Can You Put Toner on Dry Hair? Will That Help or Hurt?

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Bleach is amazing, and can turn even the darkest hair to a luscious blonde. But it doesn’t always land on the shade of blonde you want. Due to this, you’ll almost always need to use toners or toning shampoo to dial in the tones of your blonde hair.

Often dark hair that gets bleached ends up with an orange cast, or with awkward brassy tones that need to be removed. You remove these with toners and toning shampoos. But many of us didn’t aren’t Estheciains, and don’t really know how to use these products.

Can you put toner on dry hair?

Some people do put toner on dry hair. But you can run into issues with this, so be careful.

Hair toners add hair color pigment and counteract any unwanted color tones. Many products are considered toners due to the presence of pigments that control the tone of the hair.

Note: if you don’t know what you’re doing, we recommend you use toning shampoos instead of hair toners. They are much easier to use if you’re not a professional stylist.

We’ll go over hair toning on dryer hair, and give you some tips to get your color dialed in.


Can You Put Toner on Dry Hair? What about Wet Hair?

Hair Toner Before and After

Almost all toners on the market are designed to be applied to damp hair, neither dry nor soaking wet.

Almost all toners on the market are designed to be applied to damp hair, neither dry nor soaking wet.

To achieve this, dry gently with a towel. You’re looking for a level of dryness of somewhere around 70%, so aim for partly damp.

Many assume toning wet hair is better due to better toner distribution. 

But this is not the case.

Putting Toner on Wet, Saturated Hair

Wet hair is naturally saturated, which limits the amount of additional liquid it can absorb at a given time.

Therefore, wet hair impacts the amount of toner the hair can absorb. As a result, your toner will be diluted, and therefore less effective. If you have slightly damp hair, you’ll be in the best position to get beautiful results.

Toning on wet hair also affects how long the toner will last. For example, a toner that is made to last for at least eight weeks may end up lasting for only two.

This is because applying on wet hair causes the toner to slide off, therefore not getting to the hair.

Toning on wet hair affects how long the toner will last. A toner made to last for eight weeks may end up lasting only two.

Applying Toner to Dry Hair

Applying toner on completely dry hair is also not advisable. Dry hair does not absorb toner fully, leading to reduced absorption by the hair. You’ll end up with poor, spotty results.

Additionally, the toner will not last long as if you had applied it to damp hair.

It’s all about the balance. You don’t want saturated hair, nor do you want bone-dry hair. Aim for somewhere in the middle, but closer to dry than wet.

Can Toners Damage Your Hair?

Hair Toner Before and After

Stay on the lookout for damage to your hair after toning. This is because toners contain some chemicals that can alter the overall structure of the hair. However, this does not mean that all toner products damage hair structure internally.

Toners that do not require mixing with developers are considered harmless, while those that are mixed with developers may carry several risks. For example, they open up cuticles and may lead to loss of strength, breakage, or dryness.

Toners that do not require mixing with developers are harmless, while those that are mixed with developers may carry risks. 

Toning Shampoos

If you don’t know what you’re doing (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t), you should stick to using toning shampoo instead of hair toners. It’s much harder to screw up with a toning shampoo, while you can screw up with toners.

Toning shampoos all come in colors like blue, purple, and green.

The main thing you need to know about toning shampoo is which color tone you want to remove. You use the opposite color shampoo from the toner you want to remove, and they cancel each other out.

The nice thing about toning shampoo is that the process is much closer to shampooing your hair, rather than dying your hair. You need to regularly re-apply toning shampoo.

We’ve written a whole lot about toning shampoos, see:

Alternatiely, go to your stylist for toning, or you could even get a consultation with your stylist if you do want to try a true toner.

Signs of Hair Toner Damage

The following are some signs of damage caused by hair toners.

  • Breaking off of hair
  • Split ends
  • Curls that don’t bounce
  • Lifeless and dull hair
  • Brittle and frizzy hair

Effects of Frequent Hair Toning

Using hair toning products frequently can expose you to several risks. However, understanding these effects can help you avoid them and achieve the hair of your dream. They include the following:

1. Can Damage Your Hair

Frequent use of toning products can lead to damage such as breakage and split ends. In addition, it makes hair look frizzy and dull or makes it feel rough. However, this damage should not discourage you from toning (again: much easier to use toning shampoo).

Instead, work hard to bring life back into your hair by using deep conditioners for treatment. Also, reduce heat usage when styling up hair; this will improve its health over time.

2. Causes Hair Fall Outs

Hair fall outs are more extreme damage that occurs due to too much toning. Hair loss occurs when hair becomes too weak to hold when styling or when doing other maintenance procedures.

Hair does not necessarily fall out in clumps (so it’s not as bad as bleach fails), but any form of hair loss is bad!

You can avoid all this by following instructions on how to apply toners correctly. 

3. Causes Hair Dry Out

Extremely dry hair is a major risk of frequent hair toning. If you notice slightly drier hair after toning, then that could be a sign of dry outs. This is caused by the opening up of cuticles before the toner pigment is deposited. You should stop toning if you notice any dry outs. Continued toning leads to even more dry hair leading to breakage and split ends.

Focus on always keeping hair hydrated to maintain perfect health. Use hair conditioners after washing and rinsing well. You may be forced to stop toning for a few months to allow your hair to regain full strength and health. 

Tips for Better Toning

With the correct toning tips, you can avoid hair damage. The following are some of the tips you can follow.

1. Stick to Toning Shampoos

We can’t repeat it enough: if you don’t know what you’re doing, grab a purple or blue shampoo and use that to adjust the tone of your hair. It’s much harder to screw up with this, and if you do screw up, you just wait a bit and the tone will revert.

See also: Hair Toner vs Purple Shampoo: Which Should You Use?

2. Use the Correct Developers

By selecting appropriate developers for mixing with toners, you can prevent your hair from several issues. Select the exact developer recommended by the manufacturer. Ten and twenty-volume developers are the most commonly advised to use by manufacturers.

Ten-volume developers do not open hair cuticles, therefore less possible damage. However, the developers do not last that long. On the other hand, twenty-volume developers open up cuticles to allow the toner to get in quickly.

However, these developers may lead to damage to your hair by making it brittle.

3. Avoid Over Processing Hair

Over-processing is applying a toner that requires a developer on over-bleached hair. It can also mean leaving a toner on hair for longer instead of the indicated time on the package. Set a timer after applying a toner, or rinse it off after half an hour.

4. Avoid Cheap Products

Cheap is not always good. Stay away from cheap toners, as most of them contain harmful chemicals that may damage hair. Not all toners work the same hence the difference in quality. The damage can be even more significant if you are not careful of the chemicals used in these cheap products.

5. Use Ammonia-Free Toners

Ammonia-based toners have more harsh effects than ammonia-free ones. Ammonia-based toners have chemicals that can penetrate your hair and alter the structure for them to work. As a result, they give good results but may cause brittle and dry hair.

Not much ammonia is used in ammonia-based toners; however, associated risks with ammonia are still present.


Toner should be applied on damp hair, neither too dry or too wet. You want it to be damp, but still dry enough that it can absorb more liquid.

Toning your hair according to the above tips will keep it healthy and always looking sharp. You can reduce a significant amount of damage caused by the inappropriate use of toners by choosing toning shapoos, or consulting with your stylist to make sure the toner you’re using is appropriate.

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).