You come into the salon for highlights and find yourself escorted over to the backwash after the colour has developed, as you relax back into the chair you know there is something going on – do you wonder exactly what your stylist is doing at this point? Anyone who has ever had a hair lightening service will probably identify with this.

Your colourist will most likely mention that you need a toner but what exactly is this magical thing that gets applied to your head and how does it improve your colour service? Well we are here to explain…

hair toner


When hair is lightened, it gets ‘lifted’ through a number of different colours. It goes from dark red to lighter red, to red-orange, to orange, to yellow-orange, to yellow, to pale yellow until it reaches its palest yellow. The colours you can achieve by lifting will always depend on the natural base tone of the hair as well as previous applications of colour and natural warmth (redness) in the hair. Hopefully you are following me so far? We lift hair to get the desired ‘undercoat’ so we look at the shade we’ve managed to lift it to as the ‘raw’ colour. Sometimes the lift of the hair looks great but most of the time hair will need an extra push to get the exact tone you want.


A toner is a colour process but it’s not able to lighten or darken hair. It can only change the colour on the level that it’s been lifted to, to give the exact shade you want.

Applying toner is an acidic process on the hair, whereas bleaching and colouring are alkaline processes. An acidic process closes the cuticle, whereas an alkaline one opens it up so toners tend to be a great neutraliser after strong colour processes like bleaching. Most shampoos and conditioners tend to have more of an acidic effect on hair and although we wouldn’t go as far as saying a toner is like a conditioner or treatment (as we are still putting the hair through a colour process) it’s still a gentler process that helps to close the cuticle.

When a toner is used, colour is deposited only on the outer layers and surface of the cuticle, which means it won’t last so long on the hair plus toners have various different levels of staying power. Grey toners will need to be done once every two weeks, whereas soft toners that push the hair slightly in a different direction of tone can last longer.


Essentially toners are needed to make your hair the perfect shade of blonde and can make a real difference to the overall look. As a mantra, we always tone every single colour that has been lifted with lightening products – as we know this can make all the difference to the end result. Some salons believe that toners should automatically be included in the price, whereas others will add the cost on top of your colour service bill but we make sure you know exactly what you are paying for so there’s no little surprise at the end when you come to pay.