How to use permanent hair color as a toner

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Achieving the perfect hair color is a journey many of us embark on. Whether it’s to neutralize brassiness, enhance natural tones, or experiment with a new shade, toning plays a crucial role in achieving the desired look. While traditional toners are commonly used, there’s a secret technique that not everyone is aware of – using permanent hair color as a toner. In this article, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of using permanent hair color as a toner to help you achieve salon-quality results in the comfort of your own home.

Understanding the Basics:

Before we dive into the process, let’s get a clear understanding of what hair toning is all about. Toning is the process of adjusting the undertones in your hair to achieve the desired shade. It helps neutralize unwanted brassy or yellow tones and can add depth and richness to your hair color. Traditionally, toners are used for this purpose, but permanent hair color can serve as an excellent alternative.

Choosing the Right Shade:

Selecting the right shade of permanent hair color is crucial for successful toning. Start by identifying the undertones in your hair and the shade you want to achieve Choosing the right hair color tone depends on various factors, including your natural hair color, skin tone, and personal preferences. Here are some general guidelines for selecting hair color tones based on different types of hair:

Warm Tones (Reds, Coppers, and  Gold):

Best for: Warm-toned skin with undertones like yellow, peach, or golden.

Natural Hair Color: People with naturally warm hair colors (red, strawberry blonde, warm brown) can enhance their existing tones or opt for complementary shades.

Effect: These tones can add warmth and vibrancy to your hair, creating a lively and radiant look.

Cool Tones (Ash, Silver, and Cool Browns):

Best for: Cool-toned skin with undertones like pink, blue, or olive.

Natural Hair Color: Those with naturally cool hair colors (ash blonde, cool brown, black) can maintain or intensify their cool undertones.

Effect: Cool tones offer a sleek and modern appearance, neutralizing any unwanted warmth or brassiness.

Neutral Tones (Natural Blacks, Medium Browns):

Best for: People with neutral undertones in their skin.

Natural Hair Color: Ideal for individuals with hair colors that fall in the middle of the warm-cool spectrum.

Effect: Neutral tones provide a balanced and natural look, suitable for many skin tones.

Burgundy and Plum Tones:

Best for: Those with warm or neutral undertones.

Natural Hair Color: Works well on dark hair shades, but can be adapted for lighter hair with the right technique.

Effect: These tones add depth and richness, offering a bold and dramatic appearance.

Blonde Tones (Platinum, Honey, Champagne):

Best for: A wide range of skin tones, depending on the specific shade.

Natural Hair Color: Suitable for individuals with lighter natural hair colors or those looking for a significant change.

Effect: Blonde tones can create a soft, sun-kissed look, but the specific shade should be chosen based on skin tone and desired level of contrast.

Pastel and Vivid Tones (Pink, Blue, Purple, Green):

Best for: Those who want to make a bold and creative statement.

Natural Hair Color: Lighter hair colors are typically required for pastels, while vivid tones may need pre-lightening for optimal results.

Effect: These unconventional tones offer a unique and eye-catching appearance but require maintenance and commitment.

Caramel and Toffee Tones:

Best for: Warm-toned individuals seeking a subtle change.

Natural Hair Color: Works well on dark blondes and light to medium brown hair.

Effect: Caramel and toffee tones provide a warm and rich look without dramatic contrast.

Remember that these are general guidelines, and personal factors such as lifestyle, age, and personal style also play a role in choosing the right hair color tone. It’s essential to consider your skin undertones, maintenance preferences, and how drastic of a change you’re comfortable with when selecting the perfect hair color tone for you. Consulting with a professional colorist can also help you make an informed decision tailored to your unique features and preferences.

Preparing Your Hair:

Properly preparing your hair is essential for effective toning. Begin with clean, dry hair, as this ensures that the color will adhere evenly. If you’ve just washed your hair, make sure it’s completely dry before applying the toner to avoid dilution. Also, consider using a barrier cream or petroleum jelly around your hairline and ears to prevent staining.

Application Techniques:

Application techniques for using permanent hair color as a toner are crucial to achieving the desired results. Follow these steps carefully for a successful toning process:

Materials Needed:

  1. Permanent hair color in the desired shade for toning.
  2. Developer (usually 10 or 20 volume, as specified by the product).
  3. Plastic or glass mixing bowl.
  4. Applicator brush or bottle.
  5. Gloves.
  6. Sectioning clips.
  7. Old towel or cape to protect clothing.
  8. Barrier cream or petroleum jelly (optional, to protect the skin around the hairline).

Step-by-Step Application Techniques:

Prepare Your Workspace:

Choose a well-lit area with a mirror to ensure you can see the application clearly.

Lay out all your materials and put on the provided gloves to protect your hands.

Prepare Your Hair:

Start with clean, dry hair. If you’ve just washed your hair, ensure it’s completely dry before applying the toner.

Consider protecting your skin around the hairline with a barrier cream or petroleum jelly to prevent staining.

Section Your Hair:

Use sectioning clips to divide your hair into manageable sections. Start by parting your hair down the middle and then create horizontal partings from the bottom to the top.

Clip each section up as you work to ensure even application.

Mix the Toner:

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing the permanent hair color and developer in the plastic or glass mixing bowl. Typically, you’ll use a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of color to developer, depending on the brand and product.

Begin the Application:

Working with one section at a time, start at the roots and work your way down to the tips.

Use an applicator brush or bottle to apply the toner evenly. If you’re using a brush, apply the mixture in small, thin sections, ensuring each strand is well-coated.

Avoid applying the toner directly to the scalp unless the product instructions specify otherwise.

Blend and Feather:

As you apply the toner, make sure to blend and feather the product into the rest of your hair. This helps avoid harsh lines or uneven color distribution.

Repeat for All Sections:

Continue applying the toner to all of the sections you’ve divided your hair into, working systematically to ensure even coverage.

Check Processing Time:

Refer to the product instructions for the recommended processing time. This can vary depending on the brand and shade.

Set a timer to ensure you do not exceed the recommended processing time.

Monitor Progress:

Periodically check the toner’s progress during the processing time. You can do this by wiping away a small section of the toner to see the color underneath.

If you achieve your desired tone before the recommended processing time is up, you can rinse it out early to avoid over-toning.

Rinse Thoroughly:

Once the processing time is complete and you’re satisfied with the color, rinse your hair thoroughly with lukewarm water until it runs clear.

Maintenance and Touch-Ups:

To maintain your toned hair, consider touch-ups as needed. The frequency will depend on your hair’s growth rate and the longevity of the toner. You can touch up the roots or reapply the toner to refresh the color. Remember to maintain your hair’s health with regular conditioning and minimal heat styling.


Using permanent hair color as a toner is a versatile and effective technique for achieving the hair color you’ve always wanted. By understanding the basics, choosing the right shade, and following the application process carefully, you can achieve salon-quality results from the comfort of your own home. Toning not only enhances your hair’s appearance but also boosts your confidence, so don’t hesitate to experiment and unlock the magic of permanent hair color toning.


Q1: When should I use permanent hair color as a toner?

A1: You should use permanent hair color as a toner when you want to adjust the undertones in your hair, neutralize brassiness, enhance specific shades, or achieve a more balanced and personalized hair color. It’s typically used after lightening or bleaching your hair.

Q2: Can I mix toner with hair dye?

A2: Mixing toner with hair dye is not recommended. Toner and hair dye are distinct products with different purposes. Toner is used to adjust undertones, while hair dye is used to change the overall color of your hair. Mixing them can lead to unpredictable results.

Q3: Can toner dye your natural hair?

A3: Toner, when used correctly, should not significantly dye your natural hair. Instead, it adjusts the undertones or adds subtle color enhancements. It works best on pre-lightened or naturally light hair.

Q4: Is hair dye the same as a toner?

A4: No, hair dye and toner are not the same. Hair dye is used to change the overall color of your hair, while toner is used to adjust or neutralize undertones in your hair without dramatically altering its base color.

Q5: How can I make a toner with hair dye?

A5: You can create a toner using hair dye by diluting the dye with a color-safe conditioner or a dedicated toner developer. The specific mixing ratio will depend on the brand and the shade of the dye you’re using. Experimentation is often required to achieve your desired tone.

Q6: Is using hair dye as toner safe?

A6: Using hair dye as a toner can be safe if done correctly, but it carries some risks. Always perform a strand test first to check the results and avoid unexpected outcomes. Additionally, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the hair dye and ensure you are not over-processing your hair, which can lead to damage. If you’re unsure, consult a professional colorist for guidance.

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