A Guide to Toning Every Hair Color—from Blonde to Red—at Home
This is a must-read if the pandemic is preventing you from scheduling a gloss this winter.
One of the best ways to extend the life of your hair color is to tone it. While most salons offer in-between glosses to tide you over to the next appointment, it's absolutely possible to achieve the treatment at home with user-friendly products. This is especially helpful right now, when professional salon visits might be few and far between. With this in mind, we chatted with two hair professionals to discover how to tone every hair color—whether you're a blonde, brunette, or red head—without leaving your house. Ahead, their expert tips.
To Tone or Not to Tone
First things first: Why should you tone your hair? According to Rob Peetoom Salon Williamsburg color specialist, Trent Matthews, this process—also called glossing or glazing—is used when you need to correct the tone of your hair or add vibrancy back into it. For this reason, toners can be tinted to neutralize or enhance your color and are often thought of as a semi-permanent hair color technique. Toning is considered most important for blondes (to eliminate brassiness that creeps in over time), brunettes (to banish brass, but also to add warmth and richness), and red heads (to restore color). Those with ultra-dark brown or black hair can skip this process—or use a color-free, shine-restoring glaze, instead—since results typically aren't as noticeable.
The Right Shade
Celebrity colorist and Redken brand ambassador Matt Rez says that toners will either neutralize unwanted undertones (think yellow, orange, and red) or enhance certain shades already present in the hair. When it comes to selecting the right one, Rez says that paying attention to the undertones of your hair—cool or warm—is key. "Both can be done simultaneously in certain cases," he says, which is why he recommends seeking professional help before you attempt this at home. Schedule a call with your colorist to talk through the process—he or she might even be able to set you up with a pre-mixed kit or a few product recommendations, so all you have to do is apply and rinse.
If you're a blonde, you know that your hair is prone to yellow and orange undertones. For this reason—and with the color wheel in mind—purple toners (in the form of shampoos, conditioners, masks, and salon treatments), like Redken's Color Extend Blondage Color Depositing Purple Shampoo ($22.50, ulta.com), are your best bet. "Sometimes, keeping an element of warmth while neutralizing yellow tones helps keep a blonde from reading muddy or drab—depending on the level of blonde we are going for regarding warm versus cool," says Rez. While warmer blondes don't want to remove all yellow undertones, cooler, ashier blondes do, he says.
Again, consider whether you're aiming for a cool or warm end result, says Rez, before you tone your brunette hair. If you want to embrace the former, he advises using products with a green or blue base to address unwanted red and orange undertones (try dpHUE's Gloss+ Semi-Permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner ($35, sephora.com)). Conversely, to enhance warm undertones, he says to treat with gold-depositing products. "In some cases, I do both with a more neutral gloss to maintain warmth, but take the edge off—so color is not brassy," he adds.
Since red hair colors fade the fastest, using a toner—like oVertone's Ginger Coloring Conditioner ($32, overtone.com)—to revitalize the shade will help maintain upkeep between coloring sessions. "Toners for reds will almost always be an enhancement, unless someone is too red or too cool and wants more natural results," Rez says. "Layering on toners or glosses on reds will keep them vibrant for longer." Again, whether you want a cool or warm result will impact your product choice. "Typically, I'm working with warmer toners, as I am more of a natural colorist and natural red hair falls on the warmer side of the spectrum," Rez explains. "Warmer reds will need more gold and orange toners to enhance their color and cooler reds (which are not so natural in the final result) will need more of a violet or pungent red toner."
At-Home Versus Salon Grade Products
Most at-home toning products are either color-neutralizing shampoos and conditioners, or color-depositing shampoos, conditioners, and masks—and your selection all depends on whether cool or warm hues are the end goal. "These products are meant to be used at home, are not mixed with developers or processing solutions, and will neutralize brass and unwanted warm tones in between salon visits," Rez affirms. With that in mind, Rez makes it clear that classic, in-salon toners are much different. "Toners require a developer to process and should be acidic so there is no lift to them," he says. "I highly recommend leaving toning services to professionals, as the wrong combination can lead you down a path of super costly, major color corrections in the salon." So, while it's perfectly safe to use consumer-friendly shampoos, conditioners, and masks at home, heading to your local beauty store for toners and developers should be off the table.