How Long Should You Leave Toner In Your Hair? The Super Easy Guide For Beginners.

Not sure how long to leave toner in hair? We’ve got you covered.

Toners are a great way to achieve the perfect hair color, but it can be tricky to know how long to leave them in for the best results.

Too long and your hair color will be too dark, too little and you’ll still be left with warm and orange brassiness!

That’s why we’ve put together this easy guide for beginners.

With the right product and the perfect application, you can get salon-quality results from the comfort of your own home.

So what are you waiting for? Read on to find out everything you need to know about using toner on your hair!

The Super Important Role of Hair Toner

This is a color-correcting product that is used to adjust the tone of your hair.

It comes in various shades, so you can find the perfect one for your hair color.

Toners work by neutralizing the yellow or orange tones in your hair, which can make it look brassy.

They’re essential for keeping blonde and bleached hair bright.

They can also be used to cover up gray hair, and it can help to restore the shine to your hair.

They come in the form of color-correcting shampoos, professional toners and glosses.

what is hair toner - hair toner before and after

When to use hair toner.

  • If your hair has unwanted warmth to it
  • You have gray hair that you want to cover up
  • If your hair is feeling dry and dull.
  • If your hair color is looking a bit faded.
  • If you have bleached or very light blonde hair.
  • To keep hair tones cool and ashy.

Step-by-Step Guide to Using Hair Toner

1. Choose Your Toner Type

Before anything else, select the right type of toner for your hair needs.

This could be a professional toner for more dramatic changes, a color-correcting shampoo for slight adjustments, or a gloss to add shine and subtle toning.

Consider your hair condition, desired outcome, and whether your hair is natural, colored, or bleached.

2. Prepare Your Hair

Wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo to remove any buildup and ensure the toner can work effectively.

Do not use conditioner at this stage as it may block the toner from penetrating the hair strands.

Towel-dry your hair gently to remove excess water; toner is typically applied to damp hair unless the specific product instructions suggest otherwise.

3. Mix the Toner and Developer (If Required)

If you’re using a toner that requires mixing with a developer, follow the product instructions closely.

Typically, the mixture is in equal parts, but this can vary. Use a non-metallic bowl and utensil to mix the toner and developer to avoid any chemical reaction that might affect the toning process.

4. Apply the Toner

Wear gloves to protect your hands. Start applying the toner from the roots to the ends, using a tint brush for even distribution.

If you’re focusing on specific areas like highlights or combating brassiness, apply the toner only where needed. Use clips to section off your hair and ensure no strand is missed.

5. Monitor the Development Time

The development time can vary from 5 to 45 minutes, depending on the product type and desired outcome. Check the color every 5-10 minutes by wiping away a small amount of toner with a damp towel. This will help you avoid over-toning or achieving a color too dark for your liking.

6. Rinse Thoroughly

Once you’ve reached your desired shade, rinse your hair thoroughly with lukewarm water. Make sure all the toner is washed out to avoid any further color change.

7. Shampoo and Condition

After rinsing, shampoo your hair to ensure all residues are removed.

Follow up with a hydrating conditioner or a hair mask to replenish moisture and seal the hair cuticles. This step will also help to lock in the color and add shine.

8. Dry and Style as Usual

Gently towel-dry your hair and proceed to dry and style as you normally would. Enjoy your refreshed and toned hair color!

9. Maintenance

To maintain your toned hair color, consider using color-protecting shampoos and conditioners.

Depending on the toner’s longevity and your hair growth, you might need to reapply the toner every 4-6 weeks or as needed.

Watch & Learn: How to Use Hair Toner The Right Way.

Here’s a fab video tutorial from hair guru Brad Mondo who guides you through how to tone your hair the right way to get that gorgeous cool hair color.

Hair toner before and after.

Choosing the Right Volume for Hair Toner

Generally speaking, you need 20 Vol if you are just refreshing colors already professionally applied, 30 Vol if your objective is to lift the color one level, and 40-50 Vol in order to take it up two levels.

It all sounds a bit daunting at first, but fear not!

The great thing about home toning products is that they usually come with detailed instructions on how to choose the volume that’s right for you.

Oh, and don’t forget to set a timer – precision is power!

Expert Insights

“When it comes to selecting the right volume for your hair toner, the most important factor to consider isn’t just the level of lift you’re aiming for; it’s also about understanding the unique characteristics of your hair. Each head of hair reacts differently to toner and developer, depending on its history and health.”

Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant

Selecting the Correct Hair Toner Color

The color of hair toner that you need will depend on the color of your hair.

If your hair is a warm color (red, orange, yellow), then you will need a toner that is designed to cool down the tone.

If your hair is gray, then you will need a toner that is designed to cover up gray hair.

If your hair is light brown or dark blonde, then you will need a toner that is designed to brighten your hair color.

If you have black hair, then you will need a toner that is designed to add cool tones to your hair.

It’s all to do with color theory and the hair color wheel. Choose a color opposite to the color you want to achieve on the wheel to neutralize unwanted tones.

hair color wheel

How long do toners last?

Toners are a great way to achieve the color of your dreams without having to completely commit to permanent dye.

But, like all good things, their lives are limited.

Toners do not last as long as the commitment that comes with permanent dye does; most typically toners will fade after seven weeks or so.

To make sure you maintain the vibrant hue you heart and hair desires, touch it up with toner every few months.

Luckily, there are a load of low-commitment hair colors and hair dyes available on today’s market so you can switch up your hue without harming your locks.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often can I use hair toner?

There is no set rule for how often you should use toners to spruce up your hair color.

However, most people find that using it once or twice a month is enough to keep their hair looking its best.

If you are using it as a root touch-up, then you may need to use it more often.

Professional toners usually need to be used every 4-6 weeks.

Color-correcting shampoos can be used every 1-2 weeks.

Be sure to test the product on a small area of your scalp before applying it to your entire head.

Can hair toner be used on bleached hair?

Yes, it can be used on bleached hair. Really, it’s a must!

Most toners are designed for use on color-treated hair, which means that they can be used on bleached hair without any problems.

In fact, many blondes find that toner is an essential step in their bleach hair care routine.

Toners help to correct any unwanted yellow or brassy tones, and they can also be used to enhance or change the overall color of your hair.

When shopping for a toner, be sure to look for one that is specifically designed for blondes or for color-treated hair.

Does toner work on natural hair?

If you’re wondering whether you can use hair toner on natural hair, the answer is a resounding YES!

In fact, hair toner can be a great way to enhance your natural hair color.

Just be sure to choose a toner that is specifically designed for use on natural hair. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your hair.

How do you know when your toner is done?

The best way to determine if the process is done is by checking the color of your hair!

If it is the desired shade, then you can rinse out the toner.

If your hair color is looking too light or too dark, then you can mix in a little bit of developer to lighten or darken it.

Be sure to test the product on a small area by doing a strand test before applying it to your entire head.

Can I leave toner on for 5 minutes?

You can leave color correcting shampoos on for five minutes before rinsing and conditioning.

Most will need longer than this to work their color freshening magic.

Can you leave toner on longer?

Really, you can only leave them on for as long as the instructions recommend.

More resistants hair types like coarse, thick or particularly porous hair might need to leave it on longer for the toner to take effect.

However, be aware that leaving toner on too long can cause your color to be too dark and your hair to become dry and brittle.

NEVER leave it on overnight or for longer than the instructions tell you to! This will result in over toned hair.

Toner can be hard to remove from your hair if you get it wrong!

What happens if you leave toner in your hair too long?

If you’ve ever left toner in your hair for too long, you know it isn’t a pretty sight.

Your once vibrant locks can become dull, flat, and lifeless.

In extreme cases, toner can even strip away the natural pigment in your hair, leaving you with an unwanted shade of green or blue.

So what happens if you leave toner in your hair for too long? Here’s what you need to know.

Toner is typically used after bleaching or coloring hair to help correct the color. However, if it’s left on for too long, it can have the opposite effect.

The chemicals in toner can react with the natural pigment in your hair, causing it to change color.

In addition, toner can strip away the natural oils in your hair, leaving it dry and brittle.

If you’re hoping to achieve a certain shade of blonde or brunette, it’s best to consult with a professional stylist who can help you find the right toner for your hair type!

What happens if you leave toner in for more than 30 minutes?

If you leave it on for more than 30 minutes, you may end up with a color that is too dark or too light.

Leaving it on too long will also deposit too much color in your hair – which could end up looking green!

We recommend not leaving it in for more than 45 minutes and keeping a watchful eye on it throughout the process.

Do you apply toner to wet or dry hair?

Does toner go on wet hair? Most people apply toners to dry hair or damp hair.

If you’re using a semi-permanent toner like a gloss or glaze, then you should apply the toner onto wet hair. This will give locks that totally envy-worthy shine.

Whereas if you opt for a permanent toner such as a high-lift hair color, then go ahead and apply the product onto dry hair instead.

If you are using a color-correcting shampoo, you will definitely need to wet your hair first!

Glosses can also be applied at the end of coloring your hair to add shine make your hair soft while keeping your color cool.

Why is my hair still brassy after toning?

There are a few reasons why your hair might still be brassy after toning it.

First, if your hair is naturally dark, it can be tricky to get rid of all the brassiness.

Second, if you have highlights or balayage, the toner might not be able to penetrate all the way down to the roots.

Third, if you have previously dyed your hair a dark color, it can be difficult to remove all the pigment.

Finally, if you have sensitive skin, you might need to use a gentler toner.

If you’re still struggling with brassiness, talk to your stylist about other options, such as highlights or lowlights.

Should I shampoo after toner?

Yes my friends! You should shampoo your hair after using any of these products.

They work by depositing color onto your hair.

If you do not shampoo your hair, the color will start to fade and the toner will lose its effectiveness.

Be sure to use a good quality shampoo and conditioner to keep your hair looking its best.

Parting words.

So there you have it! Everything you need to know about toners, from how long to leave them in to what happens if you leave them on too long.

Remember to always read the instructions carefully and test the product by doing a strand test before applying it to your entire head.

And most importantly, have fun with it!

Experimenting with different toning products can be a great way to freshen up your look.

Good luck!

Found your perfect shade? We’d love to see it! Tag us on Instagram @colouredhaircare or Facebook and share your hair dye success stories. Looking for more hair care tips? Check out How to Look After Colored Hair: 11 Expert Secrets For Long-Lasting Color.

hair dye icon

Our Research & Review Process

To ensure our recommendations are as comprehensive and reliable as possible, we’ve undertaken an extensive research effort.

We cite scientific evidence and journals, collect real user reviews and gather impartial perspectives from hair stylists, users, and experts in the field.

Additionally, we conduct hands-on testing by using products and applying hair dyes not only on our own locks but also on real human hair extensions and hair pieces of different hair type, textures and lengths.

This rigorous approach allows us to provide you with insights into which products genuinely live up to their promises.

As always – please consult with a professional hair colorist or stylist for advice on how to color your own hair at home. It’s different for everyone!

This article was written and reviewed 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!

  • Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant
    Hair Stylist & Color Consultant

    I’m Enza Piazza, your go-to hair stylist and color consultant with over 23 years of professional salon experience bringing vibrancy and life to hair of all hues. My Italian roots from sunny Sicily infuse passion into every snip and color, a passion that’s been recognized with top honor awards including bridal and party hair at the National Hairdressers Federation’s Championships. After training in Surrey, UK’s most prestigious salons including Head Master Academy, I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and set up Enza Hair Styling, offering tailored hair care for 13 years, and treating each client like family. Away from the salon, I cherish moments as a proud Nonna to grandson Joseph and as a playful companion to my Jack Russell, Bo.