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Do You Really Need A Toner And Why?

We know it happens, you're in the salon and your stylist is talking about a toner and the extra time and cost. You’re thinking "is a toner really necessary or is my stylist just trying to make more money?"

First, what is toner?

Toner is like a topcoat for lightened hair. It is applied like hair-color, but it does not have the ability to lift and permanently change the color of your hair like hair color. It only deposits a small amount of color and closes the hair cuticle (an ability lightener does not have). It’s like a glaze on a cake vs. icing. It's a sheer, translucent color that helps balance out and neutralize unwanted tones without darkening your blonde.

If you’ve ever gotten a glaze or a gloss put in your hair to add shine, it’s the same thing as a toner, but without pigment added. Think of toner as a hair filler that also closes the cuticle to ensure pesky brassy under-tones don’t seep through and change the shade of your hair. Toner can range from natural-looking highlights to dramatic color changes. Toners also contain conditioners and other ingredients that help to nourish and protect the hair.

How Long Does Toner Last?

When it comes to hair, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there, one of the most common is how long the toner lasts. Some people believe that you only need to apply toner once and it will last for months. Others think that you have to keep applying toner every time you wash your hair in order to keep the color looking fresh. So which is it? How long does toner last? It all comes down to a few factors, including how often you wash your hair and how well you take care of your hair.

Toner can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks or 12 to 20 shampoos, as long as you're using a shampoo designed for color-treated hair and the over all condition of your hair. And yes, your toner will eventually fade completely. However, it can be refreshed by using a color-safe toning shampoo and conditioner, which will help to preserve the tone of your hair.

Who should use toner?

A common misconception surrounding toners is that it only applies to blondes who lighten their hair, however, toner is a necessary step in protecting and reviving any hair color. Blondes can use it to neutralize unwanted yellow brassy tones, while brunettes can use it to neutralize orange and red tones, and red heads can use toner to warm up and brighten their copper and red tones. 

How can you use toner to maximize your color?

A toner is a great touch-up in between salon appointments. Toners usually last about a month depending on how sheer they are. If you want your color to look as good as it does when you walk out of the salon, you will need to use a toner on a monthly basis. Don’t worry, they are usually non-ammonia and tend to be more gentle on the hair.

While your stylist will typically apply a toner the day of your appointment, you might also want to apply a toning shampoo or conditioner at home to keep your color vibrant and on tone. If your hair tends to get brassy or fades to an unwanted tone quickly, you can also schedule a toner in between appointments.

Side note: If your hair (especially your ends) tend to fade quickly, it’s usually signs of heat damage from tools.

Hair naturally oxidizes with sun and water, so depending how much time you spend in the elements, your hair might benefit from a toning treatment for color correction between appointments.

How we choose what toner to use on your hair?

Hairstylists will refer to the color wheel to determine what color toner to choose. They are looking for a shade on the opposite end of the wheel from the color they are trying to cancel. If you look at the color wheel, the colors that neutralize each other are the ones that are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. If they want to eliminate red (warm) undertones in dark hair, for example, they’ll reach for a green (ash/cool) toner. If your brown color is fading and looking orange (warm) a blue (ash/cool) toner will be applied to correct the color and leave your hair a more neutral brown. Obviously, it’s a little more complicated than this. There are multiple other factors for the stylist to consider. For example, even though you’re dealing with an ash toner, the stylist may need to add a little gold in order to make it seem more vibrant since ash tones are flatter and do not reflect light, so they can appear dull or even darker in color. As you can see, it’s not an exact science, but luckily toners are forgiving since they do fade out rather quickly. Usually it is best for the stylist to over formulate, meaning the hair may be a little more ash or darker than the client desires, when they leave the salon. The stylist does this knowing the toner will fade quickly and it’s better to overcompensate to give their client the best long-term results. It really is about trusting and listening to your stylist instruction.

Essentially, the toner is part of the coloring process. The reason it is not figured into the service price and is considered an extra is because some clients will opt not to do a toner. They would rather have a little brassiness in their blonde and keep their brightness and definition. It is still a matter of choice but we recommend you listen to the options your stylist suggests.

So to sum it all up, toner is the most underrated step in the process of lightening your hair. It is the last step to ensure you achieve the perfect shade during your salon visit, it is what closes the cuticle of the hair to improve the longevity of your color and health of your hair. The toner your stylist applies is a key step when you’re desiring an ashy blonde or a neutral blonde. Toner is a must since all hair shades naturally lift or lighten warm or brassy.

So yeah, you really do need it.

Now that you know more about toners, talk to your stylist at your next visit to Refinery Salon about how one might benefit you.


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