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Do You Apply Toner to Wet or Dry Hair? | It’s Simple!

Toner is a necessary part of maintaining hair color, so it’s important to know how to use it. Do you apply toner to wet or dry hair? Find out in the guide below. 

What Is Hair Toner?

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Hair toner is the key to ensuring your dyed hair stays the same color as when you first had it done. It helps prevent fading and for those with dyed blonde hair, it prevents hair from going brassy or yellow. 

Hair toner is a type of non-permanent hair dye, but rather than changing the shade of your hair, toner changes the tone of your hair. The tone of your hair is either warm, cool, or neutral. 

A cool toner can neutralize warm tones so that, for example, brown hair can be true to color rather than taking on an orange tint which often happens after bleaching. 

A warm toner does the opposite, helping the hair adopt a more golden color. Many people with dyed blonde hair use warm toner to give a golden tone to their faded hair. 

What Is Hair Toner Made Of?

There are generally two types of toner you can use, ammonia-based toner or purple shampoo. Ammonia-based toner contains ammonia and is typically used together with a developer

Purple shampoo is a type of shampoo that contains a slight purple pigment, which helps neutralize warm colors. Purple shampoo is often used by people with dyed blonde hair to neutralize the yellow or brassy color that appears in their hair.

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Do You Apply Toner to Wet or Dry Hair

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The short answer is that toner should be applied to damp hair, not dry or wet. It is best to apply toner to damp hair because it ensures that the toner is absorbed without risking damage to your hair. 

You should aim for your hair to be about 70% dry, where it isn’t completely dry to the touch but isn’t dripping wet. A good way to know whether you’re good to go is to grab a chunk of your hair with your hand firmly.

If your hand comes back completely dry, you’ll need to add some more water, and if you end up with a trickle of water on the floor from grabbing your hair, you’ll need to wait a bit longer for it to dry until damp. 

The exception to this rule is purple shampoo.

Unlike regular toner, purple shampoo is used like regular shampoo (though you may leave it in your hair for a few minutes longer), meaning your hair is completely wet when used. 

Why It Matters

Dying your hair may mean exposing yourself to harmful chemicals. Using a toner can mean maintaining your hair color for longer and fewer trips to the salon. A toner can also help you achieve the hair color you want.

When hair is bleached, it can often take on orange or yellow tones that are not your ideal hair color.

For many people attempting to dye their hair blonde, the color can come out a lot more yellow than you want, and toner will bring you the color you want. Here are some other tips to avoid damage to your hair. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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Here are some common questions people ask about applying toner to hair. 

What happens if you apply toner to wet hair?

Wet hair is already saturated with water, meaning it will be hard for the toner to be absorbed. The toner formula is meant to be used with slightly damp hair, so using it on wet hair will mess with the expected ratios.

When using toner in wet hair, you may dilute the toner, and will not be effective in neutralizing the hair tones as expected. 

In addition, wet hair can lead to toner accumulating unevenly. It is typical for the toner to gather at the tips when used on wet hair, meaning all the formula concentrates at the ends. 

What happens if you apply toner to dry hair?

If you apply toner to dry hair, you risk damaging your hair and drying it out. When hair is wet, the cuticle is open so it can absorb products. When hair is dry, the cuticle is closed, and the toner cannot be absorbed properly and evenly. 

If toner is applied to dry hair, it will be absorbed in patches rather than evenly. Because the product is absorbed in patches, different areas of the hair will tone at different rates.

A crucial part of using toner on hair is allowing it to sit for the proper amount of time. If the toner absorbs at different rates, there is no way to properly time the treatment.  

How long does toner last?

Toner that is applied by a professional in a salon tends to last around five to six weeks. Toner shampoos that are used at home are typically used two to three times per week. If using an at-home ammonia-based toner, results should last around three to five weeks. 

Does toner damage your hair?

When properly used, toner should not damage your hair. Many people experience issues when they either apply toner to dry hair or leave the toner on the hair for too long. If toner is applied to dry hair, it will absorb unevenly and dry your hair.

If toner is on the hair for too long, it can cause issues like breakage, excessive frizz, and split ends. You should always follow the instructions for your specific toner product completely, paying attention to the time limit.

Applying toner too regularly also risks damage to your hair. Professional toners applied in-salon are recommended to have a reapplication once every six weeks.

If using an ammonia-based toner at home, you should try to ensure you are spacing out your toner treatments, waiting no less than five weeks between applications. 

If your hair is already damaged (either by hot tools or dye), you should wait until it has recovered to apply any hair dye or toner. Toner does not typically cause any hair damage, but exposing already damaged hair to a toner treatment may cause additional damage. 

How can you make your hair toner last?

There are some ways you can help your hair toner, and its effects last as long as possible. Here are some of the best tips for making your toner last:

  • When applying toner, make sure your hair is clean, as the toner absorbs better into clean hair.
  • After applying toner, rinse with cold (not hot) water.
  • Avoid washing your hair with shampoo for three days after toner application.
  • Consider using a toner shampoo to limit the number of professional toner applications.

So, Do You Apply Toner to Wet or Dry Hair?

Toner can often seem like magic because of the way it can subtly transform hair color. When properly applied to damp hair, toner can neutralize the unwanted color tones of your hair and keep your dyed hair looking fresh out of the salon.

Toner should not be applied to dry hair or wet hair, only on slightly damp hair. The key things to keep in mind when applying hair toner are to follow the directions of the product closely and try to take care of your hair however you can.