If you’re wondering what a hair toner is, you’re not alone. When salon chain Taylor Taylor London asked their clients having colour done if they knew what is was, 86 per cent were in the dark.
However, “toning is the most important part of the colour process," explains celebrity hair colourist Zoe Adams. And not only for blondes.
What is a hair toner and who is it for?
A hair toner is a product used to achieve and maintain your desired colour, both professionally and at home.
“Hair toner is every colourist’s best friend,” says Samantha Cusick, founder of Samantha Cusick London. “It works magic on coloured and bleached hair and helps us to correct the tone and personalise your colour.”
“We typically use toner to neutralise unwanted warm undertones, as brassiness on blondes (which can also occur on redheads and brunettes) is something we want to avoid,” Cusick adds.
For toner to work, hair needs to be pre-lightened or coloured first. "Bleaching is a tool that we use to take colour, or pigment, out of the hair,” explains Adams. "The professional term is a 'pre-lightener'. During this process, you are pulling the pigment from the hair, stripping away the colour but not adding any colour." Your final colour then comes from the toning process.
“You can go anywhere with a toner," she says. "On blondes, cooler toner makes the colour more silvery and warmer toner makes it more coppery.”
But Cusick confirms that all coloured hair needs a toner – not only light hair. “It can be used on all shades of hair to remove brassy tones as well as add depth and shine.”
Should I be using a hair toner to add shine?
Indeed, "toners don't just add colour to the hair,” says Adams. “As well as toning the hair it can restore coloured hair that’s started to fade, colour correct any accidental streaks or smudges that might occur and add a gorgeous gloss if you’re using a clear toner,” Cusick adds.
Adams explains that “acid-based toners can add shine to natural hair and won't affect the colour. By reflecting the light, this gives hair a super glossy varnish-like effect which we call 'glossing'”.
For this effect, ask in salons for a Redken Shades EQ hair gloss. After an initial consultation, your hairstylist will create a custom hair gloss for you which works in 15 minutes. It boosts the condition of the hair while imparting shine. “It’s like lip gloss for your hair,” says Cusick.
What are the types of hair toner?
As mentioned above, there are professional in-salon hair toners and glosses, such as the Redken Shades EQ, while toners for at-home use can take many different forms.
Depending on whether you primarily want to enhance or tweak your colour there are various options, from colour correcting shampoos to pigment depositing masks, glazes and glosses.
If you’re looking maintain your salon-fresh tones, “the first step in helping your colour last longer is to use a shampoo that’s especially formulated to prevent brassiness in coloured hair” Cusick explains. She recommends the Redken Blondage and Brownlights ranges. “Use once a week to help keep your hair looking salon-fresh for longer.”
Adams concurs. "Try to choose an at-home shampoo and conditioner or mask that has toner incorporated within the product. This will refresh your hair each time you wash it and help prolong the colour. However, it is important to avoid over-washing hair – ideally, wash it no more than twice a week to best maintain your colour."
It also helps to protect your hair from sun exposure by wearing a hat or investing in a sun protection product for the hair, such as the ones below:
How long does toner last?
No toner lasts – which is why coloured hair changes tone or appears to fade.
"Depending on your hair type, toner can last between two-to-six weeks,” explains Adams. This will also depend on the product you used.
“The general rule of thumb is that previously coloured hair which is more porous will hold colour for less time than natural or 'virgin' hair, which can hold colour for up to six weeks."
A salon toner is more pigmented meaning the results will last longer than an at-home toning product like a shampoo or mask.