If you’ve ever had your hair coloured or have thought about having it done, you’ve probably heard of hair toner—and you probably think of it as that purple-hued mousse or shampoo aimed at blondes, right? While toner can stop blondes from going brassy, it can also provide a finishing touch for brunettes, saving your hair from those nasty orange hues that can creep in as your colour fades. Read on for our complete guide to using toner for brown hair.
Navigate this post:
- What is hair toner?
- Do You Need to Use a Toner for Brown Hair?
- What Does Toner Do for Brown Hair?
- How to Choose Toner for Brown Hair (+ recommended products)
What is Hair Toner?
Hair toner is a semi-permanent or demi-permanent hair dye that emphasizes or minimizes certain tones in colour-treated or bleached hair, depending on the product you use.
Unlike standard hair dye, toner doesn’t contain enough ammonia to penetrate into the strands of hair. It remains on the surface of each strand and washes away over time, ranging from days to weeks.
Hair toner adjusts the colour of your hair but won’t change the colour completely. You can’t use toner to go from brunette to blonde or vice versa. However, you can use toner to get rid of the bright orange or brassy red to give your hair a better look.
Did your dye job leave your hair with a brassy sheen? Is your exxy salon colour starting to fade when you’re not yet ready to splash out on another appointment? Toner can take care of that for you. The right hair toning product can make your colour softer and more natural.
A good colour makes it hard to tell whether hair has been dyed or not. If hair toner wasn’t used, however, you can almost always spot it.
If you’ve ever seen someone walking down the street and knew she was a bottle blonde because of the eye-popping unnatural look of her hair, that gal needed some hair toner (and maybe a better stylist). If your friend got a dye job that turned her brown hair into something more auburn, but it’s so brassy you have to squint to look directly at her, your girl needs some toner.
Using toner on dark brown hair, especially toner shampoo you might use at home, will make less of a visual difference than toner for brown hair that has highlights and more colour variance. It can still improve the colour and offer a depth and richness to dark brown hair that colouring alone often doesn’t manage.
Do You Need to Use a Toner for Brown Hair?
You don’t have to use a toner on brown hair, but you’ll probably like the results if you do. Unless you’re perfectly happy with your colour from the moment your stylist spins you to look in the mirror to the moment you’re back in that chair weeks (or months!) later, you’ll probably enjoy what hair toner can do for your colour.
Hair dye can also create a solid colour throughout the hair that looks unnatural. A good stylist should add highlights and lowlights to create a more “born with it” appearance. Even then, the shades that are most prominent might seem overdone or too subtle to give really great colour.
Toner makes the right shades pop and minimizes brassy, overly bright or less desirable colours. Need to boost your colour between stylist appointments? Toner can help you maintain the look of your hair for weeks at a time.
What Does Toner Do to Brown Hair?
Most people use toner for brown hair to get rid of red and orange undertones and to balance the colour overall. Chances are excellent that the person who colours your hair uses hair toner before you leave the salon. They might refer to it as a gloss or a glaze.
Toners that you can purchase and use at home will help maintain your hair colour between salon visits. Over time, some of the shades that your stylist minimized can start to reassert themselves—hello orange undertones! Toning products will help neutralize and balance your colour for a better look.
Toner Counteracts the Ammonia in Hair Dye
Ammonia in hair dye swells the follicle and lets the colour permeate the hair so that each strand essentially absorbs the colour. This makes the dye long-lasting so you have to grow hair out to get rid of the colour instead of simply washing it away over time.
The ammonia that dyes hair so well is also responsible for the sometimes harsh colour that toner is used to tame. Ammonia naturally emphasizes any orange pigment in the hair, which can make blonde hair a bright straw yellow and brown hair orange and brassy.
Toner neutralizes those yellow, orange and red undertones in brown hair to cool and balance the colour.
Toner Helps Moisturise Your Hair
Dyed hair can be dry and brittle, which means the next dye job might not come out as even as you’d like. Dry hair absorbs moisture at a different rate than healthier hair, so dyeing dry hair can be a recipe for streaks and patches that are brassy or more concentrated than you want.
Applying toner will coat the hair, and while it’s reacting on the warmer patches and streaks to neutralize them, it’s moisturizing and protecting, too.
Toner for Brown Hair Corrects Color Changes from the Sun
We all know the sun can damage our hair even though we might like the highlights it adds. Brunettes might get some lovely, natural highlights, especially if their hair hasn’t been coloured.
Brunettes who’ve had their hair dyed might find the sun brings out the orange and red undertones and makes their hair brassy between salon visits. Using a toner for brown hair with highlights can help you keep a natural look while blending those brassy locks into the rest of your colour.
Ash Toner for Brown Hair Changes Color Quality
While you can’t change your hair colour, you can make a dramatic difference in your hair’s shade quality with ash toner for brown hair. With the right ash toner, you can take your hair from brassy brown to something more pastel and neutral without going blonde.
Ash toner will neutralize almost all of the warm undertones in your hair to achieve that stylish ash colour.
How to Choose Toner for Brown Hair
Okay, you’re sold on the benefits of toner, but where do you start when you’re ready to boost your hair’s colour?
Start With Your Stylist
Your stylist probably knows your hair better than you do. Since you trust them to colour and cut your hair, trust them to be able to recommend the right toning products for you. They’ll know which toner for brassy brown hair will enhance your particular colour and which products probably won’t give you the result you want.
If you’re looking at ash toner for brown hair, always ask your stylist first. Some dark shades of brown might take professional toner to achieve ash brown. Some shades of brown might even need to be lightened before any toner will make much of a difference.
Any colour change that involves more than toning down or pumping up the warm highlights in your hair is probably best handled by a professional stylist. If you can do it at home, they can recommend the types of toning products that will work best for your hair’s colour.
What Toner Should I Get for Dark Brown Hair?
Dark brown hair’s most common colour problem is brassiness. To neutralize it and balance the colour, choose a toner for brassy brown hair like a gloss designed for dark hair or purple or blue shampoo. Green shampoo also tackles the orange undertones and makes a great toner to get rid of red highlights in very dark hair.
Recommended toners for dark brown hair:
What Toner Should I Get for Light Brown Hair?
Light brown hair will show a bigger difference after toner than dark hair will, but the same general types of products work well. Purple or blue shampoo, conditioner or other products will minimize the warm undertones to get rid of any brassiness or harsh streaking.
In general, you can use a basic colour wheel to help you choose the right toner for brown hair. Once you determine the colour or colours you most want to minimize in your hair (orange, red or yellow), choose a product that emphasizes the colour on the opposite side of the wheel (blue, green, or purple). That toner will help neutralize the warmer colours you don’t want to see between salon visits.
Recommended toners for light brown hair:
Choose a Type of Toning Product
If you didn’t purchase a toner from your stylist, a quick glance at all the available products can be a little overwhelming. You can typically choose between:
- Toning shampoos
- Toning conditioners
- Deep conditioning treatments or leave-in conditioners
Which product you choose depends mostly on how you prefer to apply it. You use shampoos, conditioners and some glosses in the shower as you would any shampoo or conditioner. Leave-in conditioners and deep-conditioning treatments are typically used on wet hair and left to dry.
Drops vary between those you can mix in with your shampoo or conditioner and those you add to styling products you leave in your hair, so read the labels carefully.
Masks, gels and some glosses need to be applied on their own, like you might apply hair dye, and must be left in for a prescribed amount of time before you rinse.
Which type of product you choose depends on whether you want to don gloves and set aside an hour to do your hair or you want to use a product while you’re showering or going about your routine.
Some toners for brassy brown hair might only need to be used once every couple of weeks, while others, like some shampoos, can be used multiple times a week.
Regardless of which product you choose, follow the instructions carefully to maintain your amazing colour between stylist visits.