We get a lot of questions from clients about what toners are. As Hair Stylists we use the term so often that sometimes we take for granted our knowledge. We just head off to mix up your custom formula and breeze back to apply it without taking a pause each time to explain. I thought I would take that pause here so hopefully next time while you wait ever so patiently, laid back in the sink with that extra towel under your neck for comfort, you’ll remember exactly what a toner is and when you need one! Don’t worry though…..we’ll be there to happily explain it all again!
When are toners used?
Toners are used after lightening the hair. After you’ve had your foils or your balayage processed, shampooed out and your hair towel dried, you will often hear us say ‘I’m just going to go and mix the toner’. When hair is lightened it goes through a series of stages, each with their own underlying tone. These stages take time to move through (hence our favourite ’10 more minutes’ speech) and always result in warm tones of red, orange, gold and yellow before getting to the king daddy, of underlying tones which we refer to as the ‘clean slate’ (a bit more on that later).
What does a toner do?
Toners are used to change the ‘tone’ of your hair colour. See why we take explaining them for granted? A correctly formulated toner takes the naturally warm tones of red, orange, gold and yellow and either enhances or neutralizes them. That’s it. In the example to the left you can see that toner has neutralized the yellow tones and created a beautiful, cool silver effect. Since our goal at the Studio is to make your experience with us as transparent as possible we want you to understand we reach for and use a toner only when necessary.
Why would you need a toner?
If after towel drying your hair your desired colour differs from the canvas your hair has presented with after lightening, that is when we reach for a toner.
I’m going to keep this as straight forward as possible and simply say that lightening the hair from point A to point B while keeping it healthy is not easy. The reasons why your hair might not have been lightened to your target colour in one session will be addressed in an entirely different blog post about colour correction. This is why trusting your Stylist to have your best interest at heart to tell you when your target colour isn’t achievable today is very important, so we’ll just leave it at that. That’s another day……with another 1000 words…..
What is the ‘clean slate’?
As I mentioned before the king daddy of underlying tones to apply a toner to is the ‘clean slate’. The reason for this is simple – whatever tone you apply to that clean slate will be the tone you get. There is no pigment left in the hair that will interrupt the colour you are adding to it. The clean slate is a very, very pale blonde which is about the colour of the inside of a banana. Once the hair is lightened to that point (and no further to prevent damage!!) the sky’s the limit for what tone you can create. Silver, pastels pinks and blues, lilac or even more natural tones like vanilla, honey, hazelnut, butterscotch and pearl are all achievable with a clean slate. In the example to the right, the hair was pre lightened further to a clean slate and then toned to this soft, iridescent pink.
So why are you just hearing about toners now? Maybe as long time client you are wondering why are we introducing this process and are using it frequently? Toners have come a long way in the last few years. With the very popular technique of balayage in the forefront of our industry, 99% of the time toners are an absolute must after this method of lightening. Colour manufacturers have also dedicated entire new product lines to toners, improving their performance, making them gentler on the hair than in years past and providing entire tonal ranges that make colours options endless. This has left the door wide open for us as Stylists to carefully test and measure their performance and in turn provide these high performing products to you as the client.
I hope this has answered any questions you may have and if not please pop a comment below and I’d be happy to follow-up!
Thanks for listening,