An icy blonde
Created by Allyson Stevens, San Diego Hairstylist.

What’s a Toner and What Does it Do?

As a hairstylist in SoCal, the number one thing I hear nearly every day is how much women hate being brassy or yellow. In spite of the reality that our hair will never simply lighten to an “icy” blonde with just lightener, which is a topic for a different blog, we have a wonderful product we use called toner.

Now, what exactly is toner?  At the salon, we hear this word thrown around a lot!  We also see it on the Gram perform miracles. Toner is basically a semi/demi-permanent hair color that helps correct or balance any unwanted colors, i.e., orange or yellow or red.  We know as artists that if there is any unwanted tone in the hair we can look at the color wheel and look across from whatever color is present and find the color that will neutralize it. This is why purple shampoo is essential for you icy blondes. Purple cancels yellow, blue cancels orange, and green cancels red. I recommend only using colored shampoos once a week because you can overtone your hair and could possibly turn it purple, blue or green. So don’t be scared if you see the toner and it looks green, blue or purple— you’ll thank us later.

We can see why toner is such a vital step to a highlight or balayage service and usually one bowl of toner is included in our lightening services. But, it’s even good for color treated hair. For example, I have a client who we colored her lightened-blonde hair back to her natural brown. But, after a month or so it slowly started to become a lighter, reddish brown.  Honestly, there is very little we can to to prevent this from happening. Hair just naturally wants to lighten red, orange, or yellow depending on how dark it was before the fading began. But, we can neutralize those unwanted warm tones by using a professional grade toner. So what neutralizes the exposed red in this scenario? The answer is green. I can mix up a green based toner and either apply it to wet or dry hair, depending on the desired results.  Magically the red is gone and the client is a happy camper. Many salons even offer this as an á la carte service. The bonus to toners is that they typically don’t contain ammonia, they add extra shine, and can double as a mini hair treatment. It’s truly magic in a bottle.

Allyson Stevens is a hairstylist at Escape Hair Salon (San Diego) who specializes in formal editorial updos, cutting, color, and balayage. She is a graduate of Paul Mitchell The School San Diego where she has also received advanced training. Allyson may be reached on Instagram: @a.doeshair and the salon at (619) 231-2442. Book your next appointment with Allyson.