Do You Use Toner Before or After Dye?

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In the past, the only way to color your hair was to either go to the salon or use a drugstore box dye.

Now, much higher-end salon products are available to the general public. The only problem with this is that most people didn’t graduate from a hair and cosmetology school where they teach you how to use these products.

In this article, we are going to sort out what toners and dye actually are and the difference between them. Do you use toner before or after dye?

That depends on what you’re trying to do! You can use toner before dye or after dye. We’ll explain below.


Toner Before or After Dye?

Hair Toner Before and After

You can use a toner before or after hair dye. It depends on the situation, and on what you’re trying to achieve.

Before we get into this in detail, it’s important to know what toner and hair dye actually are and how they work.

This will go a long way to understanding whether you should be using a toner before or after dye, for your hair.

Hair Toner vs Hair Dye

Hair Toner

A toner is different from dye in that it just coats the exterior of the hair strand, rather than penetrating the hair structure.

Toner is typically meant to be applied to blonde hair.

You will never achieve a dramatic color transformation with toner and it will not cover grey hair.

Trying to apply toner to dark hair will make little to no difference.

Toner is regularly used to simply refresh lightened hair and cover up unwanted shade variations caused by dye fading and environmental factors, like sun exposure and chlorine.

And in particular, toners are used to neutralize unwanted tones, often brassy reds or greens.

Hair Dye

Hair dye is used to cover grey or change the color of your hair for the long term.

As it is permanent, it does not wash out.

Dye involves a color pigment and a developer, which need to be combined together to form the hair dye. Use it quickly after mixing!

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 the necessary oxygen gas to develop the color molecules and create a change in the natural hair color.

Although it’s less damaging than ammonia-based developers, hydrogen peroxide causes oxidative stress which ages your hair and is very drying.

Hair dye is used to deposit color onto the hair shaft.

When to use Toner Before Dye

If you have dark hair (or have colored your hair a dark color), and you want to go a much lighter shade or you are planning on a bright, funky color, you will have to bleach your hair first.

Bleaching involves removing the color pigment from the hair. Those with darker hair wanting to achieve a lighter shade of blonde may have to do several applications.

If you have dark hair, even if you’ve bleached it blonde, you will likely still have brassy orange-looking undertones.

The best way to get your hair looking fabulous is to use toner. If your hair is in good condition, you can use toner the same day as bleaching.

Can I dye my hair after toner?

Yes, you can dye your hair after toner. Toner is not dye, and is a different process. You will be able to dye shortly after toning your hair.

Pre-toning is the process of adding a tone to the hair after bleaching and before dye to create an even, neutral color.

Think of it as a blank canvas, without unwanted brassy or orange undertones, to which you apply your hair dye.

This ensures you get the color results you are looking for.

Can you dye right after toner?

It’s recommended to wait for a few washes, as in 4-5 days, before adding dye after you’ve toned your hair. Toner usually isn’t bad for your hair, but if it’s already damaged, give it a rest.

When To Use Toner After Dye

If you already have lighter hair, then you can pretty much just dye your hair whatever color you want.

In most cases, your hair color should turn out approximately as expected.

If it turns out that the color you chose is a bit too warm for your liking, you can neutralize those warm undertones by using a toner to adjust the color.

What Kind of Toner Should I Use?

Now that you’ve figured out which category you fall into – before or after, choosing the right toner for your hair is important.

The goal with toner is to neutralize the unwanted tones. So you need to figure out what unwanted tones in your hair that you want to neutralize, so you can choose the right toner that will do the job.

Toners are designed to target specific unwanted tones. If you want to cancel out yellow or brassy tones, go for a purple-based toner, red tones are negated by green, and blue-based toners will neutralize orange tones.

You want to choose the opposite color on the color wheel.

Here are some of our picks for the best blue toning shampoos for neutralizing orange undertones.

Best Blue Toning Shampoos For Neutralizing Orange Undertones

Here are some of our picks for the best purple toning shampoos for neutralizing yellow/brassy undertones.

Best Purple Shampoos for Neutralizing Yellow/Brassy Undertones

Toning shampoos should be used once a week for best results.

Take Away

Toner before or after dye? – The answer is both strategies are okay, and it will depend on your hair situation.

If you’ve just bleached your hair or your natural blonde hair has unwanted yellow or orange undertones, neutralize those unwanted tones BEFORE using dye. Wait for a few washes after you’ve applied the toner before applying the dye.

If you are happy with your base color and apply a hair dye that turns out a warmer shade than you expected, you can use a toner AFTER you dye. Toner can be applied right after hair has been dyed as long as your hair is in good condition.

In short, toner is usually done before dye. Using a toner after using hair dye is done as a color-correcting measure only.

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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).