Do You Really Always Have to Tone Your Hair After Bleaching?
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Few things are as exciting as a total hair transformation, or finally colouring those roots that have been growing through for months.
With the stroke of a brush and a bit of chemistry, bleaching can change your hair colour in a matter of a couple of hours, ready to style, add bright hues, or simply make you look (and feel) younger.
Yet, as we start on our journey towards hair metamorphosis, a burning question arises – Do you *have* to tone your hair after bleaching?
Gather ’round, fellow hair aficionados, as we unravel this mystique in our quest for the ultimate hair gospel, understanding the rationale behind the toning and its magical effects. And we’ve enlisted an expert in the industry to help, welcome Master Stylist and Co-Owner of Bibo Salon, Susie Geda, as we discover everything about toning!
So, whether you’re a platinum pioneer or a pastel dreamer, fasten your seatbelts as we embark on a journey through bleaching (and toning) brilliance.
What does a toner do for hair?
Plenty of us have been there (I know I have), wanting lighter locks so trying an at-home bleach kit only to wash the product out and see your hair has turned a brassy orange colour – NOT what you wanted.
In comes toner. A blue or purple elixir that neutralises unwanted hues in the hair like *magic*.
Geda tells us, “A toner is used on bleached hair to achieve desired hair colours or to neutralise unwanted undertones. It helps remove brassy or yellow tones, creating a more natural-looking hair colour.
“Toners can also even out the colour, providing a more cohesive result after bleaching.”
A good way to find out the right colour for correcting your hair is by using a colour wheel, which shows which colours cancel out which. For example, blue and blue-based colours and toners cancel out orange and yellow-orange. Violet, purple, and purple-based toners cancel out yellow and pale yellow.
Do you have to tone your hair after bleaching?
Geda tells us that the “raw lift you get when you bleach hair does not have a tone. So, I always recommend using a toner to ensure the best outcome.”
However, the need for a toner depends on how your colour has developed and whether you are happy with it. No orange, yellow or brassy hues? No need for a toner!
The types of toner
Now, there are *actually* 3 types of toners, depending on your needs and requirements:
Permanent toners are used to cover the previous hair shading completely, for example, if you want to go from blonde to white blonde. These are usually long-lasting, however, they do contain ammonia and alter your hair from within, opening up and penetrating the hair cuticle.
Not such great news for already damaged hair.
Demi-permanent toners achieve quick gloss toning effects and are better for the hair since they don’t contain ammonia. These toners are great when a rapid refresh on highlighted or brassy hair is all you want to do.
Demi’s do not contain ammonia and they usually fade out gradually in around 4-6 weeks, then you’ll need to refresh your hair with a toner again.
Shampoos, conditioners and treatments
Purple shampoo, conditioner and treatment products are a great at-home solution for toning hair and preventing brassiness. Simply follow the instructions on the bottle or packaging for a lift in colour!
Loreal Paris advises, “Purple shampoo is meant to only be used weekly or when your hair is looking brassy – not every day. Generally, you’ll want to incorporate it into your hair care routine one to three times a week in place of your usual shampoo for color-treated hair.”
How long should you wait to tone?
So, if you go to the salon to get your hair done, your colourist will be able to assess your hair and tone it immediately – if needed. This can be a *little* bit trickier to decipher at home.
But, don’t worry, you can tone your hair at any point after bleaching.
How to tone your hair
Schwarzkopf advises, “Wash hair thoroughly and then apply the toner to towel-dried or completely dry hair. Apply the toner first to areas that require the most color correction or simply apply to the central part of the strands before working up to the roots and down to the tips.”
Leave the toner on for the desired time, depending on the colour of your hair and your hair type, before washing out and styling.
Some of my *fave* toners that I used in my bleach-blonde days include Bleach London’s White Toner Kit (£8.10/$14.00 on the Bleach London website), and the Wella toner range (£9.55 on the UK Wella website/ from $8.99 on the US Walmart website.)
How long should you leave toner on?
You should generally leave toner on your hair for 10 – 45 minutes, depending on your hair type and the colour of your hair.
Any longer and you could run the risk of damage, or of your hair turning a slight blue/purple shade (Ok, so not as bad as our fave Kate Hudson in Bride Wars, but you get the picture.)
For brassy tones – yellow, red, and orange – it’s recommended you leave the toner on for around 15 – 35 minutes to let the tones work and neutralise those unwanted hues.
If you have blonde hair that’s looking a *bit* dull, the experts suggests leaving toner on your hair for around 5 – 15 minutes, depending on the lift you want.
If you want to test whether the toner should be washed off before rinsing your whole hair, rinse a small bit of the lightest part of your hair to check how the colour has lifted and to make sure your hair isn’t turning an unwanted shade of blue or purple.
Bleaching is a fun way to lighten your hair to blonde or prepare it for brighter colours like pinks, reds, and greens (anyone remember Kylie Jenner’s *iconic* mint green bob?! Swoon.)
But it doesn’t come without its risks – especially if you are doing an at-home job.
If your hair has been bleached by a haircare professional, they will be able to decide whether you hair requires a toner and for how long the toner should stay on your hair.
For those of use who prefer to skip the salon and dye our hair at home, it really depends on whether the bleach has developed into the shade you wanted. If you have some brassy, orange, or yellow tones, a toner can help.
Keep the toner on for no longer than 45 minutes and, if you are worried the toner has been on too long, check one of the lightest parts of your hair by giving it a little rinse and assessing the colour.
Happy bleaching (and toning), blonde babes!
Meet the expert
Susie Geda is a Master Stylist, and the Co-Owner and Creative Director of Bibo Salon, Oakland, Ca.
With over twenty years of experience in the beauty industry, Susie has built a reputation for her specialised skills in hair extensions and styling curly hair. She co-founded Bibo Salon in 2017, transforming it into a hub for creativity, growth, and professional development.