A Hair Toner Could Totally Transform Your Blonde. Here’s How To Use It

Illustration by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,

Now I’m blonde, should I be using a hair toner? I’ve been doing a bit of a deep dive on beauty forums and some people in these groups absolutely swear by them. Will it keep my colour fresh? Or best avoided unless you’re a professional? Help!

Christina, 31
Hairdressing is a lot like modern art, in my opinion. Not so much the whole selling-at-Frieze, punters-claiming-it-was-better-in-their-day shtick. More the fact that people love looking at your work and going, "I could do that". While the home hair colour market has undoubtedly made huge strides of late – and I’m looking squarely at Josh Wood here, whose DIY range is truly groundbreaking – there’s still a reason that colourists train for years, honing their craft in-salon. It’s partly to master the artistry, partly to learn the anatomy of hair but, crucially in this case, also to learn the sheer science of hair colour
Toners, as you might have learned in your deep dive, play a big role in prepping the hair for colour and helping shift hair to exactly the right shade in a way that dye alone may not be able to. As Luci Green, (my!) colourist at FOUR London explained, they’re particularly useful for blondes: "The goal for a toner is to change the tone of the hair after lightening it. For example, it allows us to eliminate warm tones so that the hair looks more ashy if you want a Nordic blonde, or alternatively we can use it to add more warmth to the hair if it is looking too bright, adding more of a caramel tone," she explained.
"Whether we use one or not, and the kind of toner we use, all depends on the colour we’re trying to achieve and it’s usually at the very end of the process when a trained eye can see what is needed that we’d add it in," Luci said. Essentially, if hair dye is foundation, a toner is bronzer: it doesn’t change the shade you’ve applied, it merely shifts it, adding warmth and dimension. "Toner is the icing on the cake," added Luci. "It only takes a couple of minutes to apply at the backwash, either through the whole head or just in the sections we want to change slightly. It really is a very versatile product and doesn't change the structure of the hair in any way."

So far, so good. If you’re a new blonde, it’s very possible you’ve had toner used on your hair in the salon – as Luci noted, it takes mere moments and doesn’t add much faff, so your colourist may have already made that correction for you. What’s more, it will gradually fade out of the hair as the colour settles, rather than 'washing off' all at once, so you might not notice the shift at home. The catch? When I asked Luci if all blondes, or indeed, all coloured hair types should be using a toner at home, the answer was a resounding no. "Toner really isn’t for everyone. It’s only really needed for softening hair colour, and it’s part of a whole colouring process. Hopefully, you can achieve the hair goal without toning." She added: "We use toner mainly after scalp bleaching, or during something like ombré or balayage where you have those textured tones."

If you’re a seasoned home hair colourist, you might know exactly what you’re doing and exactly when to do it. In that case, more power to you! Please drop a tutorial. But if you’re happy with your salon results and you’re thinking of trying toner just because you feel you should, that’s not the right reason to do it. Speaking as a bottle blonde of some six or seven years, I know that it’s hard to keep fresh, but it’s all too easy to do more harm than good at home.
For a little DIY colour correction, Luci recommends Proclere Blue Frosting Shampoo or Color Wow Dream Filter Treatment as a sort of refresher. Personally, I swear by the Olaplex brand Shampoo and Conditioner, as well as the Step 3 treatment. While they’re not ostensibly colour shifting, when I went to see Luci last, I had some frazzled bits hidden in the back thanks to some funky water softener, and these have sorted me right out.

I can’t say for certain if blondes have more fun but I can definitely attest to them having a whole lot more to figure out in the shower.

Good luck!

Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to 'Dear Daniela' become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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