Does Toner Damage Hair? The Truth + How To Avoid Damage

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You just wanted to have gorgeous, platinum blonde hair. Yet, you come home from the salon with your hair looking as yellow as a banana peel.

fashion portrait of blonde woman with natural skin

Now, whether you ask your favorite hair stylist or search online, the answer will be the same—you need to use a hair toner to get rid of that brass.

But, you’re probably concerned about your hair’s health because it has already gone through intense bleaching. Will toner damage your hair?

Do Toners Damage Your Hair?

Yes, toner is damaging to hair. Any chemical you apply to your hair can be damaging, especially if it changes the hair structure.

However, it can be good to note that not every toner alters the internal structure of your hair. So, hair toner is not as damaging as bleach or permanent hair dye.

There are pros and cons to using hair toner. So, even though this is becoming more popular, it’s still a very complex product. You have to know a lot about it before you can use it to ensure that you won’t worsen your hair damage.

Hair Toner 101

What is hair toner?

When you’re painting a wall, it’s best to finish it up with a topcoat. The same goes when dyeing your hair.

After the lightening or coloring process, the hair toner gives the finishing touch to help you achieve the color you’re going for.

It can adjust the tone of your hair and remove the brassiness or any other unwanted tones.

Moreover, hair toner can also give a color boost. It can bring out the warmth in your hair or add a wash of bright color.

Plus, other toners are used to add more dimension and give your hair a natural look.

In short, toners are the key to giving you vibrant and shiny, newly-colored hair.

Which hair toner will damage your hair?

You must know that hair toners aren’t one specific product. You can’t just go to the store and say, “I’d like to buy a toner.”

There are shampoo, conditioner, gloss, and color that are considered toners, too. So, which of these products are damaging, and which hair toner is safe to use?

Types of toners

Hair toners are categorized into three.

1. Semi-permanent or temporary toners

These toners are the most gentle. The product is not absorbed by the hair, so it doesn’t cause damage.

Because it just lays on top of the hair, it also washes off easily. It can only last around 3-6 washes. This is perfect for people who often change their hair colors.

Examples of this toner are blue or purple shampoo and conditioners, and conditioner-based direct dyes.

2. Demi-permanent toners

A demi-permanent toner deposits into the hair, so it lasts longer than semi-permanent ones. It can last on your hair for up to 12 washes.

This product is used by people who want to neutralize yellow and orange tones. It’s also used as a gloss to enhance the color of highlights.

But, does this hair toner damage the hair? 

Demi-permanent toner is used with a low-level developer (9-10 volumes). That said, it doesn’t actually lift the color. So, it has a low impact on hair damage.

Hairdresser applying purple toning shampoo on woman's hair

3. Permanent toners

This kind of toner is used for major color corrections. And because it’s permanent, it will last the longest (up to 20 washes). But, it also causes the most damage.

Permanent toner contains ammonia and is mixed with a 20-volume developer. Take note, a volume that’s higher than 10 lifts the hair.

Lifting means the hair cuticles open up. And once they do, the hair loses its strength, making it frizzy and dry.

That’s why permanent toners should only be used by expert hands. These stylists are well trained and can determine if your hair is healthy enough to survive the toning process.

Can toners lighten your hair?

Toners cannot lighten your hair. It’s a misconception that a level 8 blonde can be enough for silver hair if you tone after bleaching.

Bear in mind that only bleach lightens. Toners cannot replace the lightening process done by bleaching. 

Hair toner is just used to clean or perfect the color that you already have. Now, after toning, the hair may appear brighter because they’re cooler-toned, not because they’ve become lighter.

Are toners used only for brassy hair?

Toners aren’t just for neutralizing the hair’s brassiness. There are other toners such as acidic demi-permanent toner that are used after coloring to strengthen the hair’s cuticles and reduce damage.

Other toners are also used as a gloss to add a nice shine to the hair.

The Truth about Hair Damage from Toning

Is my hair okay?

If your hair doesn’t feel the same after all the process it’s gone through, you might be worried that it’s damaged.

These are the signs that your hair needs repair:

  • Your hair won’t hold color.
  • It’s dull and lifeless.
  • It’s dry and brittle.
  • The strand easily breaks.
  • You have split ends.
  • Your curls don’t bounce back.
  • Your hair feels like straw.

Does toning your hair damage it?

Hair toner alone doesn’t cause extreme damage to your hair. So, why is it often blamed?

That’s because it’s the last chemical used for the hair process.

But what people don’t realize is that the actual culprits are the toner’s accomplices:

  • Bleaching
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Overprocessing

These are the culprits of your hair damage. 


Studies show that when the hair is extremely bleached and colored, the hair cuticle may crack. And, this may lead to hair fiber damage.

Additionally, overusing toner after bleaching or coloring can also cause strain on your hair strands. When this happens, your hair can become dry and brittle.

Moreover, permanent toners contain peroxide, and should always be mixed and applied properly. If not, it can cause great damage to hair.

As I’ve mentioned above, hair toners are complex products. So, if you have no idea about the color wheel and color theory, then it would be best if you let a professional handle the hair toning.

However, if you’re really into DIY, you can opt for semi-permanent toners like purple or blue shampoo instead. Here’s a chart to help you determine which one to use:

Blue ShampooPurple Shampoo
For orange tonesFor yellow tones
Blue-based or ashPurple-based or violet

Now, for demi-permanent or permanent toners, if you have no experience using them, I suggest consulting expert hair colorists.

Otherwise, you might end up with over toned hair, and worsen your hair damage.

The Wella Toners

Speaking of permanent toners, let’s talk a bit about the most famous which is Wella. Does Wella toner damage hair?

Experts advise people doing DIY silver hair to stop using Wella T18.

The reason is that it’s a level 10 toner. So, unless you have a level 10 blonde, it wouldn’t really have the effect you’re looking for.

What’s more, Wella has peroxide which is really damaging to your hair. And of course, since you’ve been through a drastic bleaching process, your hair has already become porous.

So, if you use this product incorrectly, you’ll push your hair to its limit. 

hairdresser applying hair dye on woman's hair

Dealing with Hair Coloring Damage

How can I repair my damaged hair?

If the damage has been done, don’t worry too much. There’s no need for a dramatic shaving of hair.

You can still save your hair by following these tips:

  • Use specially formulated shampoo for color-treated hair.
  • Avoid drastic lightening of hair. Stay within three shades of your natural hair color.
  • Protect your hair from the sun. Wear a hat or don’t spend too much time under direct sunlight.
  • If perming the hair or using a relaxer, consult a professional to avoid any long-term damage.
  • Give your hair time to rest in between treatments like coloring, perming, or relaxing.
  • Use conditioner after washing your hair, concentrating on the ends.
  • Minimize heat on the hair, such as from heat styling tools or hot showers.
  • Choose hair products that match your hair type.
  • Protect your hair from chlorinated water or salt water. Wear a swimming cap.

How do you get the best results When toning your hair?

Toning at home has now become more popular and manageable. But, toners should be used carefully. One best practice is to apply toner to damp, clean hair to help the product move easily through the hair. This ensures an even application.

Now, if you need a major color correction, you should always go to a professional hairstylist. This way, you can avoid messing up your color. 

Just sit back, relax, and let your stylist do the work. Then, you’re sure to get out of the salon with your vibrant and healthy platinum blonde hair.

Check Out These Articles to Know More About Hair Coloring:


  • Rachelle Velasco

    Rachelle, is a sought-after freelance hair and makeup artist, shines particularly in the world of hair color. From subtle ombres and balayages to vibrant hues and intricate root work, she crafts unique styles tailored to individual preferences. Beyond her artistic talents, Rachelle also holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, showcasing her diverse skill set and dedication to learning.

  • Jessica Hoelscher

    With thirteen years in cosmetology, Jessica Hoelscher is a seasoned stylist recognized for her modern techniques. A graduate of Paul Mitchell the School in St. Louis, her expertise has been showcased on Fox Two News and in People Magazine. Self-employed at Salon Lofts, her work has graced TV screens, styling for renowned events and Ole Miss cheerleaders.

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