to sensitive skin.
Make sure you patch test your demi-permanent dye first before using it to ensure your scalp won’t react negatively to it.
These aren’t as popular as the other two for various reasons.
One is that it lifts the cuticle to deposit pigment into your hair, which leads to hair damage that can leave your locks dry and fragile.
Another reason people don’t necessarily flock to permanent toner is that it has a reputation for showing up dull and lifeless on the hair.
That’s a far cry from the glossy, shiny outcome from semi-permanent and demi-permanent toners.
However, it’s a great option for those who had their hair bleached but still have a tiny tinge of brassiness from their coloring job.
It helps eliminate that last bit of yellow or orange.
It’s also okay to use on someone who doesn’t mind hair damage and knows how to restore it to health afterward.
When you tone your hair at home, don’t make a mess!
Always wear gloves, an old T-shirt you don’t mind ruining, and a cape.
If you’re only targetting some strands of highlights, use foils so that you don’t disrupt the tone of the rest of your hair.
Now, if you’re not up for the fuss and hassle of setting up in your bathroom and making a mess with the toners mentioned above, you can always opt for the more convenient toning shampoo.
Purple and blue shampoos
These are best for low-maintenance girls who can’t be bothered to spend an hour on the weekend to tone their hair, but still want fresh and fab highlights.
These shampoos do the same thing as professional toners.
They also neutralize brassiness and leave your highlights looking ashy and cool.
But instead of having to carve out an hour to do a full-blown, sit-down toning session, you can simply incorporate them into your usual 10-minute shower routine.
Use the toning shampoo of your choice about two or three times a week in place of your regular shampoo.
Let the shampoo sit in your hair for about five minutes before rinsing it off.
If you leave the purple shampoo in too long, your highlights might come out with a lilac tinge.
Don’t panic and bleach your hair in an effort to “reset” it.
The purple hue will disappear after a few washes.
To get rid of it fast, use a clarifying shampoo on your next wash day.
If you’ve been wondering what does hair toner do to highlights, there you have it.
Highlights make you look glimmering and magazine-fabulous, but toning is the cherry on top that makes it look even better.
It’s the key to making your pretty streaks of blonde look natural, professionally done, and full of depth.
So you can’t miss out on it even after your highlights job is done.
Depending on your skill level and comfort, you can choose between semi-permanent or demi-permanent toners or purple shampoos for fuss-free toning.
Whatever you go with, make sure to keep up with your toning touch-ups to maintain that ashy undertone you love in your highlights.
The more attention you give to toning now and then, the longer you can enjoy your highlights with zero hair malfunctions that have to do with brassiness.
That’s luscious, gorgeous, cool-toned blonde highlights 24/7!