Toner? What’s That?

If you’re a client of mine, chances are you’ve heard me say “let me mix up your toner, and then we’ll rinse you out.” Toner? What’s a toner? You may have heard it called a “gloss” or “rinse” as well. They all do the same thing: manipulate the hair to imitate a certain color.

Let’s talk the basics…when you lift the hair with lightener, you are removing pigment, and exposing the undertone. Everyone has these pigments in their hair, it’s just a matter of how much. The chart below is a perfect explanation of how much is present depending on how dark or light your hair is. The darker the hair, the heavier the red. The lighter the hair, the less red and more yellow/golden.

When I first started doing hair, I didn’t understand color theory. And that was mainly due to a lack of education during cosmetology school. Let me be blunt: certain schools do not dive into this. Other schools do; and I had a rude awakening when I graduated and got behind the chair.
So I read articles and blogs, I watched videos, I researched, and I asked for help. I spent a couple years afterwards, doing trial and error. Slowly experimenting, always learning.

Fast forward ten years, and here we are. When using lightener and exposing the underlying pigment, this is why its important to lift to the correct level and formulate accordingly. Now back to the main topic of this blog: toner. Once you’ve lifted to the level you need, toners help enhance or dilute the underlying pigment.

Platinum, ash, golden, copper, etc. they’re all colors. They have to be created or enhanced with toners. If someone wants platinum or silver, combative colors will be applied to eliminate yellow, or golden tones (blue and violet). If you want copper, golden, or warm tones, the same thing applies…but it’s not as intense as if going blonde. Here’s the difference: you need only to lift to the level needed. If a brunette sat down in my chair with level 3 hair, and wanted a copper/golden tone; I need only to lift her to a level 5 or 6, because of the underlying pigment! We’re enhancing that tone, not trying to eliminate it.

If you’re still reading this, then let me throw in this last bit of information; and it’s something that I think is the most crucial when lifting. There is only so much you can do in each session without causing major stress or damage to the hair! The picture above is a prime example of the phrase “I don’t want to push your hair over the edge.” In a later post, I will explain in detail the “why’s” of lifting. But for now, I think this is a good stopping point! Confused yet? It’s okay, because that’s what a colorist is trained to know. Leave it up to me to get you to your desired hair goal! Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day; great color usually takes multiple sessions to achieve.