Does Toner Damage Hair? How To Effectively Use Toner For Hair?

Changing hair color and maintaining long-lasting beautiful hair color is always the concern of every woman. One of the things that hair stylists recommend as an auxiliary product when changing hair color is hair toner.

However, “does toner damage hair?” If you are thinking about this, keep reading to find out!

What Is A Hair Toner?

Hair toners are a color treatment product used to support already bleached or dyed hair and remove unwanted tones. Moreover, they also alter your hair’s undertone by lowering or brightening the hair tinge. 

Thus, they emphasize, highlight certain colors, and improve your hair’s tonality. This way, your hair will end up looking shinier and healthier. 

Hair toners are also considered a demi/semi dye that adheres to the hair’s surface. Thus, after a while, they will fade and disappear. As most toners don’t contain ammonia, their impact on hair is different from hair dye.

Does Toner Damage Hair?

The impact of toner relies on many factors, including the current hair condition, how you use it, the use frequency, and the type of hair toner. 

Indeed, if your hair is healthy and you only apply a moderate amount of toner once in a while, there would be no damage. 

Shampoos Hub
Shampoos Hub

However, if applied repeatedly on your hair or mixed in excess with hair dye, toner can cause split ends and make your strands more brittle and prone to breakage.

An ammonia-free toner helps to neutralize and adjust your hair color and brightness without damage. It also ensures your hair’s natural appearance, not destroying the hair strands. 

On the other hand, those containing ammonia rapidly strip your hair, dry it, and destroy hair texture. Healthy hair, using the right proportions and methods will not be damaged by hair toner.

See also: How to Know If Your Hair is Damaged?

Different Types Of Hair Toner

Permanent toner, semi-permanent toner, and demi-permanent toner are the 3 conventional kinds of hair toners.

Permanent Toner

Permanent toners are intended to remove your current hair color thoroughly. They change your entire hair color while clearing any signs of your original shade.

Permanent toners are commonly utilized because of their long-lasting impacts. However, be cautious while selecting a long-lasting toner because it alters your hair color drastically, meaning it’s pretty abrasive and strong.

See also: Can I Tone My Hair with My Permanent Dye Instead of Toner?

Semi-Permanent Toner

If you simply expect your hair color to last for a short time, semi-permanent toners are the one to go. If you employ a semi-permanent solution, the color will stick for around 10-12 washes. 

Demi-Permanent Toner

Demi-permanent toners stick nearly twice as well as semi-permanent oners. However, when using a demi-permanent toner, one must exercise caution because it poses the risk of stripping your hair’s pH level and transforming the hair’s structure from the inside out.

Moreover, as all demi-permanent toners are ammonia-based, they drastically strip and damage your hair.

Read more: Demi-Permanent vs Permanent Hair Color Comparison

Pigmented Shampoo

Nowadays, hair toners come in many different forms, including toning shampoos and conditioners. These shampoos and conditioners contain color molecules to neutralize unwanted colors.

Toner for hair has many different colors, of which the most popular and easy to find are purple, red, green, and blue. These colors follow the principle of the color wheel to suppress and balance the color in your hair.

Indeed, by applying a toner which is the opposing color on the color wheel, the undesirable color is balanced out.

For example, since purple corrects yellow tones, achieving the right blend will result in more harmonious and natural colors.

How Does Hair Toner Work?

Hair toners are a must-have item if you want to achieve natural-looking hair
Hair toners are a must-have item if you want to achieve natural-looking hair

To grasp how toner functions, we’ll need to learn some chemistry.

For example, in human hair, we possess 2 kinds of pigmentation: eumelanin (brownish to darker pigmentation) and pheomelanin (yellowish, orangish to lighter red pigmentation).

Eumelanin is eliminated throughout the bleaching phase, but pheomelanin is only slightly reduced. In the end, darker hair appears yellowish since a significant amount of pheomelanin persists in your hair.

On the other hand, brighter hair with less pheomelanin comes out bright yellow. As a result, anytime you opt to bleach the hair, you will always struggle with warmer shades, notably when we brighten your hair to higher levels and the natural hair color is black.

If left untreated, these leftover tones make your dyed hair look shabby and dull, ultimately darkening your face.

So, what should you do in this situation? The answer is to use a hair toner!

The toner operates following the color wheel, balancing the undesirable tones by introducing shade from the other half of the wheel.

For instance, look at yellow/blonde. Which shade is the polar contrary? Purple! As a result, the purple toner eliminates the unattractive yellowish color from the hair.

Also, keep in mind that toner works wonders on brightened or bleached hair. Or else, the toner will not function correctly, and you will not get the expected goal. 

Why Should You Use A Hair Toner?

Hair toners have multiple effects on your hair, and most of them are positive
Hair toners have multiple effects on your hair, and most of them are positive

As stated above, using a hair toner after having a dye job enhances the colors of your hair and makes it more attractive. But the benefits of hair toners extend far beyond merely aesthetic purposes. 

Besides, there are many other ways toners can revive the color of your hair:

Add depth and even out the color

They can add dimension to your hair, so it has more depth and is evenly colored.

Moreover, hair toners provide a coating on each hair strand, protecting the curls from the damage caused by more powerful hair products.

Also, by penetrating deep inside the hair shaft, a hair toner fills up the pores and pumps the cuticles. This way, your hair seems fuller and glossier!

Color adjustment after lightening & neutralization

This is probably one of the most typical applications of toner. After intense chemical bleaching and brightening, toner is applied to your hair to remove brassy hair colors.

Toners help to adjust your hair color. 
Toners help to adjust your hair color.

As a matter of fact, the final shade after bleaching isn’t always precisely what you expect. Hence, a few people (typically, people with extremely dark underlying colors) need to apply toner as a secondary phase after bleaching the hair to acquire full platinum blonde hair.

Restoring color

Once your former hair color has begun to disappear, a toner is a friendlier option to restore it than continuously adding permanent dye.

Most professionals will put a permanent dye to the sprouting of your hair and toner to the remaining portion of your hair to match the current shade.

Create fashion/pastel shades

If you appreciate trendy colors, you learned that there are 2 phases to getting a beautiful pastel or bright color: brightening and darkening.

The salon will initially brighten your hair (if it is not already bright) to establish a fresh “space” and utilize a toner to add the appropriate finishing color (or colors), which will slowly fade away to reduce the chance of regrowth.

Color Correction

Toners could be utilized to fast and gently remove pigment issues like traces or imperfections that might arise due to incorrect hair dye treatment.


Gloss enhancement

Sometimes the gloss of your hair color only has to be improved. Colorless toners soften the texture of your hair and increase the gloss and shine of the overall color.

How To Choose A Suitable Hair Toner? 

Know about the undertones

Which toners to use depends on your original hair undertones and the dye colors you wish to achieve. Refer to the color wheel when selecting a colored toner:

  • Purple toner: This toner counteracts yellowish undertones and is ideal for super light blondes – levels 7-10.
  • Blue toner: This toner cancels orangish/brass undertones, perfect for lighter chestnut to medium blond hair – levels 4-6.
  • Green toner: Eliminates reddish undertones, works best for black to dark brown hair – levels 1-4. 
  • Red Toner: Boosts reddish, red-violet, and magenta shades.
  • Orange/copper toner: Strengthen the colors of auburn, reddish or orangish browns, and golden blondes.
  • Yellow toner: Lightens brownish colors while softening overly intense reddish undertones.

See also: How To Remove Green Tones From Brown Hair?

Ammonia-based and non-ammonia toners?

To begin with, ammonia has been proven to be the most effective alkalizer for inflating the hair shafts and enabling various contents of hair toner solutions to delve deeply into the cortex.

This is extremely useful for brightening a preexisting shade, as monoethanolamine (MEA) or aminomethyl propanol (AMP) does not possess the same brightening ability as ammonia.

Ammonia-based toner gives your hair a short-term beauty.
Ammonia-based toner gives your hair a short-term beauty.

For the reason above, the color produced by an ammonia-based hair toner endures for a long time. Because ammonia particles are tiny, they vaporize quickly and are simple to wash away after dyeing.

They also respond to melanin (the color element in your hair) to help lighten it. Hairdressers also liked ammonia-based hair toners because they were quick to rinse and delivered excellent outcomes (in the short run).

However, ammonia-based hair toners have been associated with many adverse side effects.

Ammonia particles could aggravate your scalp, causing itching or a stinging feeling. In addition, some people have experienced severe allergic responses to ammonia-based hair toners. If you wish to avoid this, use ammonia-free hair toning treatments.

Ammonia-free toners are useful.
Ammonia-free toners are useful.

Ammonia disrupts the natural pH level of your hair and causes hydration and protein breakdown. Try utilizing ammonia-free hair toning treatments if you prefer to keep your hair healthy after toning it.

As mentioned above, because ammonia particles are tiny, they dissipate fast once hair color is applied. Thus, whenever you tone your hair, this releases a pungent odor. 

This odor has the potential to aggravate your eyes and make breathing harder. Ammonia-free hair toners feature no pungent odor and will not bother your eyes and nose.

How To Use Hair Toner Correctly?

Toning the hair is as simple as 1-2-3 if you learn the kind and shade toner to utilize. Here’s how to tone dyed hair while keeping it natural-looking.

  • In a 1:2 proportion, combine your toner and developer.
  • Massage the combination into your hair utilizing an application brush, concentrating on regions with unflattering undertones.
  • Allow the toner to sit for up to 45 mins before rinsing; then, use a hydrating shampoo and a high-quality conditioner.

Toned hair disappears with time, and bleached blonde hair gets yellow undertones as it reacts with oxygen. So to maintain that beautiful, healthy-looking hair, use a toner every 6-8 weeks.

For pigmented shampoo, it is recommended to use 2-3 times per week, alternating with regular shampoo for best results.

How To Treat Hair After Using Hair Toner

Any kind of hair toner will dry up your hair; thus, you should use an intensive and complete hair care regimen to restore and nourish your hair. 

Knowing the proper treatment will help your toned hair last longer.
Knowing the proper treatment will help your toned hair last longer.

To save frequent returns to the hairdresser, apply a touch-up spray to conceal roots between dye visits. Note that fewer dyeing visits might equal less long-term harm to your hair!

Heat styling could cause yellowish hair to appear even more yellow therefore strive to manage your hair without high temperature as often as possible. To minimize the damage caused by heat equipment, always apply a heat-protecting spray before styling.

The more you wash your hair, the faster the color will fade, so you should reduce the frequency of washing your hair.

In addition, hair after using hair toner will also become dry and frizzy. A moisture-rich hair care regimen is necessary at this time. Use deep conditioners, hair masks and hair serums to ensure your hair is properly nourished and restored.

Wearing a hat, covering your hair with a scarf to protect your hair when going out is also a good way to protect your hair.


Should you use a toner at home, or should you have it done by a professional?

If you intend on having a major change in hair color and/or have not experimented with toners on your own beforehand, it is best to drop by the salon. 

But for those who already familiarize themselves with how toner works and how to apply it properly, you can always do it from the comfort of your home.

Are all hair toners the same?

No. Hair toners are available in many different types.

  • Some are ammonia-free and are only used to lighten the hair and remove the brassy strands.
  • Some are ammonia-based, which can double as a light dye to change your hair shades completely. 
  • Some offer a permanent effect due to their ability to impart a brand new color, while others can hold up for only 15 to 20 washes.

How often can you tone your hair without damaging it?

The frequency with which you should tone your hair is determined by the kind of toner you use and the susceptibility of your hair to become yellowy.

Toning conditioners, as previously mentioned, are usually intended to be applied a couple of times per week. However, high-quality in-salon toners can be applied less frequently, usually every 6 weeks.

Can you apply toner to dry hair?

Technically, it is feasible. But most hair experts recommend users tone their hair when it is at least 50% wet. This is because dry strands are less porous, creating more difficulties for the toner to get through. 

Furthermore, they can deposit too much pigment, turning your hair into several shades darker than expected. Consider spraying water instead for those who do not want to wash their entire head before toning.

Is purple shampoo a toner?

Anything used to change the hair undertones by altering the pigment can be referred to as a toner.

Since purple shampoos also contain purple pigment to remove warm hues and neutralize the hair color, you can use it as a substitute for hair toners.

For more information, check out our “Is Purple Shampoo A Toner?” article.

What if my hair is still bright yellow after toning?

If the bright undertones are still visible on your hair after having a dye job and toning, chances are the toner was not applied correctly and is already washing away. 

To fix this issue, bleach your hair to a lighter tone, then re-apply the toner to dark it. Make sure you leave the toner on your hair long enough to be fully effective. 

Can hair toner cover gray roots? 

Yes. Putting the toner at the roots of your hair can blend the gray color into the shade of your hair, thus disguising it effortlessly.

Read more: How To Whiten Gray Hair With Peroxide?

How long does toner last in hair?

This is especially essential since toner typically only persists for 4 to 8 weeks, based on how carefully you look after your hair color. However, a few toners do stay longer than others, so if you’re wondering, call your hairdresser.

If preferred, you could re-use toner at the hairdresser. Toner treatment is frequently charged extra during standard services. The cost of the treatment varies according to the facility and hairdresser.

A few hairdressers charge for application as part of their service fee, while others do not. So any time you get your highlights done, consult the hairdresser if toner is covered and the additional expenses.


So, does toner damage hair? Now that you have read through this article, you know the answer is quite the opposite. Make sure you learn about the characteristics of this hair product if you ever want to give it a try!

Edna Feber

I’m Edna. I'm here to guide you about hair products and maintenance tips. You'll fine here product reviews regarding hair tools, hair color, hair care and more along with tips to keep your hair healthy!

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