As someone who has always veered in favor of a DIY approach to hair coloring, I have learned a lot over the years by making a great many mistakes. One mistake that I consistently made for much too long was forgoing the use of toner after bleaching.
How to Use Hair Toner After Bleaching
Now, I won’t say that bleaching your hair at home is the best thing to do for your hair in the first place, but if you’re anything like me that won’t stop you. In this guide, I’ll teach you how to use hair toner after bleaching to achieve that beautiful blond shade you crave.
What is Hair Toner?
Many salon patrons and at-home colorists don’t even know what toner is, or they confuse it for the bleaching product. There is a critical difference between bleach and toner that you should know. Bleach removes pigment from the hair, whereas toner deposits color.
The type of toner you choose depends on what result you are looking for. A cool toner gives the user’s tresses a silvery-white shade where warmer toner produces a coppery hue. Whichever you choose, your toner should be applied after bleaching to ensure you get the lightened shade you want.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Using Hair Toner
Using a toner isn’t difficult, even if you are an amateur colorist doing your thing right in your kitchen or bathroom. Here’s how you can use a toner at home, either after your own bleaching endeavors or in-between visits to the salon. I’ll discuss 3 different types of toners: toning shampoos, using purple hair coloring a toning product, and ammonia toners.
Using a Toning Shampoo
This type of shampoo is to be used after bleaching hair. This is a very simple method of toning hair that is favored by those who want to keep their platinum locks bright without stripping hair like ammonia toners can.
First step – Make sure that your hair is completely free of product after bleaching.
Second step – Wash your hair with the toning shampoo, just like you would with any other shampoo.
Third step – Instead of rinsing right away, leave the product in your hair for at least 5-10 minutes.
Fourth step – Rinse and show off your cool-colored tresses!
Using an Ammonia Toner
If you’ve ever walked through the aisles of a Sally’s Beauty Supply or other beauty suppliers, you’ve probably at least seen the brand Wella on the shop’s shelves. Wella brand’s Color Charm hair toner rapidly became the go-to ammonia toner for at-home colorists and professionals alike. This is only one example of hair toners available to the public, so the instructions you see here may be different from the instructions on any other ammonia toner you choose.
Remember to always read the instructions carefully!
Step 1 – Wait at least 3 days after bleaching to tone your hair with an ammonia toner. Bleached hair is already pretty fragile, and this type of toner can make it worse. Avoid washing your hair in the few days between bleaching and toning.
Step 2 – Prepare the toner to the exact specifications instructed on the label or packaging. Wella’s Color Charm, for instance, calls for 1 part toner to 2 parts 20-volume developer. Don’t try to make up your own ratios in hopes of getting a greater deposit of color. The instructions on your toner are laid out this way for a reason, so follow them closely.
Step 3 – Wear gloves and apply the toner to the lightened areas of your hair, if not the entirety of your hair.
Step 4 – Ammonia toners, because they deposit color into the hair instead of lifting color like purple shampoo, take more time to use. The average processing time for ammonia toners is about 30 minutes. Do not leave the product in your hair any longer than the instructions call for. This can lead to excessive damage that could leave your hair feeling like straw when you’re done.
Step 5 – Rinse your hair thoroughly in cool water. Cool water helps to close up the hair’s follicles and promotes a healthy shine.
Using Purple Color as a Toner
Technically this isn’t really “toning” as much as it is applying purple to cancel out yellow tones. This DIY approach requires the use of either purple hair color (I use Arctic Fox) or purple food coloring. You only need a small amount of the coloring, but you will need to have a lot of white hair conditioner on-hand.
Step 1 – Put on gloves to avoid staining. Food coloring and hair dye will stain the skin.
Step 2 – Mix a very small amount of either food coloring or hair dye into a generous portion of completely white hair conditioner. You won’t need much, and it’s best to err on the side of caution here. Using too much purple can leave purple deposits on your hair, which you probably don’t want. Some experimentation might be necessary to find the right balance.
Step 3 – Apply the conditioner mixture to your hair when wet or dry. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes. Since this is conditioner and won’t harm your hair, you can leave the mixture on your hair for longer if you want to really take advantage of its nourishing properties.
Step 4 – Rinse, then dry and style as you prefer.
Toning hair, either with ammonia products or simpler toning solutions, is a remarkably easy step that is far too often ignored when we choose to lighten our hair.
Tip: using a purple shampoo will usually help you get better results than using food coloring, Plus its less messy.
When Should You Tone Your Hair?
Toning with purple coloring or a purple shampoo can be done as soon as immediately after bleaching, as these methods don’t cause any additional damage. The use of ammonia toners, though, is a different story. If you’re wanting to use a Wella product or something similar, you need to give your hair some time to rest after bleaching. Failing to do so can result in added damage to hair that’s already not in its best shape.
Using an ammonia toner should wait at least a few days after bleaching, perhaps longer if your hair is extremely damaged from lightening already. If you absolutely cannot stand to wait to rid your hair of unwanted brassy tones, consider using one of the gentler methods I mentioned instead. It’s not worth frying your hair into straw just to get the shade of blond you want.
Toning is something that anyone can do to enhance the color of their hair, even if they have never bleached it. It can add dimension to brunettes and redheads, though its shining feature is (of course) helping to achieve beautiful blond tones. If you are toning your hair after lightening, make sure that your hair is at the level of blond that you want. This ensures that the toner will have the effect you desire.
How Can I Maintain My Toned Hair?
For the first day or two after toning, it is best that you not wash your hair. This is because the color that the toner deposited in your hair could start to slip out. Toner is a hair coloring product after all, and all hair coloring products will fade over time or if washed too soon.
Just like bleaching or dying, toner requires maintenance to continue looking amazing. Depending on your hair texture and color, as well as how often you wash your hair, you could go anywhere between 2 and 8 weeks between toner applications.
Another tip I can give you is to condition, condition, condition! Make use of a leave-in conditioner or hair mask whenever you want to. This will help your hair recover from the bleaching and/or toning process and restore some of its shine.
How Long After Bleaching Can I Bleach Again?
In many cases, it takes more than one bleaching session to get a person’s hair to the lightness that they want. But, as you likely already know, bleaching is a serious business that can cause hefty damage. This is true even if you go to a salon for lightning services, though at-home bleaching is typically much more damaging.
If you go to a salon, stick with your professional’s instructions. Most will recommend at least 4 weeks between bleaching sessions, perhaps more if your hair is very, very damaged. For at-home bleaching (while perfectly following the manufacturer’s instructions!) I recommend waiting at least 6 weeks between lightning sessions.
Yes, this can feel like a long time, especially if you are anxious to get your hair to a beautiful shade of platinum. But overdoing it on the bleach can result in serious split ends and breakage, which won’t look good even if you get your hair to the lightness that you want. It’s not worth it to bleach often, unless you’re okay with risking a healthy head of hair.
Toning is an Important Step in the Lightening Process
Bleaching only removes pigment. It does not ensure an even removal of color or the shade of blond that you want. To get more reliable results and inject a bit of shine into your tresses, toning is absolutely essential.
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