Your Guide To Picking The Right Hair Toner For Coloured Tresses

Hair Toner

There’s excitement in getting a new hair colour – it gives you an unleashed sense of power that pales in comparison to a mere haircut. But the road to maintaining an attractive tint can be pretty tricky and may result in countless sleepless nights. Enter: Hair Toner! Given that the hairstyling and colouring industry has recently become so multifaceted, the upkeep has also evolved. We’ve started changing our hair colour – from pastels to platinum – just as often as we change our outfits for the season (maybe more so, who are we kidding?).

Proper aftercare of a hair colour begins when the tints, which looked pretty hot in the beginning NGL, start to modify once it starts to wash out. You’re left with a colour you never really wanted in the first place. And even though you may get your calendar sorted with your salon appointments once in a while, it’s not like you can pay a visit to your hairstylist every second day. You’ll need to deploy some parlour grade reinforcements at home too.

Ageing Colour’s Best Friend, Hair Toner


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Toners come in different shapes and sizes, and hairstylists from varying walks of life rely heavily on toner to dial down unwanted hues. When you sit in that chair, and the hairstylist tells you exactly what shade you need your highlights to reach and how they’re going to get you there, it’s all a big ball of wonder, isn’t it?

A hair toner acts similar to a topcoat of nail polish, with the products more often than not in a glossy formula. The different shapes and sizes I mentioned previously? Toners can come as shampoos, conditioners, and even temp hair colours. They all have one similar function; adjusting hair tone and a one-time use (varying on the type of toner you use) can stay on for roughly 3-4 weeks.

In a world full of hair colouring techniques, be it – balayage, global, highlights, obmrè, or bablylights – the guide that hairdressers still follow is the colour theory – stemming all the way back to the colour wheel. Colour theory and hair toners are intricately linked; toners put the practice of the colour theory (and wheel) into play in the domain of haircare. What may have been your worst enemy in primary school could very well be the reason your hair colour looks OP all the time.

Colour Progression

Before we dive into how to read the hair colour wheel, let’s explore the hair colouring concept a bit more. Natural hair has to get its colour from somewhere, right? The blonde, brown or jet black locks that you come (or grow) into the world with stem from the melanin pigments within the cortex of each strand. The two basic, or understood, melanin pigments are eumelanin and pheomelanin. Simply put, eumelanin comprises all three primary colours (blue, red and yellow), and is responsible for the coolness imparted with colour (think ash but more blue-y). It decides how dark your hair can get. Pheomelanin is responsible for the warmer ends of the spectrum, specifically imparting red and yellow pigments.

Natural hair can change its colour due to varying aspects of our daily lives, like age, medication, pregnancy, environmental aggressors, and health issues. Or, of course, a slight bender can make you go from black to red real quick.

Let’s Play Colour Theory


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Reading the colour wheel to apply its theory is super simple. The colours on the wheel are placed in such a way that the ones situated opposite one another (complementary colours) automatically tend to neutralise, aka cancel, the other one out. Hence, the use of opposite shades to tone down unwanted waves of colour creeping their way into your hair is so popular. Colour theory for hair colouring (and correcting) works just right for hairstylists around the globe without them reading into it too much.

The colour wheel is divided into a few segments for ease of understanding. To break it down for you:

1. Primary Colours – Red, Blue, Yellow 

2. Secondary Colours – Violet, Orange, Green 

3. Tertiary Colours – Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Violet, Red-Violet

4. Complimentary Colours – Colours that are opposite one another in the colour wheel (e.g., Yellow and Purple, Orange and Blue, Red and Green) 

5. Cool Colours – Red-Violet, Violet, Blue-Violet, Blue, Blue-Green, Green

6. Warm Colours – Yellow-Green, Yellow, Yellow-Orange, Orange, Red-Orange, Red 

Once you’ve got your basics sorted, the theories, and subsequent toner choices, that follow begin to make more sense. Using the colour wheel (and an easy numbered system that won’t have you glance at it every now and then) helps you understand which undertones work and how to get your hair colour jussssttt right. Blonde hair turning into canary yellow? Red turning to brassy orange? Just use the opposite colour on the colour wheel to neutralise it.

What Can Toners Do That Other Products Cannot


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A hair toner doesn’t have only one function. Much like a keratin treatment or Olaplex, toners form a protective layer or film on each hair strand, in turn balancing its porosity. As a result, toners also add an intense volume to your hair, making the bounce in your step a little higher and the shine in your mane a lot brighter. They’re also well-known for having a proliferated portfolio for the overall addition of dimension to your hair. 

Suppose your hair has some drastic changes, and your colour looks totally different from before. In that case, it’s always better to visit your hairstylist for a consultation and subsequent fix. But if you see only slight brassy tones creeping up and feel they may be manageable with at-home products, here are a few of our product recommendations – 

1. Olaplex’s Blonde Enhancer Toning Shampoo – This purple shampoo is extremely lightweight. It works wonders on ash coloured hair and stark blondes as well. 

2. Schwarzkopf Professional Goodbye Yellow Neutralising Shampoo – Made to order for stark yellow tones, this has raving reviews for making a difference after a few washes. 

3. Milkshake’ Silver Shine Shampoo – A gentle cleanser for delicate hair bleached light blonde hair, almost to a white. 

4. Crazy Colour’s Blue Shampoo – A perfect fit for brunettes with highlights/balayage, this product makes your colour stay on for longer by protecting your strands and adds a dollop of vibrancy to the mix. 

Photos: Pexels, Instagram

- Beauty Contributor

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