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How Long to Leave Toner on Brassy Hair | All Types of Hair

If dyeing your locks has left them brassy, applying toner can make a world of difference. But how long to leave toner on brassy hair? 

How Long to Leave Toner on Brassy Hair

Treatment length depends on a few different factors. Most people will benefit from anywhere between fifteen to forty-five minutes of treatment.

However, you’ll need to consider the following:

  • Your starting color and desired tone
  • Your hair’s health
  • The toner brand’s instructions

Ready to learn more? Keep reading to discover our in-depth toner guide. 

What Is Hair Toner?

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Hair toner is a product that adjusts hair color. It typically works best for people who have gone blonde, but brunettes and redheads may also benefit from using it.

Toner is the final step in coloring treatments, acting as a corrector while keeping the rest of the color intact. But why would you need a corrector after a dye job? Most people have red and orange pigments in their hair.

Bleach and dyes are less effective at coloring these pigments, which may leave strange-looking brassy tones after a dye job. Stylists use toners to neutralize brassiness and achieve a natural look. 

You may also want to use a toner weeks after dyeing your hair, as brassiness occurs over time. Blondes are especially prone to brassiness.

Once you wash your hair, the warmer tones begin to appear and you lose that cool blonde shade. Thankfully, the market is chock full of toners and toning shampoos that can help you achieve a more natural look. 

The Three Types of Hair Toner

Before attempting to use toner at home, you should know that there are three types: permanent, demi-permanent, and semi-permanent. Let’s take a look at the difference between them. 


As the name implies, permanent toners are the longest-lasting of the three types. They also achieve the most dramatic changes.

If you need to completely rid your hair of color, a permanent toner can help you do so. However, you should proceed with caution and consult a hair professional before using one.  


The next most powerful toner is a demi-permanent toner. These toners are ammonia based, so they penetrate the hair cuticle. They provide results lasting anywhere from twenty to twenty-four washes. 


Semi-permanent toners are the easiest to use at home. You’ve probably heard of purple and blue shampoos, which are popular toning products. They work well but are delicate on the hair, making them an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to use toner at home. 

When Is the Best Time to Use Toner?

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When you go to a salon, the hair colorist uses toner directly after your treatment. But when you’re coloring your hair at home, you might wonder if there is an optimal time to use it. Should you use toner right after dying your hair?

The next day? The next week? In most cases, you’ll get the most benefit from using a toner immediately following at-home bleaching.

The cuticle will still be open from the bleach, so the toner can penetrate the cuticle and your results will last longer. However, one exception is if your hair is over-processed. In this case, using a permanent or demi-permanent toner right after dying your hair can cause damage.

If your hair feels dull, lifeless, and frizzy, it’s best to wait a day or two. You may even want to wait longer depending on how damaged your hair is.  

How Long to Leave Toner on Brassy Hair: Tips for Success

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give you an exact number of how long to leave toner on brassy hair. As mentioned above, you will need anywhere from fifteen minutes to forty-five minutes. Some toners need only five minutes!

But remember to never exceed forty-five minutes, unless you want to seriously damage your hair. So how do you narrow the time window?

There’s some trial and error involved, but it’s always best to start on the conservative end and pay close attention to the brand’s instructions. You should also consider factors like your hair’s health and the tone you hope to achieve.

Here are some tips for successful at-home toning. 

Consider Your Starting Hair Color

Your hair’s starting color is the most critical factor to consider. Whether your hair is light or dark determines how long you should leave the toner in. The general rule of thumb is that lighter hair needs less exposure to a toner for color correction. Darker hair typically needs more.  

Hair Health

It’s no secret that dyeing and bleaching is rough on your locks. Most toners are less harmful than coloring products, but you should still be careful when using them. If you think your hair health is compromised, proceed with the utmost caution.

Hair that’s brittle, dry, or frizzy should receive the shortest treatment possible–no longer than fifteen minutes. Not sure if your hair’s healthy enough?

To gauge hair health, test a strand of hair first (we discuss how below). If things seem really damaged, you may want to hold off altogether or see a professional for their recommendation.  

Read the Instructions on the Packaging

The final step may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. The toner manufacturer should provide instructions on how long to leave the product in your hair. They won’t always be able to give you an exact number, but it never hurts to read the instructions.

How to Use Toner

So you’ve chosen the right type of toner. Now you have to learn how to use it. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s mixing instructions, but in most cases, you will mix the toner with the developer using a 2:1 ratio (developer to toner). 

The next step is to perform a strand test. Performing a strand test first is essential, as it can help you assess treatment times and lets you know if your hair can withstand toning. Apply toner to a single strand and start a timer.

Keep an eye on the hair and take note of when the brassy tones have disappeared. Use this time as a starting point for the rest of your treatment. Next, work the rest of the mixture into your hair using an applicator brush.

Pay special attention to those areas with incorrect undertones. Let it sit for the time you have determined using the strand test. 

Once the time’s up, rinse the toner out of the hair. Be sure to follow up with a moisturizing shampoo and deep conditioner to soothe your locks. Bonus points if these are formulated for color-treated hair. 

How to Maintain Toned Hair

Brassiness will always show up over time, but the following tips can help you maintain toned hair longer:

  • Apply UV protectant. Your hair needs protection from the sun just like your skin does. Applying a UV spray will help prevent the sun from fading your color prematurely. 
  • Avoid the pool. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but pools are the enemy of color-treated hair. They cause fading and may change your hair color entirely. If you love to swim, a swim cap can help minimize these effects. 
  • Minimize the use of heating tools. You probably already knew this one, but overuse of heating tools damages your locks. If you can’t reduce your use, invest in a good heat protectant. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

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Sofia Zhuravetc/Shutterstock

To complete this guide about the use of toner, check out the answers to common questions next. 

How soon after toning my hair can I tone it again?

Perhaps one toner application still hasn’t gotten you the color you want. If so, you can tone your hair again approximately two weeks later. The best practice is to wait around two to four weeks between applications.

Do I wash my hair after toner?

After home treatments, you should wash your hair immediately. Choose a shampoo specifically formulated for color-treated hair, and thoroughly lather the product from roots to ends. Be careful not to use too-hot or too-cold water; warm water is best.

What happens if you leave toner in too long?

Leaving toner in your hair too long can cause some nasty consequences. You may end up with a blue or violet color, or your locks may become oversaturated with pigment and shed color for weeks. You might also end up with extreme damage that only a haircut can fix.

Do you use shampoo to wash out toner?

If you fail to achieve the desired results with toner, the right shampoo will help strip the product from your locks. Wash your hair with a clarifying or dandruff shampoo as soon as possible. You may have to wash it several times to get the toner out.

Does toner ruin your hair?

Deposit-only toners are harmless, but toners that you mix with a developer are a different story. They open the hair’s cuticle, which can lead to damage (especially if your hair is already compromised). Some issues include frizz, dryness, and breakage.

So, How Long Do You Leave Toner on Brassy Hair?

Treatment times vary from fifteen minutes (or less!) to up to forty-five minutes max. If in doubt, it’s never a bad idea to visit your local salon for professional advice. Happy toning!