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Should I Tone My Hair Before Dying It? | Find Out Here!

If you’ve decided to do a DIY hair dye, it’s likely got you wondering—should I tone my hair before dying it? No, you shouldn’t tone your hair before dying it, and we’ll teach you why.

Should You Tone Your Hair Before Dying It?

Hair toner works to neutralize brassy tones, and you should use it after you dye your hair, given that you won’t know where the brassy areas are until after several shampoo cycles. We’ll walk you through the importance of toning, including:

  • Benefits of toner
  • How to tone dyed hair
  • When to use toner
  • Picking the right toning product

Although toning is a crucial step to take after dying your hair, it’s easy to get the timing wrong. Read on to learn how to tone your hair so that your hair dye looks natural and healthy.

Understanding How Hair Toning Works

Woman pouring purple hair toner into a glass dish for a piece titled should I tone my hair before dying it


When you use hair dye, the color that follows is often not the one you want. That’s where hair toner comes into play. Using toner for dyed hair is a hair salon 101 technique for ensuring you have the beautiful color outcome you were expecting.

The Purpose of Hair Toner

Hair toner works to neutralize warm and brassy tones that show through your hair after dying or bleaching it. These colors appear because, except for people with extremely light blonde hair, most of us have hair with red and orange pigment.

In the case of dying hair, the ammonia in dye augments orange and red pigments. So, when you apply hair dye, these red and orange colors don’t leave your hair but end up standing out even more. 

For this reason, hair toner works to blend your new color with your hair’s natural tones so that you have a flattering and even color to your hair. In some cases, toners have a small amount of ammonia, while many others contain no ammonia at all.

Read Next: What’s the Most Common Hair Color?

Benefits of Toning Hair

Toner offers numerous benefits to hair aside from its all-important neutralizing properties. By using toner, you’ll help your hair:

  • Achieve more shine
  • Look healthier
  • Have a more natural-looking color

Furthermore, you can concentrate toner on parts of your hair that have a particularly brassy color. Targeting toner at the roots is also helpful for controlling the color shade you want, especially when using dyes. That way, you offer your hair some color dimension instead of it looking like a stark, solid color.

When to Use Toner

You should always use a toner after dying your hair, never before doing so. In fact, it’s best to wait to tone your hair until at least the fourth wash. That’s because dye takes time to latch on to your hair as it works to settle deep into its cuticles.

Once that happens, you’ll be able to spot the brassy areas where you’ll need to use toner. Also, toner will gradually wear out of your hair over time.

Water and the sun can both cause hair to oxidize. So, you may need to apply toner a time or two again before your next hair-dying session. While it’s impossible to avoid water on your hair, keeping your hair out of the sun as much as possible is wise.

In addition to the sun accelerating the oxidation process, UVB radiation causes hair protein loss, and UVA radiation causes hair color changes. Those are definitely not qualities you want in your dyed hair!

What Forms Does Toner Come In?

Toner comes in a variety of styles. Examples include:

  • Tinted shampoo
  • Tinted conditioner
  • Demi-permanent colors
  • Glosses

The idea is that toner physically changes the color of your hair, helping dye have a balanced appearance against the natural color of your hair. 

So, when using these toner products, such as purple shampoo, to counteract the brassy effect on blonde or gray hair, you can expect them to last three to four weeks before you need to reapply.

How to Tone Dyed Hair

Now that you know the answer to the question, “Should I tone my hair before dying it?” is “no” since you need to wait to tone until after dying it, below are the steps to using a toner.

1. Plan Out the Areas That Need Toning

You already know that you should wait for three shampoo cycles before toning your recently dyed hair. So, during this time, take notice of where brassy areas appear as the color starts to settle in. Those are the areas you’ll want to target with your toner.

Read Next: What Is Brassiness in Hair?

2. Shampoo Your Hair

Every toner needs clean hair to work effectively—you don’t want excess oil and dirt getting in the way of the toner soaking into your cuticles where it can be effective at neutralizing brassy shades.

When choosing a shampoo, we recommend an all-natural kind that’s free of parabens, formaldehyde, sulfates, and other harmful chemicals.

Science shows that these can have adverse effects on health, with a notable link between formaldehyde and cancer. After getting out of the shower, take a towel to your hair, but don’t dry it all the way.

3. Prepare the Toner

Toners come in a variety of styles. However, we’re assuming that you’re going all out using a salon-level variety. In this case, you’ll need to mix your toner with a volume developer. The ratio should be one part toner to two parts volume developer.

We encourage you to wear gloves when mixing and applying toners. The salon-level toners are potent, so protecting your hands is crucial.

4. Apply the Toner

Now is the time to let the toning magic begin. Run a brush through your hair with the toner—a brand new paintbrush will do if you have it lying around. 

While it’s safe to put most toners on all parts of your hair without worrying about it turning your hair a strange color (with the exception of leaving purple and blue toners on blonde hair too long), you’ll want to focus on the areas that need it most.

Read Next: How to Get Toner Out of Hair

5. Let It Set, Then Rinse

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to leave a high-quality toner on your hair for hours to get it to work. Instead, letting it sit for 10 – 45 minutes is plenty of time for it to work its magic. 

We encourage you to read the toner’s bottle to see the time recommendation, as each brand is different. After this time passes, hop back in the shower and shampoo your hair again before rinsing away the toner.

6. Use a Deep Conditioner

One of the only downsides to using a toner is that it has a tendency to dry out your hair. For this reason, it’s important not to leave it on your hair past the time stated on the bottle. Otherwise, you could end up damaging your hair and making it brittle. 

So, follow up your rinse by applying a high-quality deep conditioner. Like your shampoo, aim to purchase a deep conditioner with all-natural ingredients so that you don’t undo the soft, supple, and shiny qualities that toner can add to your hair.

Read Next: How to Deep Condition Your Hair

Choosing the Best Toner

Person helping answer should I tone my hair before dying it and pulling product off the shelf

Ravil Sayfullin/Shutterstock

Many toners exist, given how many different hair types and dyes there are. So, when choosing a toner for your hair, you’ll need to pull out a color wheel.

It may sound silly, but that wheel you learned about in your grade school art class has real-life use cases for figuring out what hair toner to use. Best of all, the process is easy—find your hair color on the color wheel, then choose the color on the opposite side of the wheel to use as a toner.

Toners for Brunettes

If your brown-dyed hair is starting to show signs of orange, the color blue is on the opposite side of the wheel. So, a blue toner will be the most effective for correcting the issue. 

Toners for Blondes

Hair dyed blonde is especially notorious for needing toning, as brassy colors tend to show up more strongly than darker-colored hair. Purple toner is ideal for preventing blonde hair from undergoing oxidation.

Toners for Redheads

If you dyed your hair red, green shampoo is the best option for you to ensure your color stays the brilliant red you intended it to be.


Bronding is the concept of using a combination of dye, highlights, and toner to create a highlight and lowlight effect all in one. It’s an advanced technique that requires a colored toner that varies among different hair colors, which is why you should get it done at a salon.

Frequently Asked Questions

You arrived wondering, “Should I tone my hair before dying it?” But now, the information here might have sparked more questions. Below are some answers to the most common ones we receive:

Do you apply toner to wet or dry hair?

You should always apply toner to wet hair. However, it shouldn’t be dripping—hair dried about 70% of the way with a towel is ideal. The reason is that pores open more with damp hair than dry hair, and dripping hair would cause the toner to run off.

Will blonde toner affect dyed brown hair?

Although toners have a tint to encourage brassy hair to neutralize, the tint isn’t strong enough to change your dyed brown hair to a different color. Therefore, although blonde toner isn’t the best to use with dyed brown hair, it won’t turn your brown hair blonde.

How do you know if your hair toner is working?

You’ll know your hair toner is working if your hair doesn’t look as brassy after applying and rinsing it. However, you should wait for at least three shampoo cycles before toning dyed hair so that the dye can absorb into your hair fibers and you can spot where the brassiness occurs.

What happens if you leave toner on too long?

If you leave toner on too long, your hair could become dry and brittle. Furthermore, purple toner has extra-potent properties. So, there’s a possibility that it’ll temporarily give light-colored hair a slight purple hue.

What do you do when your hair turns blue after dying it blonde?

Seeing blue hair after dying it blonde is alarming, but you can reverse this effect by using a pastel orange toner. You may need to repeat the process of applying the toner and rinsing it out a few times, depending on how much blue toner is in your hair.

So, Should I Tone My Hair Before Dying It?

Toning hair is crucial to prevent the natural red and orange tint that occurs in most hair from turning brassy after dying it as a result of oxidation. However, you should do it after dying it, not before.

Many options exist for toning your dyed hair, from salon-level toners to shampoos and conditioners. By maintaining a toning schedule, you can enjoy richly-colored, shiny hair between salon visits.