Toners: Are They Really Necessary?

Are toners really necessary? In short, yes. That is to say, if you want the best possible tone or level of dimension for your highlights. In all of my sixteen years of doing hair, I can count on one hand how many clients are eligible for “no toner” hair. Any guesses why? It’s because in order to skip the toner, the client has to be so blonde naturally, that raw bleach wouldn't able to create a lot of dimension for them.

Toners are a necessary step when your finished highlights look orange-y, brassy, or too contrasting next to the existing dark from a natural base hair color. Luckily, your stylist has been trained on how to spot that perfect blonde/lightened hair for your skin tone and they’ll make sure that it enhances your natural color. In this blog, I’ll explain the three most common toners.

I’ll use the analogy of tinted saran wrap from the holiday parties straight from the 80’s, parchment paper (otherwise known as wax paper), and aluminum foil. Sit tight, it’ll all make sense in no time!


Think of these toners like the good ‘ol red and green saran wrap. These are conventional toners, also called glosses. They are designed to sit on the hair shaft and don’t have the chemical capacity to lift the cuticle (lighten the hair); therefore, they don’t stay on the hair for long and fade quickly.

They are also called “deposit-only” toners. Similar to cellophane from times of yore, they tend to be more translucent. Dimensional blondes like Jennifer Aniston or Gigi Hadid are toned with a gloss.


Demi-Permanent Toner

Next up is a demi-permanent toner, which is like wax paper. This toner will be more opaque than a gloss and it'll have the ability to lift the cuticle, although not very high; but nevertheless, it will last a bit longer than a gloss. Think of hair like Mila Kunis or Penelope Cruz.


Permanent Color for Basebumps

This type of toner is also referred to as a basebump; it has ammonia and has the ability to lighten the natural color of your hair. This is more like aluminum foil rather than wax paper or saran wrap. There are specific clients that this toner works best for, and not all color lines have the capability to do both lifting as depositing at the same time. This type of color is used to create that bright blonde without too much dimension. Think of Reese Witherspoon or Cameron Diaz.


I hope this all makes sense for you. Every stylist is different in their approach for toning your hair, as there’s more than one way to achieve a result; but the biggest take away from this, is to communicate and understand why your stylist suggests one toner over the other. Have an open and honest conversation with your stylist. Make sure you understand what toners are available to you and why.