In the past, changing your natural hair color was something people would avoid discussing. Whether it was to cover grey or to make it look like you were born a blonde, the goal was to make your hair look natural. And god forbid anyone finds out otherwise!
Nowadays, that has completely changed. Wild hair colors are everywhere, and the quality and availability of products have greatly improved.
But the question that begs to be asked is: how much is too much? How often can I tone my blonde hair? Typically you can tone your hair every 6-8 weeks, but it depends on the type of toner and a few factors that we will discuss below.
The old-school, one-tone permanent hair dye is mostly a thing of the past. Hair color trends now emphasize the depth of color, complementing highlights and the illusion of movement.
You can’t do that if you’re starting with dark hair. The only way to go if your hair is not blonde is to make it blonde… or at least a shade light enough for a toner to make any difference.
Toner is the key to maintaining your polished new look.
In this article, we’ll look at how often you can tone your hair in order to maintain hair health. We’ll also go over the difference between hair bleach, hair dyes, and hair toners. Let’s dive in!
The Difference Between Dye, Bleach & Hair Toner
If you are looking to cover grey or significantly change the color of your hair long-term, hair dye is what you need. As it is permanent, it does not wash out.
It’s also important to note that as new hair growth starts to come in, you’ll see the roots. The further the shade of dye from your natural color, the more visible those roots will be.
Dye is usually a two-step process, involving a color pigment and a developer. These ingredients don’t last long after they’re combined, so be careful to follow the proper steps. In certain circumstances, you may be able to reuse open dyes, as long as they’re not mixed.
The developer consists primarily of ammonia or hydrogen peroxide.
Ammonia is an extremely harsh chemical that works by stripping the layers of the hair’s proteins so that the dye can be absorbed into the hair shaft.
Hydrogen peroxide-based developers work by supplying oxygen gas to develop the color molecules and create a change in the natural hair color. Though less damaging than ammonia-based developers, hydrogen peroxide causes oxidative stress.
This can age your hair and can cause hair loss.
Bleach should be used if you have already dyed your hair and want a lighter color. Previously-dyed hair cannot be dyed a lighter color. Because bleaching involves removing the color pigment from the hair, it is very drying.
Those with darker hair who want to achieve a light shade of blonde may have to do several applications. Most of the latest hair color trends that feature balayage effects and multi-colored highlights all use toner and/or dye to achieve those results.
You can’t get there on darker hair without bleaching it first. See also: toner or dye after bleaching hair?
A toner is different from dye and bleach in that it just coats the exterior of the hair strand, rather than penetrating the hair structure. Toner is meant to be applied to hair that is already blonde.
It’s not designed to achieve a dramatic color transformation, and it won’t cover grey hair. Trying to apply a toner to dark hair won’t do anything. Toner is similar to semi-permanent dye, but there are differences.
Toner is used to refresh lightened hair and cover up unwanted colors. Fading dye and environmental factors like sun exposure, chlorine, can make hair look flat and lifeless. Toner brings the color back to life!
Toner, mixed with a developer, is also often used after bleaching to neutralize the brassy, red tones, yellow/orange tones present. This will leave you with a more ashy or platinum shade of blonde, which also makes it the perfect blank canvas for applying a different hair color so you attain the desired results.
How Long Should I Wait to Tone Bleached Hair?
This depends on the condition of your hair after bleaching. As long as your hair is in good condition and there is no sign of damage, you can tone it the same day.
But if your hair is fragile and it looks or feels dry, damaged, or has any breakage after bleaching, hold off. You should wait at least 10 days to use the toner, if not longer.
While you’re waiting for your hair to recover, use a deep hydration treatment every three or four days.
How Often Can I Tone My Blonde Hair?
Even permanent color fades a bit over time. Bleached hair in particular will develop brassy tones as it oxidizes. If you are using toner on its own to invigorate and rejuvenate your color, aim to refresh every 6-8 weeks. Though this will depend on the type of toner, and whether or not it is a shampoo.
This will keep your hair looking great.
If you are using a toner as part of routinely changing your hair color, go slow. The other products you are using will cause significantly more damage to your hair than the toner itself.
What Kind of Toner Should I Use?
This depends on the tones you’re targeting in particular. Let’s break it down:
Golden and Brassy Undertones
Whether natural or bleached, if you’re looking to get rid of those golden or brassy undertones, a purple-tinted toner a purple shampoo should do the trick.
Amika Bust Your Brass Blonde Purple Shampoo received top honors in Glamour’s April 2021 list of Best Purple Shampoos.
Toners that have more of a blue tint will neutralize those unwanted orange hues, commonly a result of dark hair having been bleached. So if you are going for a more dramatic change than simply evening out your overall colour, you will want to use a developer mixed with your toner.
A volume 20 developer is recommended, mixed with the toner at a ratio of 1 part toner to 2 parts developer.
Most hairstylists will tell you that, especially for dark hair that’s been lightened, using toner without a developer will not achieve the results you’re looking for.
That said, there are some new products on the market that make claims to the contrary.
DpHue Cool Brunette Shampoo is among Cosmopolitan’s top 10 Best Hair Toners for 2021 and is said to “work as well as a toner, without the damage or the fuss of mixing with a developer”.
Toner on its own is relatively non-harmful to your hair. You can use it every 6-8 weeks for the most part. But if you are in the habit of changing your hair color on a regular basis, the other products usually used in conjunction with toner, like bleach and developer, are far more damaging.
So the question you really should be asking is: “how often should I be using the harshest product in my coloring routine?”