How do hair toners work?

Written by kittie mccoy
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How do hair toners work?
Hair toners remove pigment to tone down certain hair colours. (Thinkstock/Getty Images)

Toners are haircolor products which are available in semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent varieties. Permanent hair toners are most commonly used as they are applied to pre lightened hair in order to achieve ultra pale and delicate shades of blonde or white. These shades cannot be achieved during a single process of hair lightening without significantly damaging the hair.

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About hair toners

Toners are hair colour products which are available in semi-permanent, demi-permanent and permanent varieties. Permanent hair toners are most commonly used as they are applied to pre-lightened hair in order to achieve ultra pale and delicate shades of blonde or white. These shades cannot be achieved during a single process of hair lightening without significantly damaging the hair.

Hair colour

Hair toners work to remove the unwanted pigments left behind in the hair after bleaching or lightening. The toners work by cancelling out the unwanted pigments using the opposite colour of the pigment on the colour wheel. For instance, unwanted orange pigments in hair will be neutralised by a blue toner, yellow pigments are neutralised by a purple or violet toner, and so on. Hair toners provide a way to fine-tune hair colour and create the exact shade desired without damaging the hair.

Allergy testing

Before the application of hair toner an allergy test should be done. This test will be performed 24 hours in advance of the toner application and consist of a small amount of the toner mixed with developer being applied to the inside of the elbow. If irritation occurs in this area during the next 24 hours, the toner should not be used as it could cause an adverse allergic reaction on the scalp. Once the allergy test has been performed with no sign of allergy, the hair will be lightened. Generally this is done with the use of hair bleach. After the hair has been processed with the bleach, it will be rinsed thoroughly in preparation of the toner application.

Toner mixing

Toner is mixed with a developer in a 1:1 ratio immediately before use. This mixture cannot be created in advance because leaving the toner and developer in a sealed bottle will create a chemical reaction causing gas to build and eventually explode, rupturing the bottle. The toner and developer mixture is applied evenly to the hair from the roots to the tip. During this process, the hair will be checked every five minutes or so by wiping the toner off a small piece of hair with a damp cloth and visually inspecting the colour. If the hair has not reached the desired colour, the toner will be reapplied and this process will repeat every five minutes until all of the unwanted pigment has been neutralised. Check the hair often during this process, otherwise the hair could absorb the colour of the toner. This is the reason why many white-haired women end up with a blue tint after a visit to the hairdresser.

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