Little compares to the feeling of freshly styled hair after a trip to the salon. Whether it’s brand-new highlights or a bold new dye job, coloring your hair is always exciting. The maintenance afterwards, though, not so much. From brassy tones to roots showing through, keeping perfectly styled hair can take time and money to keep your locks looking salon-fresh. You’re in luck, though — expert hair colorists suggest using hair toners for a DIY fix that’s affordable and long-lasting.
Also known by a few other names — most commonly overlay, gloss and filler — toner is a demi-permanent color used to alter the appearance of your hair after it's been previously lightened. The length of time it last depends on how much you wash your hair and the type of shampoo you use, but it typically lasts for four to six weeks.
“It can create a more polished finish by enhancing the desired look,” Chelsea Pickthorn, owner and master colorist at Pickthorn, told Shop TODAY. “A toner is a great tool when your hair texture feels dry and thirsty. The toner will fill in those rough areas on the hair shaft to give the appearance of shine and health.”
Rather than making weekly trips to the salon for a quick fix, using a hair toner provides a gentle solution for ridding hair of brassiness. To use, just apply the toner to wet hair and let it sit for up to 20 minutes before rinsing. The results will be a more natural and less brassy appearance.
Sarah Spratt, a celebrity colorist at White Rose Collective in New York, also describes hair toner as a colorist’s “best friend,” as it helps remedy common hair issues.
“In the salon, we use it for so many different issues that arise,” Spratt said. “Most toners are used to balance out color if you need to control gold tones, if your color is fading, if you want to blend grey instead of cover or even if you just want to add shine. A toner is a very easy and non-damaging service to get.”
If you regularly dye your hair, you’re probably going to use a toner at some point as it helps color last longer and prevents your hair from further damage. Read on for some colorist-approved hair toners to DIY your locks at home.
Best hair toners, according to experts
For stubborn brassy tones, Pickthorn recommends using the brand Manic Panic, especially if you’ve recently dyed your hair a bright hue. The formula is vegan-friendly, paraben-free and contains no ammonia.
This is a “personal all-time fave” for professionals including Trey Gillen, artistic director of education at SACHAJUAN, and Spratt because it works to gently correct and condition hair. Gillen even describes it as the equivalent of applying a top coat of nail polish.
“Shades EQ is more like a top coat [for hair], as it is less dense color, especially if you only let it sit on the hair for three to seven minutes during application instead of the recommended 20 minutes,” Gillen explained.
For Spratt, she prefers creating a custom gloss for her clients. For those who can’t make it to the salon, though dpHue is, in her opinion, the next best thing. This formula aims to rid brunettes of brassy and orange hues by neutralizing them using blue tones.
“I love the glosses from dpHue,” Spratt told us. “They are very easy to use and the colors are mixed beautifully.”
Also from dpHue, give your hair some extra love using this deep toning conditioner. This semi-permanent solution will stain your hair with pigment while adding a boost of hydration to your scalp. The brand recommends using it when your color starts to fade or highlights need toning.
Looking to enhance your hair color? Pickthorn prefers using the Davines Alchemic line if you’re looking to add natural hues and accents to your hair. For redheads, this formula uses all-natural ingredients to maintain and bring out those warm red tones.
The last thing you want to do is add more chemicals to your damaged hair, which is why Davines’ natural formula is a go-to for Pickthorn. Created with caper blossom extract and Salina Capers (a protective amino acid), these two ingredients work to gently cleanse, protect and extend the life of your colored hair.
“These days they’re many brands that can be done at home that add a touch of color,” Pickthorn said. If you want to add some “colorful fun” to your hair, then she loves to use oVertone to get the job done. According to the brand, this blue toning conditioner works best at neutralizing brassy tones for those with darker blonde to light brown hair shades.
Miss having shiny hair? Gillen suggests using L’Oreal for their “great technology” and “resurfacing effect” that helps make hair get back that healthy smooth and shiny look. The brand recommends this for all hair types and colors especially if you’re trying to get rid of brassiness, add warmth to brunette hair or prevent fading.
Highlighted hair is the most common hair for toners, according to Gillen. "Bleach only removes pigment, you will need a toner to put the desired “tone” into the hair," he told Shop TODAY.
This toning shampoo is a great option for lifting brassy colors while adding a silver effect. Whether you’re a brunette with blonde highlights or platinum blonde, this shampoo aims to neutralize brassy tones using a paraben- and sulfate-free formula. For optimal results, the brand recommends using it up to three times a week.
For more stories like this, check out:
- Dear brunettes, this $14 shampoo is perfect for you — here's why
- The 12 best shampoos, conditioners and masks for colored hair
- Here are the best at-home hair dyes to refresh your look, according to experts