Does Toner Damage Hair? Here’s The Truth.

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Yikes! Your hair is looking kinda brassy. Time to tone it down with a good quality hair toner. But does toner damage hair?

We’re here with the answer, and it’s not as black and white (or orange) as you might think.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about whether or not it’s damaging and some top tips to make sure you use it safely.

Let’s go!

Does toner damager hair?

Toner itself will not damage your hair but it can be very drying.

So if your hair is already damaged, using toner can make the problem worse.

“Toner is generally not bad for your hair at all, as it only deposits color, which means in doesn’t alter you natural hair structure by opening up the cuticle.”

Ramona Mulligan, Salon owner

What is hair toner?

First, let’s break down what toner is. “Toner is a deposit-only hair color that can be used to adjust the tone of your hair,” says celebrity colorist Matt Rez.

“It does not lighten hair, but it can be used to enhance or change the existing color.”

In other words, it’s like makeup for your hair—it can temporarily cover up unwanted tones (think: brassiness) and give your overall color a little boost.

Now that we know what toner is, let’s talk about how it works. “Toner is applied after the bleaching process to neutralize any unwanted yellow or orange tones in the hair,” says Rez.

“It can also be used to add dimension to your natural color or enhance certain tones in colored hair.”

“Hair colorists almost always use toners after doing highlights or bleaching hair in order to give you your desired result. In my experience, in order to preserve the mysterious magic of hair science, they often do this at the shampoo bowl and won’t tell you unless you ask. You might think it’s just a secondary post-service conditioner. As long as you leave the salon happy, that’s what counts.”

Nathan England, Professional working hair colorist specializing in corrective color.

Hair toner before and after.

What is hair color correction?

Hair color correction is the process of adjusting your hair color using products like toners or toning shampoos to achieve a more flattering shade.

This can be done by using a color remover to eliminate unwanted tones, or by adding new colors to create a more balanced shade.

The hair color wheel is a helpful tool for understanding which colors will work together to create the desired effect.

The hair color wheel is basically a chart that shows which colors will cancel each other out when mixed together.

For example, if you have brassy orange hair and you want to cancel out the orange, you would mix it with a blue hair color.

For green hair, you would need a red toner to cancel out unwanted tones of green and blue.

This sounds like a simple concept, but it can get pretty complicated when you start dealing with multiple colors!

By understanding the basics of color theory, you can avoid making common mistakes when choosing your next hair color.

hair color wheel infographic

What are the different types of toners?

Now that we know what hair toner is and how it works, let’s talk about the different types of toners.

There are three main types of toners: temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent.

Temporary toners are the most gentle on your hair. These are products like blue shampoo and purple shampoo that you can use once a week to keep your color cool. They’re a great option if you’re looking to experiment with a new color or tone.

Semi-permanent toners will last for several weeks before gradually fading away. They’re a good choice if you want to make a subtle change to your hair color.

Permanent toners are just that—permanent! They’re usually used to correct major color problems, such as eliminating unwanted tones after bleaching your hair.

This type of toner should be applied by a professional colorist.

Now that we’ve covered the different types of toners, let’s talk about whether or not they can damage your hair.

Watch and learn: How to chose the right toner for your hair.

Here’s a great video from our hairdresser fave Brad Mondo who talks you through which toner is right for you.

So, does toner damage hair?

The short answer: yes and no.

“Toner itself will not damage your hair,” says Rez. “However, if your hair is already damaged, using toner can further exacerbate the problem.”

Although toners can be very effective, they can also be quite damaging to your hair if used incorrectly. If you have brittle, dry, or chemically-treated hair, it’s important to be extra careful when using any type of hair color, toner included.

Toners contain high levels of chemicals, which can strip away the natural oils from your hair, leaving your tresses in a bad way.

Before applying toner, be sure to do a patch test on a small section of your hair to check for any adverse reactions.

It’s also important to use a high-quality toner from a reputable brand. “Cheap drugstore toners can be very damaging to the hair,” says Rez.

Overusing toner can cause your hair to become faded and dull.

When used correctly, toners can be a great way to enhance your hair color and correct unwanted tones.

If you do decide to use one, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and only use it as often as directed.

With a little care, you can avoid damaging your hair and enjoy beautiful, healthy-looking locks for years to come.

How often can you tone your hair without damaging it?

Toning your hair is a bit like giving it a check-up. You want to do it often enough to make sure everything is in balance, but not so often that you damage your hair.

So how often should you tone your hair? Experts say that once a week is usually sufficient if you’re using toning shampoos.

Stronger toners should only be used when necessary – when your hair is looking brassy or orange, for example – or when your hair has just been colored, highlighted or bleached.

If you’re unsure about how often to tone your hair, consult a professional colorist. They can help you determine the best schedule for toning your hair based on your individual needs.

When used correctly, toners can be a great way to keep your hair color looking its best.

What happens if you leave toner on too long?

If you’ve ever used hair toner, you know that the instructions usually say to leave it on for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.

But what happens if you leave toner on for too long?

Well, first of all, it’s important to know that hair toner is not a permanent hair color. It’s basically just a way to neutralize brassy yellow or orange tones in your hair.

So it’s not going to do any major damage if you leave it on for a little too long and it won’t strip your hair color or anything like that.

However, if you leave it on for more than about 30 minutes, it can start to dry out your hair and make it look a little dull.

It can also begin to deposit too much color onto your strands.

The result? A permanent change to your current shade!

If you’re blonde and use a violet toner, you may end up with purple hues left behind in your hair.

If you have Brunette hair, a green toner could leave you with an ashy green mess.

In short: if you’re not careful, hair toner can quickly turn from friend to foe! So make sure to keep a close eye on that timer!

How long do toners last on hair?

Toners are designed to be temporary solutions for unwanted hair colors.

They usually last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, although some toners can last up to 8 weeks.

How long your toner lasts will depend on the type of toner you use, how often you wash your hair, and other factors.

If you want your toner to last as long as possible, try using a color-depositing shampoo or conditioner. These products can help extend the life of your toner by a few washes.

You can also try using dry shampoo in between washes to help prolong the life of your color. Just be sure not to overdo it, as dry shampoo can also cause your hair to look dull and lifeless if used too often.

If you’re not sure how long your toner will last, consult a professional colorist. They can help you determine the best way to extend the life of your color.

How to remove hair toner.

If you find you’ve overdone it and your hair is too dark, there are a few methods you can use to remove hair toner from your locks.

The easiest way is to simply mix a clarifying shampoo with a few ounces of baking soda and massage it into your scalp.

Leave it in for a few minutes and then rinse it out.

Repeat this process as needed until the tone has been completely rinsed out.

The clarifying shampoo will help strip away the product while the baking soda adds an extra zing of cleaning power – the perfect combination for getting that hair toner out of there!

Parting words.

While toner can be a great way to enhance your hair color, it’s important to use it carefully to avoid damaging your hair.

Be sure to follow the instructions on the product, and only use it as often as directed. If you’re unsure about how often to tone your hair, consult a professional colorist.

With a little care, you can enjoy beautiful, healthy-looking locks for years to come.

This article was written by:

  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
    Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!