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How to Tone Your Hair

Updated on May 29, 2014

Hair Toners - The Easiest and Quickest Way to Color Correct

Whether you're looking to even out your hair color, soften your shade of blonde, or just add some richness to your brunette, hair toner should be your best friend! Also known as glaze, gloss, or a color refresher, hair toners are used for a wide variety of reasons. It is well worth learning a bit about how they work and how to choose the right one.

Hair toners are very similar to temporary color in opacity. Opaque refers to how "see through" something is. The best way to think about it is as if the color is slightly watered down. Toners are deposit only meaning they cannot lift, or lighten, hair color. They are often referred to as a gloss because they basically coat the hair shaft and seal the cuticle of the hair leaving it extra soft and shiny. Depending on how often you wash and the porosity of your hair, 4-5 weeks is generally how long it will last.

Toners are used often to correct color as well. Too ashy? Too red? Too gold? Never fear, there's a toner for that! Toners work wonders for controlling unwanted yellow tones in blondes and adding warmth to drab hair. You just have to know what you're looking for.

Start With the Basics

Get to Know the Color Wheel

I could devote an entire lens to the topic of the chemistry of hair color and the color wheel but for our purposes here we just need to be familiar with its basic principles.

  • Primary Colors: Red, blue, yellow

  • Secondary Colors: Violet, green, orange

  • Warm colors: Red, orange, yellow

  • Cool Colors: Blue, violet, green

Hair toning is all about controlling how warm or how cool the hair is. If we look to our color wheel for guidance, colors opposite each other cancel each other out in the world of hair color. For example, unwanted yellow tones in hair can be neutralized by adding violet tones to the hair.

Items You Will Need - Redken Shades

If you choose to use Redken Shades, no matter what formula you use, you will need Shades Processing Solution for mixing your toner.

Redken Crystal Clear is perfect for sealing in a permanent color of for mixing with your toner shade to dilute the pigment.

Redken Shades EQ Gloss Processing Solution 33.8 Oz (1000 ml)
Redken Shades EQ Gloss Processing Solution 33.8 Oz (1000 ml)

Processing solution is what makes your toner work! Only use with Redken Shades toners.

Redken Shades EQ Color Gloss Hair Color for Unisex, 000 Crystal Clear, 16.89 Ounce
Redken Shades EQ Color Gloss Hair Color for Unisex, 000 Crystal Clear, 16.89 Ounce

Crystal Clear is a fantastic additive. Use mixed with Redken processing solution for a clear glossing treatment or use with colored toners to dilute the pigment.


Toning Blonde Hair

The Perfect Platinum and The Richest Honey Blondes

There are just so many subtleties in shade when it comes to blondes. That leaves you with a lot of possibilities. If You want to have that summer sun kissed look for the warmer weather but then a pale cool blonde for winter, you can. It makes for great options for creating a new look on old highlights or an ombre. You can read more about my ombre techniques here if you'd like to learn how to create that look.

The main thing to remember when working with blonde hair is that if the hair is not light enough to begin with, the toner won't matter. Remember, toners don't lighten hair they only deposit. If you have bleached your own hair resulting in orange, toners will help but will not remove it. (As a side, bleaching hair is the process of removing hair color pigment. Orange means there is still remaining pigment that needs to be removed. Bleaching again is the only way to get rid of this but always keep your hair condition in mind. Are you okay being pale blonde but with a pixie?)

Hair color ranges from 1 - 10 (sometimes 12), 1 being the darkest black and 10 being the lightest blonde. When toning your blonde hair you should always stick with a level 9 and up. A drop or two of level 8 can be used but much more may darken your hair too much.

  • V: Stands for violet tone. This shade will use violet to cancel out yellow tones in hair. It is sometimes best to dilute this with a clear mixer and it is important to watch and check the hair at all times because you do not want to turn your blonde hair purple. Sometimes a few minutes is all you need. You can also mix with a toner in the N family which makes for a really nice neutral formula.

  • N:N in this color stands for natural or neutral. This is a nice shade to choose if you are looking to get rid of gold tones.

  • NB: This shade creates neutral beige tones. It is a warmer neutral. It adds depth to blondes without adding gold. If you are color correcting to remove warmth this shade isn't recommended.

  • G: Adds golden tones to hair. This is a nice option to warm up a drab blonde. You can also mix with an N to balance out how much gold you add to your hair.

  • GB: Golden beige tones are a great option to add golden tones to blonde but remain a sandy look.

Cool Blonde Toners - Brand - Redken

These cool blonde toners from Redken work great. They are the only brand I choose to use. Always mix equal parts, meaning if you mix 1oz of your color or clear you would mix it with 1oz processing solution. Shake well, and then apply to the necessary areas of your hair.

Golden Blonde Toners - Brand - Redken

Redken is the only brand of toners I use. They give great results. They are always mixed in equal parts. So, if you mix 1 oz of your color or clear then you would mix it with 1 oz of processing solution.

Do you have any brands that you personally have used and liked? What's your favorite hair toner formula?

What's Your Experience with Toners? - Have you toned your hair?

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