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The best hair toners to get hair blonde in 2021

BY SALLY MADISON
NATIONAL COLOR TRAINER

What is a hair toner?

A toner is a product which helps the stylist color-correct for brassy hair and other unwanted reflects.
Toners help produce a vivid, 3D rich color - usually but not always blonde. 
Hair toners help you as a stylist fine-tune your client's hair color.

They are particularly useful on bleached hair and on washed out color applications.
Very often, they are used to fight the natural warm tones or brassiness in a client's hair.and produce a finished color result which is typically less warm, less yellow.

A toner also helps the stylist achieve the exact shade of blonde that most clients typically expect from a stylist when they go to a salon - white platinum blonde, pure silver hair, pearl blonde, and silver grey are some very common examples.

What does pre-lightening mean and how do you do it?

The best thing you can do to guarantee a great result after toning is to pre-lighten the hair to a level 10 extra light blonde before toning.

That means that the reflect you should see should be palest, palest yellow.

See chart below.

Hair Color Levels - Prelightening

Pre-lightening essentially involves the use of bleach to lift the hair color level to level 10 prior to toning.
Pre-lightening in this way drives all the natural melanin out of a girl's hair and take it to a very pale yellow color.
Once you get it there, you will now get much better hair color results when you tone.

What color results do toners achieve?

The most commonly desired colors these days are cool colors.
Cool essentially means anything with blue or violet or purple in it.
Typical blonde cool colors would be silver blonde, pearl blonde, white platinum blonde, silver grey blonde and white ash blonde.

What are the difference types of toners out there?

Toners can be both permanent (with ammonia) and demi-permanent (without ammonia).

In both cases you would be mixing the toner with developer and applying. The strength of the developer can vary from 5 Vol all the way up to 20 Vol, depending on the brand of toner and the state of the hair.

Ugly Duckling toners are generally applied with 10 or 20 Vol developer, 1 +2 mix.
They are among the fastest acting toners available.

The intense Ugly Duckling toners (intense pearl blonde, intense silver blonde) have an extra booster and are recommended when there is still a lot of yellow in the hair.

The no-lift Ugly Duckling toners (no-lift pearl blonde, no-lift silver blonde) are recommended for repeat hair toning applications or when the hair is already very well lightened, with minimal yellow.

In general you will find that permanent toners are stronger and more long lasting than the demi-permanent ones.

Are there other products that can be used as toning products?

Anything with strong neutralizing pigments, in particular violet and blue pigments can be used to color correct brassy reflects.

Ugly Duckling Purple Shampoo and Mask, for example, are very useful for taking the last traces of yellow out of blonde hair and keeping it cold and ashy. 

But please bear in mind that such products tone very well but they do not and cannot lift.

So if your client has a lot of really brassy, orange hair, you will need to some lifting and regular toning before you tone with purple shampoo and mask.

Certain purple products on the market also stain the hair. This can be a great nuisance, particularly on lightened white ends where they can be very visible. Ugly Duckling Purple shampoo and mask do not stain.

What is the difference between a hair color and a hair toner? 

Here is what a hair toner does:

Toners provide a "glaze". In other words the recalibrate the color.
They are typically very fast acting and can be washed off as soon as you get the toning result you are looking for.
The recommended mix for Ugly Duckling toners is 1+2.
We like this because it allows you as a stylist to work fast and you do need to work fast when you are toning to give the whole head as equal a processing time as possible.

And here is what a hair color does:

Colors typically produce richer, more vivid 3D results.
They need to be applied, like color, slowly and carefully using a brush and then a second time rubbed in with fingers using gloves.
The recommended mix for Ugly Duckling colors is 1+2.
Because the mix is more pasty as compared to when using toners, it will typically take more time to do a regular color application.

Incidentally, all Ugly Duckling blonde colors can be used as toners. Just change the mix to 1+2 and go ahead and apply.

Which hair toner should I use?

Intense Pearl Blonde

This is an ultra fast acting hair toner which produces a pearl white blonde result.
It tones hair in 10 minutes, getting rid of yellow and brassiness in hair.
It contains an added booster which effectively lifts the hair by one additional level.
It's probably the fastest acting toner on the market today.
It is best used with 20 Vol developer with a 1+2 mix on pre-lightened hair.
Typical processing time is only 10-15 minutes.
For clients with long hair and well-lifted roots, it is best to apply on the root area at the end.
Otherwise it may process too fast there.

No-Lift Pearl Blonde

This toner also produces a pearl blonde look.
The difference with the intense pearl blonde toner is that it has less of a lift.
We recommend you use this toner in place of the intense pearl blonde toner for repeat applications and if the hair is already super light blonde.
We also recommend that you use this toner if you are anxious about maintaining lowlights.
Use with 20 Vol developer, 1+2 mix.

Intense Silver Blonde

This is another ultra fast acting hair toner, also with added lift (Booster) to kick out yellow.
This produces a more natural but still spectacular white silvery blonde result.
Use with 20 Vol developer with a 1+2 mix on pre-lightened hair.
Typical processing time is also only 10-15 minutes.

No-Lift Silver Blonde

Again, a less lifting version of the intense silver blonde.
Suitable for very well pre-lightened hair, repeat applications and on top of low-lighted areas.
Use with 20 Vol developer, 1+2 mix.

White Platinum Blonde

If you are trying to achieve a pure white platinum blonde the color we would suggest is this one: Extra Light Cool Blonde 10V/10.2 
The intense violet pigments in this toner remove practically every trace of yellow and give the hair an a pure white platinum blonde look.
This is a regular color. So the mix is 1+1 and you need to process it for the full 30 minutes in order to achieve the full rich, 3D color effects.
Use with 20 Vol developer on pre-lightened hair. 

Silver Grey

Another very popular color.
This one is also a regular color, so use with 20 Vol in a 1+1 mix and process for 30 minutes on pre-lightened hair.
Produces spectacular silver grey results - which is a very elusive, hard to achieve color. 
Your client will thank you for this one!

Extra Light Cold Ash Blonde

This is a blue based blonde - very unusual. In fact, nly Ugly Duckling has anything quite like it
A very popular color for those clients who want a totally white but still natural looking ash blonde color.
1+1 mix with 20 Vol developer on pre-lightened hair.

What is purple shampoo and mask and what does it do for hair?

Purple shampoos and masks are products which help maintain your lightened hair at home in between salon visits.
They contain purple pigments which is the exact opposite of yellow on the color wheel.
So they are excellent at toning hair and removing excess yellow.
However, just remember they cannot lift. So if you have orange brassy hair and you dump purple shampoo in it is not going to work.
Also be aware that some purple shampoos (not ours) do stain. In such cases they can be a real pain to remove!
In short, purple shampoos and masks are a great asset for any colorist and they also do an excellent job at maintenance.
Just use wisely, and don't over-depend on them. To really create successful blonde results, you are going to have to bleach and tone first.

Purple Shampoo & Mask

Purple Toning Mask

Purple Toning Shampoo

Is a toner only for blondes?

In general, hair toners work best on blonde hair. That is when you get the most visible results.
There are, however, some toners for medium blonde hair - cinnamon blonde, caramel blonde etc.
As of now at Ugly Duckling we don't have such toners, but just remember that all Ugly Duckling colors can be used as toners. Just change the mix to 1+2 and you're good to go.

Is a toner a permanent or a demi?

That would depend on the brand.
Typically a demi toner would give less lift and be less vibrant or long lasting than a permanent toner.
Redken Shades EQ range are demis.
Wella T14, T18 are permanent color.
Ugly Duckling's toners are also permanent colors. 

I put toner on a client's hair and it came out green! Why was that?

Green Hair

Many toners are blue based. The blue acts to neutralize yellow/orange.
But it doesn't mean you can just dump toner in. You definitely need to lift the hair to an acceptable level.
If there was too much yellow/orange in the hair (ie if you did not lift enough) then Color Theory: yellow + blue equals green.


Ugly Duckling toners tend to contain a lot of blue. That is why they work so fast.
Lift more next time, then place your toner.

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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