Can You Darken Hair With Toner? Will It Help You Get the Hair Color You Desire?

Woman blowing her fringe up while holding her hair
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So you’ve dyed your hair and it’s a few shades lighter than what you wanted. You want a quick fix, an easy method to darken it.

A method that will actually work.

You may have heard that hair toner can remove unwanted hair tones. But can you darken hair with toner?

Toners remove unwanted hair tones, and if the unwanted tone is a light tone, yes, a toner would darken your hair. But usually that’s not how it works. Usually toners ligthen your hair.

In this article, we take a close look at what hair toner can do, and what it can’t do.


What is Hair Toner and Toning Shampoo?

You may have heard of purple shampoo  being used as a toner after people bleach or dye their hair. But what is toner and why do you need it?

Hair toners (more specifically, toning shampoos) are hair products that help you to correct or personalize your hair color. They can help to get rid of brassiness and unwanted hair tones.

Purple Shampoo

Brass Off

Now what is brassiness, you might ask.

Brassiness is the unwanted warm tones that can show up in colored hair. This happens when people dye their hair from black or brown to blonde or platinum. The brassy colors that usually show up in the hair strands are orange and red tones

Toners can also add shine, make your hair softer, and reduce those dreaded split ends.

Toners can also be used to bring life back into the hair that looks dull and increases the vibrance of your hair color. 

Toners can also be used to bring life back into the hair that looks dull and increases the vibrance of your hair color. 

Can You Darken Hair with Toner?

Toner is a post-color product.

Therefore, a toner is not recommended if you want to go for a darker look. Instead, you can use a hair dye 2 or 3 shades darker than your current hair color.

A toner is not recommended if you want to go for a darker look. Instead, you can use a hair dye 2 or 3 shades darker than your current hair color.

But there is a scenario where toner might darken your hair. Let’s look a bit more closely.

The Case Where Toner Will Darken Your Hair

If you’ve got light tones in your hair, and you want to cancel them out using an opposite-color toner, this could lead to darker hair. For example, a green shampoo would cancel out (lighter) red tones in brown hair. This would lead to an over all darker hair color.

Green Shampoo

The Difference Between Hair Toner And Hair Dye 

Hair dyes and hair toners both deposit color onto your hair. But they are not the same.

Hair dyes are treatments applied to change your hair’s color completely. Toners are liquid formulas that are applied to already colored hair to enhance or soften the pigment. They can somewhat be used interchangeably, but they really are different.

So when do you use toner and when do you use hair dye?

Well, according to New York City’s Salon SCK’s hair colorist, Heather Lee, when you need a more permanent color, hair dye is the best choice.

But if you’re looking for something more gentle, toners are the way to go.

You usually use toners after your hair has been color-treated. The color by toners doesn’t last as long. It lasts around four weeks or 12 shampoos.

She also says, “The main difference is the amount of hydrogen peroxide they have. Hair dye can permanently change hair color, making it either darker or lighter, and can also cover gray [hairs]. Toners or glosses are used to tweak, adjust, or neutralize unwanted tones, such as brassiness.”

Though toners can also cover gray, as well. But they can lead to gray if you’re not careful!

Here’s when you should actually use toner:

If you have bleached brown or dark blond hair, then orange hues might be seen in your hair. You can get rid of that color by using a blue toner (and not a purple toner).

Matrix Brass Off Blue Color Depositing Shampoo Neutralizes Brassy Tones in Lightened or Color Treated Hair
  • Anti Brass Toning Blue Shampoo:...
  • Multi-Tasking Properties: Professional...
  • Key Benefits: Nourishing shampoo...
  • Brass Off Collection: When used as a...
  • Suggested Use: Wearing suitable gloves,...

If you have bleached black or dark brown hair, chances are you’ve got reddish shades in your hair. To cancel them out, use a green toner.

Matrix Dark Envy Color-Depositing Green Shampoo | For Neutralizing Red Undertones in Dark Brown or Black Hair | Cool, Glossy Finish | Salon Shampoo | Packaging May Vary | 10.1 Fl. Oz. | Vegan
  • Enrich dark bases with Dark Envy....
  • Benefits: This shampoo enriches and...
  • Additional Benefits: Stylist favorite...
  • Dark Envy Collection: Using the Dark...
  • Suggested Use: Wearing suitable gloves,...

If you have bleached lighter-colored hair like blond or light blond, harsh yellow colors might become apparent in your strands. You can cancel them out by using a purple toner.

Matrix So Silver Purple Shampoo | Neutralizes Yellow Tones | Color Depositing & Toning | For Color Treated, Blonde, Grey, and Platinum Hair | Packaging May Vary | 10.1 Fl Oz | Vegan
  • Toning Purple Shampoo: So Silver color...
  • Hydrating Formula: Illuminates...
  • Key Benefits: Deposits violet pigment,...
  • Suggested Use: Wearing suitable gloves,...
  • So Silver Collection: Use So Silver...

Don’t leave your toner on for too long, though! That can completely change the color of your hair to the color of your toner. Leave it on for up to 45 minutes to get the best results.

How Can You Darken Your Hair?

So if toner can’t typically darken your hair, what can? Here are some of the ways you can darken your hair using all-natural ingredients:

1. Black Henna Powder

Black henna powder acts exactly like a hair dye. Just make a paste using water and some lemon juice and apply it to your hair. Make sure you use gloves and be extra careful to avoid your ears, neck, and forehead. Wait a couple of hours, and then rinse it all out.

Jet Black Henna Hair Color/Dye 200 Grams (2 Step Process) - The Henna Guys
  • The Henna Guys 100% Natural, Cruelty...
  • Zero Chemicals, Zero Metallic Salts
  • 1 Pack = 100 Grams of Pure Henna & 100...
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2. Mustard Oil

Warm up the oil a bit before applying it to your hair. Apply the oil from your ends, and go up to your roots. Make sure the oil is evenly distributed. Let it sit for an hour or two and wash it away. 

3. Crushed Walnut Shells

Crush up a few walnut shells to make a fine powder. Boil them in water and then strain. Use the tinted water on your hair and leave it on for an hour before rinsing it. 


Toners and toning shampoos are great methods for dialing in the exact shade of hair color you’re looking for. They cancel out unwanted tones. But they don’t usually darken your hair.

Choose a permanent or semi-permanent hair dye to go darker..

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).