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How To Use Permanent Hair Color As A Toner?

  • Post category:Hair
  • Post last modified:May 28, 2024
  • Reading time:12 mins read

Hair toners are essential tools in the world of hair coloring, used to neutralize unwanted tones and enhance the overall color. While toners are typically semi-permanent or demi-permanent, it is possible to use permanent hair color as a toner. This method can be particularly useful for those looking to achieve long-lasting results. This article will guide you through the process of using permanent hair color as a toner, including the necessary preparations, application techniques, and aftercare.

What is a Hair Toner?

A hair toner is a product designed to neutralize unwanted undertones in color-treated hair. These undertones often appear after bleaching or coloring and can include shades of yellow, orange, or red. Toners work by depositing pigments onto the hair to counteract these unwanted hues, resulting in a more balanced and desired color.

Types of Hair Toners

Hair toners come in various forms, including:

  • Semi-permanent toners: These deposit color on the hair’s surface and typically last for a few weeks.
  • Demi-permanent toners: These penetrate the hair shaft slightly deeper than semi-permanent toners and last longer.
  • Permanent hair color: While not traditionally used as toners, permanent hair colors can be adapted to serve this purpose by adjusting the formulation and application process.

Why Use Permanent Hair Color as a Toner?

Using permanent hair color as a toner can offer several benefits:

  • Long-lasting results: Permanent hair color can provide more durable toning effects compared to semi-permanent or demi-permanent toners.
  • Versatility: Permanent hair color can be customized to achieve a wide range of tones and shades.
  • Availability: Permanent hair colors are widely available and can be used to create a toner if a specific toner product is not accessible.

Preparing to Use Permanent Hair Color as a Toner

Choosing the Right Color

Selecting the appropriate permanent hair color is crucial for effective toning. Here are some tips:

  • Identify the unwanted tone: Determine whether your hair has yellow, orange, or red undertones.
  • Use the color wheel: Choose a hair color that is opposite the unwanted tone on the color wheel. For example, use a violet-based color to neutralize yellow tones, a blue-based color for orange tones, and a green-based color for red tones.

Mixing the Color

To use permanent hair color as a toner, you need to mix it with a developer. Here’s how:

  • Mixing ratio: Typically, a 1:1 ratio of hair color to 10-volume developer is recommended for toning purposes. This lower-volume developer helps deposit color without significantly lifting the hair’s natural color.
  • Consistency: Ensure the mixture is smooth and creamy for even application.

Application Process

Preparing Your Hair

Before applying the toner, prepare your hair as follows:

  • Wash your hair: Use a clarifying shampoo to remove any product buildup and ensure your hair is clean.
  • Towel-dry your hair: Your hair should be damp but not soaking wet. This helps the toner to distribute evenly.

Applying the Toner

Follow these steps to apply the permanent hair color as a toner:

  1. Section your hair: Divide your hair into manageable sections to ensure even application.
  2. Apply the mixture: Using an applicator brush, apply the toner mixture starting from the areas with the most unwanted tones. Work your way through each section, ensuring thorough coverage.
  3. Processing time: Leave the toner on your hair for the recommended time, usually between 10 to 20 minutes. Check the color every 5 minutes to avoid over-toning2.
  4. Rinse thoroughly: Once the desired tone is achieved, rinse your hair with cool water until the water runs clear. You do not need to shampoo unless you prefer to.

Aftercare and Maintenance

Immediate Aftercare

After toning, it’s essential to take care of your hair to maintain the results:

  • Conditioning: Use a deep conditioner to restore moisture and smoothness to your hair.
  • Avoid heat styling: Minimize the use of heat styling tools immediately after toning to prevent damage.

Long-term Maintenance

To keep your toned hair looking its best, follow these tips:

  • Use color-safe products: Opt for shampoos and conditioners formulated for color-treated hair to prolong the life of your toner.
  • Limit washing: Wash your hair less frequently to prevent the toner from fading quickly. When you do wash, use cool water to help seal the hair cuticle and maintain color.
  • Regular touch-ups: Depending on your hair type and how often you wash it, you may need to reapply the toner every 4-6 weeks to maintain the desired tone.

Tips and Tricks

Strand Test

Always perform a strand test before applying the toner to your entire head. This helps you gauge the processing time needed to achieve the desired tone without over-toning.

Customizing Your Toner

You can customize your toner by mixing different shades of permanent hair color. For example, combining a violet-based color with a blue-based color can help neutralize both yellow and orange tones simultaneously.

Avoiding Over-Toning

Over-toning can result in an undesired hue, such as a greenish tint. To avoid this, monitor the processing time closely and rinse the toner out as soon as the unwanted tones are neutralized.


Using permanent hair color as a toner can be an effective way to achieve long-lasting, customized hair color results. By understanding the basics of hair toning, selecting the right color, and following the proper application and aftercare steps, you can successfully neutralize unwanted tones and enhance your hair’s overall appearance. Whether you’re a blonde battling brassiness or a brunette looking to cool down warm undertones, this method offers a versatile and durable solution for maintaining beautiful, balanced hair color.


Can you use permanent color as a toner?

Yes, you can use permanent hair color as a toner by mixing it with a low-volume developer (10 vol or less). This allows the color to deposit pigment without lifting your base color. However, permanent color may be too opaque for subtle toning. Demi-permanent or glossing toners are better suited for neutralizing unwanted tones.

1Can I use hair dye instead of toner?

No, you should not use permanent hair dye instead of a toner. Hair dyes contain higher levels of ammonia and developers that can further lighten and damage your hair. Toners are gentler, ammonia-free formulas designed to simply adjust tone and neutralize brassiness without lifting color.

Can you tone after permanent color?

Yes, you can apply a toner after a permanent hair color. In fact, many stylists recommend toning bleached or highlighted hair to neutralize unwanted brassy or yellow tones. The toner helps enhance the tone and shine without causing further damage or lifting.

1How many levels can permanent color lift?

Permanent hair color can typically lift 2-3 levels lighter than your natural base color when using a 20-volume developer. Some high-lift colors can lift up to 4-5 levels with a 30-40 vol developer. However, lifting more than 3 levels risks increased damage and brassiness.

What are the benefits of using permanent hair color as a toner?

Using permanent color as a toner allows you to adjust tone while adding shine and condition. Some permanent formulas contain strengthening ingredients that can improve hair’s appearance. The results also last longer than typical toning glosses or demi-permanent colors.