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What does hair toning do to blonde highlights?


Why do blonde highlights need toning?

As you lift the hair using bleach, you get left with a secondary pigment.

Depending on the level to which you have lifted the hair, this secondary pigment could be yellow-orange, yellow or pale yellow.

This is totally normal and is to do with the way the human hair works.

But unfortunately it means that your highlights look brassy and warm after bleaching.

Hair toners can fix this brassy and warm color.

Depending on your choice of toner, you can turn those yellow highlights into a more attractive ash blonde, pure white blonde or platinum blonde.

Bleached Highlights

Bleached highlights in need of toning

What are hair toners, anyway?

Hair toners are products which contain pigments to neutralize blonde brassy hair.

These pigments are typically blue and purple based.

These blue and purple pigments act to counteract yellow tones on bleached highlights.

See the chart below to see which pigments neutralize which color.

Neutralizing colors

Toners use purple and blue pigments to counteract the yellow and the orange.

How do hair toners work on blonde highlights?

In order to work, toners need to open up the hair cuticle which contains the color and penetrate the hair 

This is why they need to be combined with developer.

The toner and developer mix opens up the hair cuticle, penetrates into the cortex.

Then it lifts out the brassy and yellow tones.

And then it neutralizes the remaining color with violet, blue and blue/green pigments to produce colder, purer blonde tones.

How should you tone blonde highlights?

If you have highlights but also darker hair underneath (see the picture on the left below), then you want to tone your blonde highlights.

But at the same time, you don't want to lift or disturb the darker hair underneath in any way.

This is a very common issue for stylists.

In an ideal world, you would want to apply toner just to the highlighted areas.

But when you have fine highlights that is not really practical.

To separate the highlighted areas from the non-highlighted areas would be impossible.

Especially when the blonde highlighted segments are very fine and totally mixed in with the darker base.

So what do you do?

Stripy Blonde highlights

Blonde highlights with plenty of darker hair underneath: toned with Blondify Natural Ash Blonde Toner

What toner should I use for toning highlights and not my base?

The solution that we would recommend is to use Blondify liquid gloss toners.

These toners have been designed for this precise use in mind.

They are non-lifting toners.

Which means you can apply them to the whole head and tone the highlights without lifting the darker hair underneath in any way.

So you won't see your darker base or roots go from brown to yellow.

How do I choose the right toner for my highlights?

Use the natural ash blonde toner when the hair is very very yellow and brassy (as in the picture on the left above).

Ash (blue+ green) is great at neutralizing strong yellow and yellow bordering on orange.

Use the natural violet blonde toner when the hair is almost level 10, but still very yellow.

Violet is great at neutralizing yellow and pale yellow.

Blondify Natural Ash Blonde

Blondify Natural Ash Blonde Toner

Blondify Natural Violet Blonde Toner

Blondify Natural Violet Blonde Toner

How do I use and apply the toner on my hair after bleaching?

Blondify toners come in liquid form.

So they can be mixed in an applicator bottle with either 10 or 20 Vol developer.

10 Vol is recommended to be sure of not lifting or touching a dark base.

Just mix and the toner and the developer together in a 1 + 1 ratio.

Shake the two ingredients together.

You will get a clear gel-like liquid. 

Pour this straight over the hair.

Rub very well into the hair and wait 10 minutes exactly

Then rinse. 


Hair by Elona Taki

Can't I use purple and blue shampoos or masks instead?

Purple and blue shampoos and masks are excellent at toning yellow blonde hair.

Ugly Duckling has a Purple Shampoo and Mask which does exactly that.

Plus it's sulfate-free and won't stain.

But it is important to realize that it won't lift yellow out.

This is because they deposit purple and blue pigments onto the hair surface rather than penetrate inside the hair cuticle. 

Even so, they are very effective at cutting out the last vestiges of yellow and we do recommend that you use them.

Our advice is to use them after toning your highlights with a toner.

And also as a maintenance product for blonde hair to keep it from going back to yellow.


What if I want to tone my whole hair and not just my highlights.

Sometimes, we want a stronger toner which will lift and tone every part of the hair it comes into contact with.

In that case, use Ugly Duckling permanent toners.

These are among the strongest and fastest acting on the market.

And have plenty of lift as well as neutralization properties.

So when looking for a "total blonde" toning, not just highlight toning, use either of these 2 permanent toners:

Both are "intense", meaning that they contain an extra booster - extra lift, in other words.

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V

Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 100V

Intense Silver Blonde 100B

Intense Silver Blonde 100B


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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