Why Toner is so Important to your Blonde Hair

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.


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.


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.

Blonde Hair Problems...things to know before you join the fair-haired crew.

So we have all heard that Blondes have more fun but it is definitely a commitment and takes hard work and patience. Heres a few things to consider before taking a walk on the light side.

1. Chlorine can turn your hair green.

Public pools and Balinese hotel pools are the biggest culprit. Due to blonde being so light and yellow based and the blue of the chlorine, the hair can turn green. Avoid cheap chlorinated pools and go with salt chlorinated instead. If you do happen to end up with locks of green, we suggest neutrilising the colour with either tomato sauce or a tin of tomato soup. Coat the hair with the product, glad wrap and leave in for 20 min. Ok it may stink and be messy but its the easiest and nicest on the hair. If that fails to work, then please consult your hairdresser.

green hair

2. Your blonde will always lose tone after 4 weeks

That's if you don't use a toning shampoo or conditioner. The toner that we use in your hair to neutralise the colour breaks down over time and fades with washing. The only way to stop your colour from going brassy is with a toning shampoo or conditioner you can use at home. Alternatively, you can pop back into the salon at the 4-6 week mark and have the blonde retoned. This is especially good for balayage clients who don't necessarily need their regrowth done but need a toner refresh. This service should only take about 30 min so its an quick and inexpensive way to keep your colour looking fresh for longer.

platinum blonde

3. Regrowth is not always your best friend

Too fresh or too long between colours. That is the age old riddle for blondes. Between weeks 1 and 5 I personally think is the right amount of regrowth. Most blondes don't want to look too fresh but there are also drawbacks with too much regrowth. Namely extra oiliness, less body and the great big black stripe down the middle of your hair. Oh and don't forget the amount of people who comment on how dark your natural hair colour is. There are ways to soften the blow. Try getting a root depth toner, where the roots are toned slightly darker than the ends. This gives more of a natural look to the hair and softens out the regrowth line when your natural hair comes through

blonde regrowth

4. Being blonde takes work and $$$

No matter what Instagram may show you, you cannot go the perfect, clean blonde in one session. Blonde takes time and a fair amount of dollars. Blonde is a specialist job and with the right Stylist and aftercare, you can hit your blonde goals and stay there for a while. Colour build up, hair condition and heat damage can all be factors in preventing you from being Instagram worthy blonde in the first session. Going blonde is a journey, so listen to your Stylist, look after your hair with at home treatments and put away the hair irons. This doesn't mean you have to be Tiger Stripped in between, but it does mean patience and some really pretty smokey blonde tones on the road to blonde Mecca.

rich blonde

5. Dry hair is part of the process

Yes peeps, your blonde hair will not be as soft and shiny as your silky brunette locks but it doesn't mean scarecrow hair. Any colour process, especially going lighter will involve some damage to the hair. This doesn't have to be major but be aware that the texture of the hair will change. Modern technology in the form of Olaplex and Fibreplex has helped keep damage to the minimum so make sure your Stylist is adding one of these into your lightening service to keep the hair healthy and with maximum elasticity. You also need to make sure you are using the proper aftercare to avoid breakage and add nutrients into the hair that are lost during the lightening process.

dry blonde hair

6. Blonde is not a phase

Please commit to your blonde hair once you have made the decision. It is a long process to get you there and it takes the patience of a monk so dont decide to go back brunette at your next hair appointment. This will not only frustrate your Stylist but begins the whole frustrating, time consuming process if you decide to lighten up again. I'm not saying that blonde is for life but be aware it is not something you can chop and change from. If you feel the need for a change from your blonde, experiment with toners. There are 100 different tones and combinations you could explore, so brunette doesn't have to be your only option. We all envy the deep rich tones of Salma Hayek, but most blondes don't look good brunette. Just be the best blonde you can be.

7. Not all blondes have to be ash

There are multiple tones of blonde. Ash is not standard. Ash should not turn grey. If it does, your hair has been overtoned or the toner is too dark. If your hair goes green then the Stylist has not lifted your blonde enough and tried to rectify with a toner. No hope. Gold does not mean brassy orange. Gold should be soft and slightly warm. Platinum does not suit everyone. Ask your Stylist to choose the best shade for your skin tone

ash blonde.jpg

Ombre is so last year! 2014's hottest hair looks.

Ombre has come and gone and we are sick of seeing bad dye jobs that just end up looking like dip dye.

Look no further than Birdie for the latest hair looks for 2014. Exclusively available in salon now.


Look like you just came back from a holiday in the Bahamas. Sunlights hit the spots that the sun naturally hits on your hair. Lighter around the face with darker regrowth and blend of blonde and caramel on the ends. The colour is soft, blended and oh so natural looking. Think Victoria Secret models.

Rose Gold

A soft copper blonde with a pinky tone. This hair colour suits lighter skin tones and is for those who are bored of blonde but aren't quite game enough to go copper. Can be used in highlights on darker skin tones. 

Ash Brown

This is the perfect colour for Brunettes who want to go lighter but without the brassiness. Suits darker skin tones but can be used in highlights with a blonde on lighter skin tones.

Ice Blonde

Bored of your full head highlights? Try a full head Ice Blonde. This look suits lighter to pale skin tones and is a soft feminine look. Team it with a pop coloured lipstick for a dramatic rock chic look.