How to Tone Hair After Bleaching

Toners are peroxide only dyes that are used to remove unwanted tones from hair that has been recently bleached. Bleach works by removing pigments from hair, but depending on the weight of the molecules that make up that pigment some colors go away quicker than others. So unless you learn how to tone hair after bleaching you risk ending up with a brassy, orange mop instead of the icy ash blonde you wanted.

In a hurry to get rid of brassy tones?

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T18 Lightest Ash Blonde Color Charm Toner
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T14 Pale Ash Blonde Color Charm Toner
  • Works On Naturally Blonde Or Pre-Bleached Hair
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Why Do I Need To Tone After Bleaching

If you have never bleached your hair and are just learning how to bleach your hair at home, you have probably no idea why you’d need to tone your hair. After all, you are just going blonde right? Unless you are naturally a very light blonde your hair will have dark red, orange and red pigments will be present in your hair. As the bleach works its way through them, your hair will go through several more or less garish shades of red, orange and gold, but usually it stops on the most unflattering burnt light orange you can achieve. Unless you are lucky enough to suit those tones, toning is the way to go to bring brassy undertones back under control.

As you would expect, the more dramatic color changes require the most toning. If you are in the middle of several bleaching processes to bring you to platinum shade from very dark hair, you may need to live with the orange for a bit. However, you can still use a toner to make it into a more suitable shade for you.

Choosing A Toner For Bleached Hair

The main function of toners for bleached hair is neutralising unwanted undertones. However, you can also apply toner on bleached hair to achieve a particular effect such as silver or rose gold hair. Think of it as a very subtle, non-damaging dye that won’t lighten the hair further but will add some color to it.

Choosing the right toner for bleached hair depends on what the end result needs to be. You will also need to be somehow familiar with colour theory, but you don’t need to be a hairdresser to apply toner on bleached hair successfully. It’s easier to understand with examples.

So, let’s start with choosing a toner for bleached hair that has turned brassy or orange. This can be because you were going from very dark hair and using a low strength developer, or maybe you just didn’t leave the bleach long enough on the hair. You may be happy with the intensity of the color (If you are not and you want to go lighter, you will need to bleach again. Adding toner on bleached hair will not lighten it). A toner that has blue and violet tones to it will counteract the brassiness, leaving you with a nice light brown or ashy dark blonde.

If you are aiming for white or platinum hair, you will need to choose a toner for bleached hair that can cancel the remaining yellow undertones your level 10 hair will have. Applying violet toner on bleached hair will cancel out the yellow to achieve white hair – provided your hair is already at the level 10 pale yellow stage. This is because violet or purple is the opposite colour on the color wheel to yellow and as such they cancel each other out.

But toners for bleached hair can also be used to warm up or darken hair that has been bleached too light. For example, you could use a warm toner to turn stark yellow highlights into more complimentary caramel ones if that’s the effect you are after. Generally speaking, applying a warm toner on bleacher hair will make the final result look darker, whereas cooler toners will make hair look lighter.

In order to keep your blonde hair bright you may want to tone it regularly to remove unwanted undertones. This can be done by using a toner, a non-ammonia dye such as Manic Panic or even colour depositing shampoo and conditioner.

How Do Toners Work

A toner is a color depositing dye that work by neutralising the unwanted undertones in your hair. Toners can be all sorts of “strange” colors, as they need to neutralise gold, red and yellow tones. So, for example a green based toner will neutralise red, a blue one will neutralise orange and a violet one will remove yellow undertones from blonde hair. The intensity of the toner should match your chosen hair tone level.
Hair color levels and pigments
Toners are also not usually called green, blue or violet tones. For example, if you look at the color chart for the Wella Color Charm permanent toners you’ll see the names are usually things like silver, ash or beige (for neutral, cool or golden end results.

If you are trying to get really pale, white hair in order to apply rainbow hair dye, you will most likely need a silver or ash toner to remove any hint of warm undertones. For golden beach hair, beige toners will remove the orange so the hair looks naturally blonde.

Wella Hair Toners

Wella hair toners are widely available online, and provided you follow the instructions offer really good results.

  • T-18 (White Lady): Use on *pale hair* to remove residual brassiness to achieve platinum blonde hair.
  • T-11 (Lightest Beige Blonde): Use on lemon or yellow hair to achieve sandy blonde color.
  • 7A/672 (Medium Smokey Ash (Color)): Use on darker blondes that are too brassy or even orange
  • 7AA/632 (Medium Ash Blonde): Use on darker blondes for an ashy blonde that looks natural instead of yellow.

Toner For Hair After Highlights

After highlighting hair you can use toner for three things:

  • Give your new highlights the desired undertone. For example, turning yellow hair into ashy highlights
  • Tone down the brightness of the highlights so they blend better with the rest of your hair
  • Even out the highlight colour through the strand

Toner makes all the difference between strippy, zebra-like highlights and natural looking ones. For this reason, toning newly highlighted hair is nearly always part of the process, at home or at the salon. However, some salons may charge you extra for this service and it may be worth learning to apply toner for hair after highlights at home. You should also use a toning shampoo and conditioner every few washes to keep your highlights looking fresh.

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Schwarzkopf Professional Blond Me Blonde Toning - Ice - 2.1 oz
  • Schwarzkopf Professional Blond Me Blonde Toning - Ice - 2.1 oz
Bestseller No. 2
JEROME RUSSELL Punky Colour Hair Color Crème Platinum Blonde Toner 3.5 oz
  • The original semi permanent intense hair coloring cream
  • Vegetable based conditioning cream leaves hair vivid and smooth
  • Available in 26 colors

How to Tone Hair After Bleaching

Once you have chosen your toner and read the instructions, the process is pretty simple. You should have washed your hair to remove the bleach, but don’t use a conditioner yet. Towel dry your hair and apply the toner following the instructions and processing time exactly. Otherwise you may overcorrect and end up with green or blue tinges in your hair, particularly if you are now a very light blonde.

After bleaching, hair is very porous and will take more dye than usual, so don’t leave the dye on longer than recommended. Even if your hair used to be really stubborn and needed extra time.

Most of the time you will only use a 10 vol peroxide mix, because the bleach will have lifted the hair as much as you wanted, and at this point it’s best to be nice to it. However, 20 vol peroxide is also recommended by the manufacturers because it opens the cuticle more and so the dye lasts longer.

How To Apply Toner After Bleaching?

Once you have chosen the right toner, you will need an applicator brush, a plastic bowl and a developer.

  1. Mix the toner and the developer in a 1:2 ratio.
  2. Apply the mixture to your hair with the applicator brush, focusing on the orange bits.
  3. Leave the toner on your hair for maximum 45 minutes (keep an eye on how the color is developing or you may end up with blue hair).
  4. Rinse with a sulfate-free shampoo and deep condition.

This video may help as well.

No Peroxide Toners

There is a different kind of toner that can be used for maintenance. This sort of toners only last between 1 and 5 washes, and are used like a conditioning treatment. Their purpose is to revive faded color or colour-correct undertones in between dye processes. They wash off because no peroxide is used, so you are only depositing color on the hair cuticle. At the same time, they can make your hair look fresh from the salon after you wash it. In my opinion, they are a must-have if you lighten your hair. This sort of toners is great to correct yellow hair disasters, for example.

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John Frieda Sheer Blonde Colour Renew Purple Conditioner, 8.45 Ounces (Pack of 2)
  • Neutralizes brassiness and unnatural tones in as few as three shampoos
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  • Specifically created for colour-treated blonde hair
  • For best results, use with John Frieda Sheer Blonde Colour Renew Tone-Correcting Shampoo up to 3 times per week
  • Ammonia- and peroxide-free
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Pravana The Perfect Blonde Purple Toning Masque 5 Oz
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Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Conditioner 16 oz.
  • Conditions hair without residue
  • Tones down brassiness
  • Silkens coarse hair
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Joico Color Balance Purple Conditioner 10.1 fl oz by Joico
  • Eliminates brassy/yellow tones on blonde/gray haiir
  • Color Balance Purple Conditioner, For Light Brown to Medium Hair
  • Formulated to Protect and Enhance Your Color
Bestseller No. 5
TIGI Bed Head Dumb Blonde Purple Toning Shampoo, 13.5 Ounce
  • Helps gently cleanse blondes while refreshing and conditioning hair
  • Contains purple toning pigment to neutralize brassy tones in blondes and enhance cool tones
  • Blended with Polyquaternium 10 to prevent and control frizz, static and flyaway

Using a toner will make all the difference between hair that looks bleached and hair that looks natural. Removing unwanted undertones from your hair means that you can get the blonde that you want, no matter what your original colour is.

15 Comments

  • My ”grey” re-growth is almost 4 inches now and I applied a colour remover on the rest of my hair which had some blonde left. I want to go natural and I want to apply a light ash toner with 10 volume dev. to hide some of the yellowish that is still left . My hair is short. And also, can I apply it right after I removed the colour or do I have to wait? I will be putting a hair mask afterwards.
    Thanks.
    Jackie

    • You can apply a toner right after using the color remover BUT keep in mind that if you haven’t flushed all the color from your hair (by rinsing it for as long as the color remover instructions say, which I know from experience is a PITA) when you add developer to your hair the original color pigments will re-appear. The color remover shrinks the pigment molecules so they can slip out of the hair (and that’s why all the rinsing) but developer will enlarge them again and make them visible in your hair.

      In order to avoid unexpected results, I would try a strand test first with the developer, just to be on the safe side.

  • Can I apply a toner to my hair a while after its been bleached? I bleached my hair a lil less than a month ago, is it perfectly fine to wash my hair and apply the toner now, or would I have to rebleach it?

  • I tried dying my roots that were a dark brown, i applied a gold blonde tone, and it toned its great, well i proceded to try to finger strand some highlights and it came out orange and brassy, i used the purple shampoo but it only lifted a bit. I am not sure if I should use a darker toner or lighten it up more with a light toner. I would say after toning it, it is a red orange pigment. I would say the remaining of my hair is a bright blonde

  • Hi, I just bleached my hair – first removed color and it turned a dark orange. I waited a day and then I bleached it but used 10 developer for my roots as I wanted to be safer when bleaching at home and used a 20 developer for the ends. My roots picked up more like a yellow white and the ends of my hair picked up yellow while underneath picked up a darker shade almost basically blonde. I went and used well T18 toner but because it was placed all over the head everywhere has picked it up much differently darker still on ends and my roots still sit looking so much lighter. I realized it didn’t even make much of a difference which I found odd but I’ve noticed in past hair attempts I have to use toner more than once to get a shade preferred. I then used purple shampoo the next day and now the purple has stuck to the hair that again still there is no fix to my problem. My question is what can I do to make it all over the same color? I know the obvious is to wait for the purple shampoo to wash out, as it does after a few washes.
    I wanted to go a golden blonde as I used to be, but with much lighter roots maybe I should go a platinum blonde though that may mean I need to do something more to my ends.

  • I have red hair that’s going light at the front tried to bleach hair all one colour and has gone a yellow colour what colour should I put on to get rid of this

  • I have dyed my hair Bleach blonde and it has yellow tones through it, I am trying to get to a Grey colour but I need to apply a purple toner but which wella purple toner would be best to use?

  • I had my hair bleached and toned at a salon last week. When wet my hair looks very gold. Can I tone again? Do you have any suggestions for an icy toner?

      • Thanks fpr your quick reply! I did try the Loreal Colour Corrector conditioner. It’s a very dark purple/blue, but didn’t make much of a difference. Can you suggest a toner? I try to keep my hair platinum/icy?

        • Ok, difficult to say without seeing your hair but if it’s light enough (Level 10, banana yellow sort of colour or a tad darker) this one works: http://amzn.to/2BUTVQb It’s also called Wella White Lady.
          But if your hair is actually golden yellow (say a level 8 or darker) it won’t do much.

          Also, have you also used purple shampoo, not only conditioner? For some reason they seem to work better than conditioners. This Redken one can be adapted to how much purple you need: http://amzn.to/2CMRagp

          Hope this helps! If you are unhappy with your hair colour though you should go back to your salon and they may be able to correct it for free. They may need to lighten it further if you want to go platinum.

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