Do You Put Toner On Wet Or Dry Hair?

Anyone who has had their hair bleached knows the feeling. You love the color, but something feels a little off. You wanted “blonde,” but you’re getting “bleached,” in terms of the hair’s actual appearance. 

Even natural blondes, or anyone with lighter hair color, may want something to even out the variation in their hair’s shades. Giving your hair a consistent color throughout works wonders for making hair look healthier and fuller. 

Enter the magic of toner. A good toner makes hair look more natural. While a bleach-blonde look can really pop, some people need something to mellow out the more brassy appearance. A bleach treatment can start to oxidize after a while, becoming shinier than you may have intended when you went into the salon. 

But like any hair product, toner comes with a lot of questions. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about getting the most out of your toner. 

Do You Put Toner On Wet Or Dry Hair?

First things first. When do you apply it? Most toners suggest an application to a slightly damp mane for the best effect. While many products work just fine on totally dry hair, having the hair a little moist makes it more porous and allows for more even absorption of the toner. 

Toner shampoo does exist for use in the shower to smooth out more subtle variations or metallic tones. However, generally speaking, these kinds of toners don’t have quite enough “oomph” to get the right look from a truly dramatic color change. 

Toners come in a wide range of styles, suited to an equally wide range of applications and hair goals. You’ll want to make sure you have the right product for your situation, or you could end up with some seriously funky coloration. 

Do You Wash Your Hair Before Applying Toner?

It might seem sensible to do your whole care regimen before applying toner. However, most products suggest not to condition before toning. A shampoo works fine, so long as your hair gets thoroughly rinsed before the toner gets brushed in. 

Keep in mind the idea behind toning: you want it applied evenly from root to tip. Even if you just want to bring out a few highlights or mellow out some of the natural variations in your hair color, having the toner soak in unevenly can yield some strange results. 

Dry hair acts like a sponge. If the sponge is uniformly damp (or completely dry), the toner will soak in the same way throughout the length of the hair. Conditioner acts like a sealant, which means the toner won’t soak in quite as effectively.

Long story short, you certainly can wash your hair before applying toner, but you don’t have to, and you definitely should not condition.  

How Long Do I Leave Toner On My Hair?

The length of time that toner rests on the hair can have a pretty dramatic effect on the resulting color. Different products come with various recommendations for how long to leave it in, and for each product, a few minutes one way or the other can achieve different results. 

Right after bleaching, the hair has more porosity than usual, which makes it more suited to soaking up toner. Similarly, overly processed hair will grab and hold more toner than that applied to a totally natural mane. 

So, long story short, follow the instructions for the product. But generally speaking, toner should not stay in for more than half an hour. An eight-to-ten minute application will create a lighter color, while a more extended application will make hair a little darker. 

Left in too long, though, and the hair can reach a slightly purplish, grayish, or even greenish tinge depending on the product. In some cases, this tone might actually be a good starting point, since toner fades a bit with each shower. 

Finishing a toner treatment with these more “unnatural” shades means a few washings will bring the tone down to normal, and stay at that color for longer. 

Do I Shampoo After Toner?

Eventually! But you will want to wait a while.

Again, the type of toner in question comes into play in determining when you should shampoo. Some thicker, cream-based products respond well to a color-preserving shampoo and a gentle conditioner. Runnier products can get washed out a little more easily, so you probably should stick to just a rinse for the first 24-48 hours following treatment. 

Another hair hack: don’t use very hot water when depending on toner to give your hair that beautiful shade. Lukewarm, or even cool water will help keep your cuticles flattened and seal in the toner, so it lasts a long time. 

Of course, some toners are shampoos, which simplifies the answer quite a bit. Toner shampoo can be applied with some frequency without overshading the hair, but it does have a more muted effect than the more potent brush-in toners. 

Can You Tone Your Hair Twice?

In the course of a lifetime? Sure. In a day? Not advisable. Most beauticians would recommend waiting at least a month before trying again with a hair toner if the first pass did not get you the color you had hoped. 

The problem lies in the process of bleaching and toning your hair. The bleach lightens hair by penetrating the fiber and extracting the melanin. But other pigments exist in your hair, and the bleaching process does not remove those – hence the variation in shades after bleaching, since you end up leaving behind those pigments that bleach won’t touch. 

Toning your hair means adding a little color from the opposite end of the color spectrum, which brings the color back towards a more natural appearance. However, both bleaching and toning open up your hair’s ends, which puts some stress on it. Repeated stress – in hair and in life – causes things to break. 

There’s a reason professionals advise waiting a month between toner treatments. That gives your hair time to heal and strengthen so that it’s healthier when you re-apply to get the color you need. 

Final Thoughts

Toner can turn your hair from brassy to beautiful, but you need to know how to use it! Fortunately, if you’ve read this far, now you know. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll have locks that will turn heads and give you a smile every time you look in the mirror.

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