There’s nothing worse than waking up one morning, looking in the mirror, and realizing that your dyed hair has faded, or that your blonde hair has gone brassy. It’s definitely a confidence killer, and it may not be something you want to drop major money at a salon for!
Or maybe you’re rocking hair that’s au naturel, and just wanting to give it some new life without the commitment of an all-over dye.
Thankfully, we have a solution! Toner is a miracle worker, giving any shade of hair a more natural, even finish without the harsher chemicals that a hair dye uses.
Whether your red hair has lost its shine, or you’re looking to brighten up your brunette locks, finding a toner to add to your hair care regime can take your mane from bland to stunning in just one use!
But do you put toner on wet or dry hair? The answer is that it should be a little bit of both. Making sure that your hair is at the right amount of dampness will ensure flawless toner application and results, while applying it on hair that’s too dry or too wet may give you less-than-flattering results.
Still have questions? No worries! Read on while we break down the best time to use toner on your locks, and why doing it at the wrong time could end in many bad hair days.
What Is Hair Toner?
Hair toner, simply put, changes the tone of your hair! Whenever you dye your hair a singular color, it’s actually made up of tones of different shades working together to produce the main overtone.
As those shades fade or oxidize (especially on bleached blonde hair), your hair can look more orange, yellow, or pale. Toner targets the undertone of your locks, so while it won’t give you a whole new hair color, it’ll refresh your existing one.
Because it neutralizes all the unwanted tones in your hair, you’re left with healthy, full, natural looking locks.
When Should I Tone My Hair?
Toning hair is anything but optional after you’ve undergone a bleach treatment. It’s typically applied right after you bleach your hair to get rid of any unwanted coppery tones.
There are a ton of different types of toners on the market, each with varying instructions of how frequently you should use them. The main type of toner is one that you mix with peroxide (like the one they put on you in the salon!), but they also have toning shampoos and conditioners you can use in the shower as well.
But whatever toner you go for, you shouldn’t be applying it more than twice a month at most. Like any product that manipulates your hair color, toner can be very stripping and will dry your hair out if you make it your best friend.
Proper toner application should last you between 3-5 weeks depending on how well you take care of your locks- meaning if you take the time to prevent your hair from going brassy, you won’t need to tone as often.
Toning Wet Hair
Unlike toners that are meant to be used in the shower, like color-correcting conditioners and shampoos, some toners might not dictate what state your hair should be in prior to application.
You may think that to better absorb the product, you’d need to take fast action while your hair cuticle is open. So we wouldn’t blame you if you’d thought it was safe to slather on some toner fresh from the shower. But the truth is, that’s a big no no.
Even the most damaged locks are absorbent. That means if you’re putting on toner fresh from the shower, your mane is probably already full to capacity with H2O – leaving no room for your toner to work its magic.
Another huge problem that could arise with applying toner on wet hair is dilution. Toner is concentrated and potent, and watering it down by mixing it with sopping locks will ruin the formula, making it less effective on mellowing out the harsh undertones you’re working to get rid of.
And let’s not forget that water turns your mane into the world’s best slip and slide! When your hair has no grit, that means your toner is free to roam as it pleases- on your t-shirt, on the floor, or collected on the ends of your strands.
With all of these potential problems looming about, why take the risk? If you do decide to go through with applying toner on your wet strands, the outcome is very likely to be uneven, patchy, and inconsistent.
And if you were lucky, and the results seem even, they may not last long! Since the formula was compromised, your toned mane may not last for more than 2 weeks at a time. That means your hair will have to undergo more treatment than necessary, damaging your locks in the long run.
Toning Dry Hair
If you decide to go on the opposite end of the spectrum, and try your hand at toning completely dried hair, you may not be happy with the results either!
While your hair will be porous and able to absorb the toner better than on wet hair, your hair shaft will be closed, meaning the product cannot be absorbed entirely. Since you’re risking different areas of your hair taking in the toner at varying times, this can leave you with a patchy finish.
Toner, plainly put, just isn’t made to be put on dry hair. It will be less receptive and compatible. So, while your results may not look bad, there’s always a chance that they won’t last as long as they would with proper application.
Toning Hair The Right Way
So, what to do? Find a happy medium!
Hair coloring experts recommend toning hair when it’s almost dry- about 70%! This is the prime time to apply toner, as the hair shaft is still open and able to absorb color, while still having some grit to be able to apply product effectively.
Damp hair has a higher porosity, so the distribution of toner will be nice and even throughout the strand. And since it’s not dripping, there’s less chance of your toner losing its potency, meaning you don’t have to worry that your hair is processing at different speeds.
Our Favorite Toning Tips
Now that you know when the best time to tone your mane is, we’ll give you some tips to make sure that your refreshed hair will last!
- Toner clings well to clean hair. We recommend shampooing before your application, but not conditioning. Conditioner will leave a film over your strands, making it difficult for the toner to penetrate the shaft.
- After your toner has had time to set, rinse it well, and then apply a conditioner afterward. Conditioner after toning will act as a sealant, locking the pigments in place.
- Since hot water can emulsify the toner, using it to rinse will send your pigment down the drain. Rinse with the coldest water you feel comfortable with to preserve your fresh color!
- Don’t shampoo your hair for a minimum of 3 days after toning; this will give the pigment time to set. That way, you won’t strip your hair of its new color so soon after your mane’s metamorphosis!
- In between toning applications (the ones that involve mixing with developer), maintain the color of your hair with a toning shampoo or conditioner. These products are a lot more gentle than a chemical toner so they’re nice for a quick pick-me-up, but not for everyday!
How long should I leave toner in my hair?
This depends on how much of your hair you’re trying to correct/what type of toner you’re using!
For a toner mixed with developer, it’s best to leave it on for a maximum of 45 minutes. While easier on your locks than dye, the peroxide in the product can still do some damage to your hair. If you’re using a color correcting shampoo and conditioner, leave them on for 3 minutes at most.
If you’re looking for an icy, platinum finish to your blonde hair, you can get away with leaving product on for longer. But if you’re looking for a more natural finish, be wary! It’s easy to over-tone your locks, so make sure you keep an eye on it.
What is the best technique for toner application?
Unlike hair dye, toner doesn’t need to be applied in a specific method for the color to process evenly.
However, there are some exceptions. If you’re applying toner after a bleach treatment, apply it from the ends up. Since your roots will probably be less yellow than your ends, you should focus your attention on toning the strands that need it most.
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