Does Toner Darken Hair? Everything You Need To Know

This post contains affiliate links. Please read our full disclosure policy here.

You’ve dyed your hair and the blonde is a little brighter than you’d like. In light of this, you may be wondering does toner darken hair. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know.

Does Toner Darken Hair

While toner doesn’t darken your hair as such, it can be used to tone down or neutralise bright brassy yellow and orange tones in bleached hair. A toner helps achieve more natural tones like dusty, ashy or platinum.

What Is Hair Toner?

Unless your hair is a very light blonde naturally, it will have shades of red and orange pigment in it.

When you lighten your hair, the bleach works through each of those pigments to lift the color away.

Hair toner is a post-color product used primarily on bleached hair to tone down the overly intense color.

It can be used to tweak unwanted yellow, red or orange tones, so they are a little darker and deeper.

What Effects Does a Toner Have on Your Hair?

  • Toners are commonly used to darken and adjust the final reflection of our highlights.
  • A toner can alter the undertone of hair color but it does not lift the shade, which is why they are meant for blonde or bleached hair.
  • A toner can help you to manipulate the shade of your blonde hair- you can go ashier, cooler or dingier. You can even tone blonde hair pink or purple.
  • Toner can be applied all over the hair, or just to specific sections you want to target to change the shade: you might want to tone down highlights or tone the roots to make them more seamless.
  • A toner leaves you with a shinier, healthier more natural shade of color.

Does Toner Darken Hair?

Does Toner Darken Hair

A toner is not recommended if you want to achieve an overall dark color. For this, it is recommended that you use a hair dye 2 or 3 shades darker than your base color.

Toner darkens hair in the sense that it can be used to tone down very bright brassy tones.

It neutralizes unwanted colors that can appear in your hair after bleaching. But it does not change the level of your color.

Types of Toners

There are essentially three different types of products that can be used to tone your hair.

Purple or Blue Shampoo

One method of toning your hair is using purple or blue shampoo.

These are widely available and easy to use.

The purple shampoo tones down brassiness in blonde hair, while the blue shampoo is used to counteract orange hues in brunette hair which has been lightened.

These can be used once or twice a week instead of your normal shampoo to keep unwanted tones at bay.

Ammonia Toners

An ammonia-based toner is a demi-permanent hair color containing ammonia.

It works by altering the pigment makeup of your hair shafts. If possible, wait a few days after bleaching before you apply this product.

This will give your hair a few days to recover from the stress of bleaching.

The toner is usually mixed with a developer and left on the hair for around 30 minutes.

But this can vary from toner to toner, so make sure you follow the instructions on the packaging.


Another method used to tone is to use dye. Technically speaking, this is not ‘toning’, but it will achieve the same goal.

The common theme here is using purple to neutralize yellow.

To tone using hair dye, take a small amount of purple hair dye and mix it with a much larger amount of white conditioner.

Apply the mixture for at least 15–30 minutes and then rinse out.

How to Pick Your Toner

How to Pick Your Toner

If you’re on a mission to tone out yellow or golden undertones from your blonde, then a purple shampoo may be all you need.

The purple neutralizes warm, brassy tones for a cooler, more natural-looking shade of blonde.

However, if the color change you’re going through is a little more dramatic, purple shampoos alone may not cut it.

You may need a stronger, ammonia-based toner, especially if your bleach job has resulted in undesirable brassy orange locks.

To choose the best toner for your hair, you need to consider factors such as ingredients in the toner, your hair type, and your hair color.

Hair Type

Toner tends to work best on thin, balanced hair. That being said, many products are modified to be suitable for use on any hair type.

Establish The Right Shade

To avoid a potential toning disaster, pay close attention to the color of the toner as well as the product description.

Products tend to have an image of ‘initial hair color’ and ‘result’.

Based on your lightened or bleached hair color, choose a toner color opposite it on the color wheel.

Decide what you want your color result to be and choose a toner that will work to cancel out unwanted pigments to get the cool, natural-looking blonde you desire.

If orange tones are the problem, and you want to achieve a dark, ashy blonde, or light brown, a blue toner is your best bet.

Platinum or silvery blonde the shade you’re after? Go for a violet-based toner to remove yellow undertones.

Toner ingredients

Not only should a toner combat any unwanted brassy tones, but it should also hydrate and add nourishment to hair.

The better-quality ones tend to come with a serum or a conditioner that leaves hair feeling silky soft.

If you feel your hair is too fragile for an ammonia-based toner, choose toners blended with avocado oil or formulated with nettle extract instead.

These are nourishing for hair, offer dandruff control and enhance shine.

Another ingredient to seek out in your toner is keratin: this star ingredient keeps hair looking smooth and leaves it easier to manage, all while nourishing.

When Should You Use a Hair Toner?

A toner should always be used after bleaching hair.

A toning shampoo can be used as soon as you like after bleaching.

For an ammonia-based toner, try to wait a few days after bleaching so that your hair has a little time to recuperate.

How Do You Apply Toner?

When you have decided on the type and color of your toner, the process of application is straightforward. Here’s how to tone your bleached hair and keep it natural-looking:

You will need

  • Toner
  • Developer
  • Applicator brush
  • Moisturizing shampoo
  • Deep conditioner


  1. Mix your toner with a developer in the ratio 1:2.

2. Using an applicator brush, work the mixture into your hair, focusing specifically on the areas with unwanted undertones.

3. Leave the toner to work for up to 45 minutes, then rinse, wash with a moisturizing shampoo and use a deep conditioner.

To keep your blonde looking natural and healthy, refresh with a toner every 6-8 weeks. Over time, color-treated hair fades, and bleach blonde hair becomes brassy as it oxidizes.

How to Maintain Toned Hair

How to Maintain Toned Hair

Your beautifully toned hair can be affected by a myriad of external factors including:

  • Air pollution
  • Hard water
  • Sun exposure
  • Chlorine and other pool chemicals

There are a few things you can do to help maintain your toner:

Color-treated Hair Care

Use a professional haircare range to help protect your color-treated hair. There are plenty on the market to choose from.

This helps to maintain your color for longer than regular shampoo and is formulated to keep hair well-nourished and moisturized.

Sun Protection

Another way to help sustain your toner is to protect your hair from being over-exposed to the sun:

  • Use a protecting spray to provide conditioning protection
  • Wear a hat
  • Limit time spent in direct sunlight

Protect Hair While Heat Styling

Toner can fade as a result of frequent heat styling. Always use a heat-protectant spray when you use heat to style your hair.

Blended with oils, these sprays nourish the hair and enhance shine.

Condition, Condition, Condition

Show your hair some love and prolong your toner by using a leave-in conditioner or a hair mask every so often.

There are plenty out there to buy or you can make use of things you may already have at home. For instance, try:

  1. Warm up some extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Massage this into the scalp with your hair flipped upside down.
  3. Wrap hair in a shower cap or plastic bag and leave for about 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with warm water then shampoo and condition.

There you have it: all you need to know in order to manage your blonde hair using toner and achieve the exact beautiful shade you are looking for.

Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.