From making your own aloe vera hair mask to nailing heatless curls, TikTok is unrivalled when it comes to smart hair styling and hair health hacks. While we anticipate the reopening of hair salons, many of us are learning to make do, and with TikTokers covering everything from trimming your fringe to minimizing split ends, it's incredibly helpful.
Lately, the app's beauty experts have turned their attention to hair colour, specifically how you can breathe life into washed-out lengths without waiting months for an expensive appointment or winging it with box dye. You may have heard of colour depositing shampoos or colour correcting conditioners, which revitalize hair colour and dial down brassy tones in blondes, brunettes and highlighted hair. But hair toning drops are TikTok's latest beauty obsession for their potential to transform your colour in a matter of minutes.
What are hair toning drops and what do they do for coloured hair?
Hair toning drops are concentrated serums which include intensely coloured pigment to cancel out unwanted tones in the hair. For blonde hair, purple or violet shades are said to be best, as they dial down yellow and gold tones. Colour correcting drops work on shades of brunette, too; simply opt for drops which are dark blue or indigo to dull any orange or red tones.
One beauty lover championing the trend is Jenny Millenni aka letsgetpurdymaybe on TikTok, whose blonde hair toning tutorial has amassed an enormous 3.4 million plays so far. To banish yellow tones from her roots, she applied the OXG Blonde Enhance + Purple Toning Drops straight to her dry hair, massaged in the product with gloved fingers and let it work its magic. The results were impressive and transformed her roots back into a brilliant icy blonde. Judging by the comments, others are trying it, too, with great outcomes.
How do you use hair toning drops?
As they are very highly concentrated, hair toning drops are meant to be added to shampoos and conditioners and rinsed out in the shower. You can customize how many drops you use but it's best to go by the instructions on your chosen product. Others, such as IGK Hair's Mixed Feelings Leave-In Toning Drops, $38, can be added to styling products, such as creams, serums and oils, and left in the hair to work over time.
On TikTok, however, some people are using hair toning drops neat and on dry hair. While you can't deny the results, hair colourists warn against this for fear of staining both hair and scalp, especially if you're blonde. "If you use them neat on hair, they are said to last longer and not fade as much as when diluted," says Francesca, "but this definitely isn't always true." In fact, Francesca wouldn't necessarily advise this and has a few sketchy stories. "They need to be used extremely carefully on lightened, coloured hair as it can already be porous, meaning it will grab a lot of colour in the toning drops (often the wrong ones) and leave your hair the wrong shade," says Francesca.
If you're blonde and into a little blue or purple balayage like TikToker Jenny? Result. But the idea is that they reduce undesirable tones in the hair, not dye it purple or blue. Leaving hair toning drops in the hair for a shorter period of time means potentially fewer stains, though. Darker hair, for example brunette, is much less likely to take on any blue tones. As hair toning drops are so concentrated, it's important to wash your hands immediately after using them, or to invest in a pair of plastic gloves to prevent the colour from clinging onto your skin and nails.
Francesca adds: "Before you use any colour product, always do a patch test beforehand to ensure the final colour is what you want, that it does wash out and it won't stain your hair, skin or scalp."
Do hair toning drops actually work?
To cover up some chunky blonde highlights I regularly dye my hair dark brown. I recently used a box dye and while it gave me a brilliant, rich brunette hue, I wash my hair a lot, so the ends have started to appear red or copper in tone. I much prefer cool shades on my light olive skin so I was intrigued to try hair toning drops. On TikTok, Shrine's Drop It Toner Drops, £24, are popular among those looking to refresh bleached or brown hair and the results are pretty mesmerizing. I opted for the dark blue version.
Like the TikTokers, I bent the rules and applied around five or so drops neat on my first go. My initial thought was, Why didn't I wear gloves? They stained my hands massively but, thankfully, a good scrub got rid of most of it and acetone helped de-stain my nails. The difference was very, very subtle so I decided to up the ante and apply three drops to a hair mask. I left this on for the duration of my shower (around 15 to 20 minutes). Judging by the pictures, there is an impressive noticeable difference in my hair colour! Like magic and without a single ounce of hair dye, my hair looks a lot cooler, darker and glossier, which is exactly what I wanted. I think I'd keep going with the drops every other wash to boost the results.
Are there any downsides to hair toning drops?
Hair toning drops should work if you're using them properly but Francesca says they are very strong and, besides staining, in overprocessed hair they may cause dehydration and brittle strands when overused. This can lead to breakage and split ends. Interestingly, my hair felt softer than usual but I think that's because I mixed the drops with a nourishing hair mask: Aveda Botanical Repair Intensive Strengthening Masque, $62. "The less diluted these toning drops are, the harsher they are for hair," agrees Francesca. "Like all coloured hair, hair tends to be dry and brittle, which is why it's crucial to moisturize it regularly and opt for hydrating products only in order to keep your hair healthy," she adds.
What are the best hair toning drops?
Aforementioned IGK Hair's Mixed Feelings is a favourite among beauty editors, and both the blonde and brunette versions are available at Sephora. While they are just as pigmented, they're a lot silkier in texture than other drops, which makes them feel much less scary. I used these as a booster treatment after Shrine's drops and was pleased to know they don't stain bedding. Hair drinks them up fast.
The Hair Boss The Corrector Drops, which are supposed to be added to shampoo, conditioner or hair masks, are also great. The pigment is intense but doesn't stain skin and nails as much as others and the pump means they are mess-free. Boucleme's Colour Toning Drops, $43.80, have multiple five-star reviews. The deep indigo drops are suited to those with blonde, silver, dyed brunette or balayaged hair. The product can be used alongside leave-in hair styling products or in shampoo and conditioner if you'd rather rinse out.
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If you're not up for playing apothecary, there are some great hair toning shampoos and conditioners out there. Francesca says: "At Hari's we don't advise home-colour products, rather products that will help maintain your hair health and subside brassiness, like a hydrating silver shampoo." R29 rates L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Silver Shampoo, $25.95. For ombre or highlighted hair, Francesca suggests skipping shampooing every other time you wash, and using a plant oil-based conditioner, which will coat each strand of hair, protecting the colour. "I recommend Rahua Color Full Conditioner, $55," says Francesca. "It contains lilac clay pigments which will protect colour from oxidation while balancing out any deviation of the tonal value."
I like Redken's Color Extend Brownlights Shampoo and Conditioner Duo,$71.99, which tones down orange shades in brown hair and makes lengths silky. Blondes should try Aussie Blonde Hydration Purple Shampoo, $10.50, as it hydrates deeply and eradicates yellowness, and Francesca's favourite, L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Blondifier Cool Shampoo,$23.99.
While customizable hair toning drops (especially using them neat) might not get the seal of approval from all hair colourists, the trend shows no sign of slowing down, thanks to TikTok and our newfound love of DIY haircare. If you are going to give them a go for the first time, follow the instructions closely. I'd also recommend investing in a good clarifying shampoo to help erase any mishaps.
Expert Francesca has the last word: "If you have issues as a result of DIY hair toning, I would always recommend waiting to see a professional. If you have patchy hair colour, you can have a full consultation (virtually or in salon if you're willing to wait post-lockdown) with an expert, who will deal with the problem and advise you. Don't try and fix it yourself at home, as you may make it worse."
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