Why is your toner is so important?

What does a toner do?

This question definitely comes in to our top 5 questions that clients ask. All you know is your hair is lightening in those pretty little foil packets, it then gets rinsed out and your hairdresser says, “I’m just going to mix up your toner.” You smile, nod and agree, all the while having no idea what she is talking about but every hairdresser does it so it must be a thing. So peeps, it’s now time to take control and finally know what happens when we place that weird, cold solution on your head at the basin.

Basically, any time we lighten hair it throws off warmth. That’s what hair does and that’s the way it was designed and has done so since the dawn of time. It lifts through red, orange, yellow and finally palest yellow, which is where you want to be if you are wanting platinum, ash blonde or silver. No we don’t lift to white, as this is the point when hair breaks so we like it to hang out at pale yellow and remain on your head. This is where the toner comes in.

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Basically a toner is used in most cases to counteract any warmth in the hair and create a more neutral colour as this is a much nicer look on your skin tone. It can also enhance or be used to create fashion colors but in the case of this blog we will concentrate on the neutralizing part of the toning process.

Say you were wanting platinum blonde, we would have to lift you light enough to get to pale yellow. We then would ‘tone’ or neutralize the pale yellow colour with a violet based blonde toner. This is because violet is opposite to yellow on the colour wheel. Remember grade 2 colour wheel activities where you mixed purple with yellow to make brown, or as we call it in hairdressing, neutral. This colour doesn't show up as brown but a neutral, clean, vanilla blonde.

Now let's just say your hair could only lift to orange, due to tint build up or your hair being darker naturally to start with, then we would use a blue based toner creating an ash brown colour. If we used a blue based toner over yellow hair, this would create a green or murky colour as blue and yellow make green. Again see Grade 2 colour mixing. This seems to be a common problem when people get toners in their hair as a lot of hairdressers only see ash (blue) as a universal toning option. This leaves the dull blonde look where hair lacks brightness and lightness. Another common toning faux pas is called ‘breaking the base’ where the toner used has a high level of ammonia which ends up lightening the natural hair around the foils, creating a warm or orange tinge to the overall look of the hair.

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Toners can also be altered to create different tones on blonde hair. There are many ways hairdressers can manipulate toners to intensify fashion looks like greys and pinks, produce depth at the roots using a darker toner called a ‘root stretch, blend out balayage by using 2 levels of toner and using toner to initiate levels of fade when the hair is washed.

Toners should be soft, never burn and never make the hair look dull. A toner should look like a cellophane on the hair, neutralizing the colour and complementing your skin tone. They are an important part of the colour process and if done correctly, can give you your perfect blonde.

Here at Birdie we will always tone our clients blonde at the chair in front of the mirror as apposed to the basin. Firstly this is an easier process for us and cleaner to apply but we also do this to educate our clients as to what their hair colour looks like when freshly lightened and then to visually see what the toner does to their hair colour after application.

Please remember that toners fade from the hair like all hair colour does, but being a lighter tone, they are designed to last about 4-6 weeks. You may find that you need to visit your hairdresser around this time to get the toner refreshed. A violet based shampoo or conditioner will also help the colour from looking brassy.