Hair Toner: Should You Be Using It?


are hair toners bad for your hair?

“Hey, what? I don’t want a toner on my hair!” I truly can’t count how often I hear this from clients who are deeply concerned about getting a hair toner, as if it’s a bad, bad thing. Spoiler alert, hair toners are a must for most highlighting services. Trust me, you want one!

Let’s clear the air on one thing: The hairdressing community has not been clear enough during the consultation process with informing and educating clients during their visit. Communication is key! If questions about the process arise, it’s so much easier to explain the process by answering any questions before the hair service even begins so there aren’t any surprises.

“In order to achieve this custom colour a two-step process is necessary.  Step one will lighten the hair while step two is a colour gloss (or toner) that will smooth out the cuticle layer of the hair fibre while bringing tone, shine and luminosity to the final result.”

If we don’t deliver this clear communication during the consultation process, we will create avoidable uncertainty leading you to believe that a mistake has been made and a toner is necessary to correct that mistake.  I hope the explanation below will clarify this.

what exactly is a hair toner?

A toner is used during a highlight service as the second step after the hair has been lightened with a lightener (commonly known as bleach). When we lighten hair with a lightener, whether in foil or as a balayage hair service, it simply lightens the hair without any specific tone. Once the lightening process is completed in step one, we are at a stage where we have the lightness we want however the hair is generally rough and absent of any real desirable tone. At this point we can choose to add warmth for warmer tones such as golden blondes, or neutralize warmth for the more ashen or cooler shades that are so popular and on-trend today. You cannot achieve a cool, silvery or steel colour without a second application of some sort of toner.

Balayage highlights are all the rage these days and rightfully so, it’s so beautiful. What clients love most is how natural the result is and how the hair transitions from depth at the root to brightness at the ends. This end result can only be done by using a shadow root colouring technique and colour balancing the ends. This maximizes brightness all the while using advanced toning products and techniques. A balayage without these additions is just not a balayage worth having.

In some select cases when we are working to lighten finer and naturally lighter hair, we are able to achieve an absolute perfect translucency and tone during the lightening process of step one. If we are fortunate to get this result, a custom toner using a predominately clear toner helps to smooth out the cuticle layer while adding luminosity and shine to your blonde highlights.  Similar to a top coat for your nails!

Another, even more significant challenge that can occur (often without warning!) is that hair lightens unevenly due to porosity issues, product buildup, colour buildup or even metal particles that can be present in your hair from the pipes in your home that often leave residue on the hair.

Similar to refinishing furniture, we only see what’s on the surface and it isn’t until you remove that first layer you discover what’s beneath the surface. This can happen unexpectedly and needs to be dealt with at the shampoo bowl. It’s this moment that can easily surprise a guest and leave them thinking that the Colourist has made a mistake and needs to fix an error. SPOILER ALERT, the above situations cannot be predicted but can always be refined at the shampoo bowl with toners and/or a quick cleanse to even out the lightening process and address the unevenness before adding a toner or colour glaze for the final result.

best products to maintain your lightened hair

When lightening your hair, home maintenance is a big part of the process. Caring for your custom colour at home keeps the tone looking fresh and your hair staying healthy for future services. These are my favourite go-to products for maintaining your custom colour at home.

The Golden Blonde Hair Set is perfect for those who definitely aren’t full blonde but you have well-placed highlights to brighten up your whole look. This set is made for daily maintenance of your blonde to keep it hydrated and shiny.

If you have the best of both worlds with highlights and low lights, then the Honey Blonde Hair Set is for you. Care for both brown and blonde tones while making hair softer and shinier.

For those who dare extreme lightening and need highest levels of neutralization and care. Lightened to the highest degree, your hair is highly sensitized. This routine nourishes and protects your hair from yellow tones due to oxidation and sun or heat exposure.

You spend a lot of time at the beach, or you want to look like you do. You love highlights that get increasingly bright toward the ends, as if you’d spent an entire season surfing in Malibu. This routine neutralizes brassiness and provides light care to your highlights.

For naturally gray hair, this routine allows you to keep your hair strong, soft and illuminated while neutralizing brassiness.

The 24/7 Hydration & Shine Hair Care Set provides shine and hydration to natural blonde or subtly highlighted hair. This set includes the Serum Cicanuit, a serum infused with Hyaluronic Acid to deeply heal and hydrate bleached fiber overnight for stronger, more nourished and luminous hair in the morning.

The Cicaextreme Routine Hair Care Set is an intense restoring and conditioning routine for overly sensitized, lightened or highlighted hair. This set is your best defense on keeping your extreme blonde hair healthy and strong. When used all together, hair is 94% stronger, 85% more hydrated, and 6X shinier.


hair toner takeaway

A toner is not a fix for a colour mistake, or going to make your hair darker. The final result of your highlight service will always hinge on whether you have a well-educated, well informed, knowledgeable and capable Colourist/Stylist.  One that is using industry leading products while doing your hair.  One that you can trust. Toners or colour glazes help achieve a luxurious finish for virtually all highlight or balayage services where a lightener or bleach is used. And with great after care at home, you can maintain a fresh-out-of-the-salon look, while keeping hair healthy for your next lightening service.

Want to learn more about hair toning and our product recommendations? Contact one of our hair specialists at Venere Salon today!

Maurice Venere

Co-Owner Venere Salon, Master stylist, and award-winning stylist.