How To Choose The Right Toner For Highlighted Hair

The color wheel is a great guide to neutralizing the perfect color for your hair dye.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Rekha Yadav, BHMS Dr. Rekha Yadav Dr. Rekha YadavBHMS facebook_icon
Written by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Experience: 7 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) Experience: 11 years
Fact-checked by , MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Monomita Chakraborty MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Experience: 4 years

Choosing the right toner for your highlighted hair can be quite tricky. Have you recently experimented with hair coloring and regretted it? Or are you seeking a technique to spruce up your fading hair color so it does not look dull and lifeless? Unfortunately, the color you choose for your hair is not the perfect one a lot of the time. Well, all you need is a good toner! To prevent streaky highlights that look unnatural, select the appropriate toner for your hair. And that’s exactly what we are going to talk about in this article. Keep reading!

What Is A Hair Toner?

If you are wondering ‘What is a toner for hair?’ then here’s the answer — in the world of cosmetics, toners are sweet angels in bottles that help neutralize yellow or orange-tinted bleached hair and change the color to ashy or platinum. You can call them color correctors. That’s why the hair stylist at your hair salon never skips it.

A toner gives a finished and polished look to your hair, revitalizing dull and faded hair color and transforming it into something shiny and elegant. The unevenness in the highlighters will be rectified to perfection. Toners are not just limited to aesthetic purposes. They also condition your hair, eliminating frizz and dryness. If you have bleached hair, it’s mandatory to use a toner.

But what exactly does a toner do?

What Does A Toner Do?

Now you might wonder, ‘What does a hair toner do?’ Well, here’s what it does:

  • Toners adjust the highlighters by depositing pigments onto the surface. Though they do not upgrade the color, they make the highlighter align with the natural hair color.
  • If you’re using toners to adjust the color, you need to learn about the laws of the color wheel. For e.g., if you want a neutralized shade for your existing hair color, you need to look for the opposite tone to your hair color on the color wheel. You’ve now received a complete beauty care tip for your hair.
  • If you want a lighter shade or a multi-layered effect, you can use a toner. Also, if you need to change just a part of your highlighted hair (like faded blondish yellow), you will need to choose a purple ash toner to get a neutralized ashier color.
  • Toning dark hair requires more than one sitting as the hair pigments will not provide an immediate lighter shade in the first attempt.
  • Usually, toners come into use once you have bleached and highlighted your hair. That is when they allow the color to seep in and make your hair gloss.

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Toners add volume and dimension to your hair. They plump the hair cuticle to make it thicker and then seal it down to make it reflect and shine.

Choosing the right toner can be challenging. You need to research the color and product before proceeding with hair toning.

How To Choose The Right Toner For Highlighted Hair

Right toner for highlighted hair
Krysta Biancone, a hairstylist, says, “When it comes to choosing a toner, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You should first determine what kind of toner you need based on what kind of color you are looking for. If you are trying to cancel out brassy orange tones, an ash toner is often the best choice. For lighter highlights, a purple toner might be more appropriate.”

She adds, “You can apply toner to highlighted hair if you would like to deepen or tone down those highlights. However, it is important to be aware that applying too much toner can cause your highlights to look dull and flat.”

  • Hair Toner For Blonde Hair
Tight toner for blonde hair
Image: Instagram @cesarmodarosario

If you are planning on removing yellow blonde hue, you need to look for the shade opposite to your current hair color on the color wheel, i.e., purple ash toner.

  • Toner For Auburn Hair
Right toner for auburn hair
Image: Instagram

For reddish-brown hair, you need to choose a green-tinged toner to get the right neutralization.

  • Toner For Dark Hair
Right toner for dark hair
Image: Instagram @styled_by_jay

Ash blonde or beige blonde can be used to calm your dark shade.

  • Toner For Bold Hair Colors

Blue toner is usually used to neutralize excessively bold colors.

Let us now look at the types of toners.

Types Of Toners

There are three types of hair toners – permanent toner, semi-permanent toner, and demi-permanent toner.

  • Permanent Toner

Hair products such as permanent toners are used to cover the previous hair shading completely. They impart a new shade altogether, without leaving any traces of the natural hair color. In most cases, permanent toners are used for their long-lasting effects. But be careful before choosing a lasting toner as it alters your hair from within.

  • Semi-Permanent Toner

Semi-permanent toners can be used if you only want the color to stay temporarily and maintain hair strength.On an average, if you use a semi-permanent toner, the color may not fade until 10-12 washes.

  • Demi-Permanent Toner

Demi-permanent toners last longer (almost twice as long) than the semi-permanent variants. All the ammonia-based hair toners are demi-permanent. One has to be careful while using a demi-permanent toner as it can alter the hair shaft structure from within to prevent any hair damage.

The three types of toners used commonly are ammonia toners, purple shampoo, and dye.

Now that you know the importance of toning and the types of toner, you need to be aware of the application process as well.

When To Tone

Once you are done with your hair bleaching, you can apply the toner for hair maintenance. But to get the desired results, wait until the color sits on the hair and changes the shade into your desired color. Apply the toner evenly throughout the hair strands.

Do not rinse off until you’re sure of the changing new color, or you might risk wasting the product. Remember: Trying to change hair color frequently can affect hair porosity or hair Ph balance, and you might also lose natural hair hydration as well.

  • Results Acquired
Results for highlighted hair
Image: Instagram @anovy_style

The results purely depend on your choice of toner. Before starting the process, spend your time researching the color tint. You might acquire the final color depending on your choice of toner. For example, hazelnut hair color to ashy shade, pale yellow to platinum, blonde to purple hue or dusty ash color, and so on.

Apart from aesthetic purposes, toners also add hair shine and polish it from the roots to the tips. It provides natural hair nourishment and makes your hair gloss. They help the newly acquired color blend in with the current hair color, giving you a groomed look.

They soften rough ends and make your tresses incredibly glossy.

The next question that might come to your mind is how do you tone down blonde hair? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

How To Tone Down Blonde Hair

How to tone down blonde hair
Image: Instagram

Blonde is bold and beautiful, but it requires high maintenance and a lot of products to sustain the beauty of the color. There is no specific color code for blonde as it can range from light to dark or gold to brown. If you have gone blonde, you must be aware of the fading yellowish hue that appears shabby. To remove the brassiness from blonde hair, you can use a hair treatment like Wella Hair Toner shade number T11 or T18 to get ashy hue. And along with that, you would need the Lift Developer to enhance the color.

It is better to use a permanent toner for long-lasting results as the color stays even after multiple washes.

With a lot of money and effort put into the process, watching the expensive color fading away might be painful. To avoid this, you can follow the below tips.

How To Prevent Your Hair Color From Fading

  • Reduce regular usage of flat iron.
  • Apply hair serums to prevent fading.
  • Use shampoos that are color sensitive.
  • Avoid extreme exposure to the sun.
  • Reduce your frequency of shampooing as it might otherwise rinse away the color.
  • Never forget to condition your hair.

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Stylists claim toners wash out between 2-6 weeks, depending on your frequency of washing. You need to tone your hair every 4-8 weeks to refresh your highlights.

Here are a few more tips.


  • Choose the appropriate color for your hair.
  • For best results, either choose a demi-permanent or permanent toner.
  • Follow the color law (color wheel) for a perfect shade.
  • Never forget to tone after the bleaching process.
  • Use an equalizing spray before using a toner.

Keep in mind to not frequently color your hair and follow a good hair care regimen to prevent losing hair elasticity and hair protein.

Now that you have the tips and tricks to maintain your highlighted hair, how often can you tone your hair without damaging it? Scroll down to the next section to find out.

How Often Can You Tone Your Hair Without Damaging It?

If your hair is fragile and has not fully recovered from the last session, wait for 7-8 weeks before toning again. But if your hair is in better shape, you can tone it every 4-6 weeks.
Keep in mind that high-lift permanent toners are potent and should ideally be used once or twice in your life. If you have new growth, bleach and tone that part of your hair. However, avoid over-toning chemically treated hair as it can dry it further. It is important to note that the frequency of toning also depends on the type of toning products you use. Consult your professional hairstylist to find the right oning product suitable for your hair.

Infographic: How to Take Care of Your Highlighted Hair

Highlights are exciting and offer a glamorous touch to your style. If you are looking for suggestions on maintaining your highlights, go no further than the infographic below. To find out more, scroll down!

how to take care of your highlited hair (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Coloring your hair at home is not just fun. It is also cost-effective! But it also means that your hair may not look the exact way you want it. This could spell disaster for your colored hair. This is where a toner comes in. Without a toner, your hair color takes on brassy orange or yellow hues. However, choosing the wrong toner for your hair might make things worse. Luckily, with this guide, you now know how to choose the right toner for highlighting your hair so your hair color looks good and how to keep the color fresh so it does not fade away quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you always need a toner after highlights?

According to Krysta, “In most cases, you will not need a toner after highlights unless you are using it for a specific purpose, such as canceling out brassy orange tones or deepening your highlights. However, if your desired result requires a toner, then it is important to use one after highlighting it in order to achieve the desired effect.”

Is hair toner necessary?

Hair toner is a must for bleached hair as it helps neutralize brassiness. Apart from a hair toner, you can also use a purple or blue shampoo to help eliminate yellow or orange tones from your hair and keep your colored hair fresh and vibrant.

How long does toner last in hair?

A hair toner’s effects last between 2-5 weeks, depending on your hair texture and hair health. The toner’s effects last longer if you practice a healthy hair care routine. Virgin hair tends to hold toner for longer than already bleached or chemically-treated hair.

Is toner better than hair dye?

Both serve different purposes. A hair dye colors your hair. It may contain bleaching agents to lighten and color your hair. A toner neutralizes brassy hues on colored hair and keeps dyed hair vibrant and fresh. It cannot color your hair.

Can you use two types of toners?

Yes. You can mix two toners to attain the desired color and eliminate orange or yellow tones from your bleached or colored hair. Hairdressers, stylists, and colorists always do this to achieve an exact color shade. But it is advised to do a patch test to ensure that those toners will give you the desired result.

How to pick the best toner for blonde hair?

To pick the best blonde hair toner, consider the desired shade and underlying hair color, along, with the current condition of your hair, and your natural hair color. Choose violet or bue-based toners are the best hair toners for blonde hair as they help eliminate any brass hues later on. If you have damaged hair, go for a toner with a gentler formula, and avoid using hair toner at home. Use ash blonde toner to tone down warm brassy tones.

Key Takeaways

  • Toners are color collectors that help neutralize orange tones or adjust the color of your hair.
  • Consider the base color of your hair while choosing a toner to achieve the desired shade and level of intensity.
  • In addition, select the ones that are suitable for your hair type because different toners react in different ways according to the hair type.
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Learn how to tone every shade of blonde: icy, beige, sunny, and warm. Watch this video to get some tips and tricks to achieve those perfect blonde locks!

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Dr. Rekha Yadav is a certified trichologist from the International Association of Trichologists, Australia. She established her hair and scalp practice in 1999 in Mumbai, India, and has over 20 years of experience in this field. She specializes in treating hair and scalp problems through natural and safer treatments and diet and lifestyle changes whenever full bio

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