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Which toner should I use?


What exactly is a hair toner?

A hair toner is a product that color corrects hair. 

Most hair toners contain either purple, blue, green or ash pigments.

These pigments help to neutralize unwanted warm tones which typically occur in bleached or highlighted hair.

There are essentially 3 different types of toners you should know about.

Permanent toners.

Demi-permanent toners.

And purple based toning shampoos and masks. 

We will go through all these 3 categories in this blog and explain to you which one you should use for your hair.

(1) Permanent hair toners.

Permanent toners are what you need to use if you are looking to achieve significant hair transformation.

For example, if you are looking to go blonde, white blonde, platinum blonde or ash blonde.

These toners contain ammonia. They open up & penetrate the hair cuticle.

They are mixed with developers.

Permanent hair toners, as the name implies, are very long lasting.

You need to choose between intense toners and no-lift toners depending on how much yellow there is in your client's hair. 

If your client's hair is level 9 or 10, with only very little yellow, then you should tone with the no-lift toners.

But if your client's hair is level 7 or 8, with more yellow present and a little orange, then use the intense toners.

These have a special booster which kicks out yellow and lifts the hair by one level.

Intense Pearl Blonde Toner - 100V

intense pearl blonde toner

Intense Silver Blonde Toner - 100B

intense silver blonde toner

No-Lift Pearl Blonde Toner - 10V

No-Lift Pearl Blonde Toner

No-Lift Silver Blonde Toner - 10B

no-lift silver blonde toner

(2) Demi-Permanent Toners

Demi-permanent toners achieve quick gloss toning effects.

These toners are great when a quick refresh on highlighted or brassy hair is all you want to do.

Demi's do not contain ammonia and they usually fade out gradually in around 4-5 weeks.

At this point they will need a quick refresh.

Hair stylists usually appreciate the quick application time of these toners and the great and immediate color refresh results they achieve.

Ugly Duckling's demi-permanent hair toners are liquid toners, contain no PPD and have been enriched with Bond Protect.

They are very cosmetic and can be used frequently - every 6 weeks, for example, is good.

They are applied out of the bottle. They come in 2 shades:

Natural Ash Blonde 010B

Natural Ash Blonde Toner

Natural Violet Blonde 010V

010V Natural Violet Blonde Toner

3) Purple based Masks, Shampoos & Treatment Products

Purple based shampoos, masks and other treatment products don't lift the hair.

Nor do they penetrate or open up the hair cuticle. 

You are basically just applying purple colorant to the outside of the hair.

As there is no chemical treatment involved you can use such toners pretty much as often as you like as regular maintenance product.

These products are best used at the backwash while doing a regular bleach or tone application, or simply on its own.

Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo & Mask are good examples of such toning products.

They have been formulated specially so that they don't stain. So you can can just rinse them off after water.

Also, they are acidic products. Meaning that they treat the hair fiber, helping to close them and prevent split ends.

They are also sulfate-free.

Ugly Duckling's Purple Shampoo & Mask

Purple Shampoo & Mask

Intense Purple Pigments - but Not Staining.

Sulfate Free, Gluten Free, low pH

Intense Purple Pigments

How do I tone my client's hair blonde?

The first thing to do is examine the hair and figure out what level it is and how much yellow or orange there is in it.

Use the chart below to help you decide.

The rules for toning are that is the hair is level 6 or darker, you much use bleach to pre-lighten first.

Hair Color Levels & Their Undertones

Hair toning levels

Now ask yourself these questions:

(1) Are you looking for a significant blonde transformation? Are you looking to do a full head toning?

If yes, you would need to use Ugly Duckling's permanent toners because they are the best at getting you the lift and the 3D ultra white blonde color results. These are also the best toners for those looking for level 10 blonde toning.

Use the intense toners if you need some additional lift even after bleaching.

Use the no-lift toners if the hair is truly well lightened to level 10 and you are looking only to re-pigment.

(2) Are you looking for a quick gloss tone without going full-on level 10 blonde? Or toning just the blonde highlights without touching a dark base?

If you are just looking for a quick gloss toning result and if you have a darker base which you prefer to leave untouched, then you should use Ugly Duckling's liquid gloss toners, Blondify.

These are the best toners for those looking for a level 8 or level 9 toning as opposed to a full-on level 10 blonde transformation.

Use the natural violet blonde toner (010V) if you have yellow hair (level 9-10) which you want to color correct.

And use the natural ash blonde toner (010A) if you have yellow-orange (level 8) hair which needs color correction.

(3) Are you just looking for a blonde maintenance product?

If your hair has already been toned but it is still yellow due to the passage of time, or if you want to refresh it and maintain a pristine white blonde color, then you need to use Ugly Duckling's Purple Shampoo & Mask.

These are hair care products with toning pigments added.

There is no chemical process involved & they can be used in-between salon visits or even at the back wash after a bleach or toning service.

Basically use these products as often as you want.

Ugly Duckling's Purple Shampoo & Mask do not stain. They are sulfate free, gluten free and low pH.

(4) What level is your hair and how much do you need to lift it?

If your hair is at level 5 or 6, you absolutely need to use bleach first.

Then use an Ugly Duckling intense toner because you will almost certainly still have a lot of yellow which you will need to get rid of.

If your hair is at level 7 or level 8, you can get away without bleach. But use either an intense toner if you want to do a full blonde makeover.

Or Blondify Natural Ash Blonde toner if you wish to tone highlights without lifting the base.

Natural Ash will counteract the yellow-orange and give you a natural ash blonde result.

If your hair is at level 9 or level 10, you can use a regular permanent toner. Or Blondify Natural Violet Blonde toner.

Natural Violet will counteract the yellow and give you a natural ash blonde result.

(5) What toner should I use for my hair?

Please use the hair toner guide below.

Hair Toner Guide

(1) Read off as accurately as you can the color of your client's hair currently.

(2) Are you going for a significant blonde transformation involving permanent hair toners for full head toning?

(3) Or are you looking for a quick gloss refresh, toning blonde highlights only without touching the base?

(4) The Hair toner guide will guide you which toner you need to use.

Infographic - Which Toner to Use?

How Should I Apply Cream Based Permanent Toners?

For Ugly Duckling cream toners, the mix is 1 part toner to 2 parts developer.

20 Vol would be the developer strength. Remember to pre-lighten first to level 9 for best results.

Ugly Duckling's cream toners are best applied using a brush, as below:


How Should I Apply Liquid Demi-Permanent Toners?

For Blondify, the mix is 1 part toner to 1 part developer.

You can use 7 Vol, 10 Vol or 20 Vol depending on the lift required.

Remember to towel dry the hair if it is wet. Excess moisture will cause dilution of your color mix.

Mix in your applicator bottle and apply as below:


How should I apply Semi-Permanent Purple Toning Shampoos and Masks?

Rub in purple shampoo as thoroughly as you can, making sure that every part of the hair comes into contact with the product. Leave in 5 minutes then rinse in tepid water.

Then apply Purple Mask. Let the purple mask sit under a towel in gentle heat for 10 minutes. Then rinse.


Hair Toners Before & After

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V - Before & After

Before & After Intense Pearl Blonde

Hair by Kim Kevin, Sanford, North Carolina.

Blondify Liquid Toner Natural Ash Toner 010A - Before & After

Blondify Before & After

Hair by Elona Taki

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.



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