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What Is Toning Shampoo?

By T. M. Robertson
Updated May 21, 2024
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Toning shampoo is shampoo with toner color added to it. Toners are used to slightly alter the appearance of the hair by minimizing brassiness and altering undesirable hues. Unlike the toners used when dyeing hair, the toners in shampoos are not permanent and only last a few days, at most. Toning shampoos come in a variety of shades, which include blue, violet, orange, and red. Each shade of toner has a unique effect on different colors of hair.

Individuals who dye their hair blond often need to use toners and toning shampoo in order to keep the color from appearing yellow. When hair is bleached or has significant exposure to the sun, the blue molecules in the hair are removed and it begins to look brassy and take on a yellow hue. In order to counteract this effect, it's necessary to reintroduce the hair to these blue molecules. One way of accomplishing this is to wash the hair with blue toning shampoo. For some individuals, it may even be necessary to use a violet toner or a mixture of blue-violet.

The appropriate color that should be used to counteract another color is based on the color wheel. For example, the color red sits directly across from green, which means to counteract a green hue in the hair, a red toner should be used. Using these same principles, violet toners work on orange hues, orange toners work on blue hues, and blue toners work on yellow hues. It should be noted that it may be necessary to experiment with a couple of different toners in order to attain the desired effect. This is because some hair types, especially those that have been chemically processed, may react different than expected.

When using toning shampoo, it's important to let the toner sit on the hair for a few minutes. Typically, this means leaving it on for at least three to five minutes before washing it out. It should never be left on more than five minutes, however. Toning shampoo also works better when this process is repeated at least twice each time the hair is washed. Keep in mind that because the toners in toning shampoo don't actually penetrate the hair, they will wash away after approximately four to eight washes with regular shampooing if not used on a regular basis.

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Discussion Comments

By bluedolphin — On Jan 15, 2014

My mom uses toning shampoo for her silver gray hair. She always gets compliments on how beautiful her hair is. She says that the only downside to her toning shampoo is the scent. She doesn't like how it smells.

By ysmina — On Jan 14, 2014

I use a blue toning shampoo for my blonde hair with highlights to remove brassiness. It works quite well but I can't use it too often. I only use it about twice a month.

In the beginning, I was using the toning shampoo every week. After a month, I noticed that some of my highlights were taking on a blue hue! So I overdid it. Plus, using toning shampoo too frequently dries out my hair. Twice a months seems like a good frequency for me.

For those who are just starting out with toning shampoo, I recommend trying some of the regular store brands. The salon brands look great but the store brands work just as well. Save yourself some money and try the cheaper toning shampoos first.

By SarahGen — On Jan 14, 2014

Great article, thanks for the information.

I guess I need a toning shampoo in violet because my hair is turning orange! I box dyed my dark brown hair to a light brown. It looked fine for the first week, but now it's starting to look orange. I have to do something about this.

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