The choice of toner is primarily dependent upon the underlying color in the hair. For example, highlighted hair that appears brassy should use a purple-based toner to neutralize the orange. If the hair is simply too light and bright, add pigment with an ash-based color that is 1 to 2 shades darker.
Hair that is highlighted with bleach can sometimes remove too much pigment from the hair, resulting in a color that may be too blonde. The most effective way to tone the abrasive hair color is to use a color gloss or toner to add or deposit color back into the hair.
Determine what type of toner will best suit your hair concerns: gloss, foam or permanent color. Glosses are temporary and generally ammonia-free, meaning the product does not contain harmful chemicals that are damaging to processed hair. A gloss will deposit a small amount of color and add shine to dull, bleached hair. Toning foam is semi-permanent, lasting 12 to 24 washes. Foam is similar to a mousse in consistency and best for neutralizing brassy orange hues. Temporary color can also be used as an effective toner; ash and violet-based colors are the most common.
Read all instructions accompanying the toner, as directions will vary based on which type you select. Put gloves on to protect skin on the hands from absorbing pigment, and apply Vaseline to the hair line to prevent color from bleeding or dripping onto the face. The toner will either be a ready-to-use foam or gel, or it will require a mixing of the color and developer; prepare the mix as needed.
Start at the crown of the head and apply toner to the root. Pull color from the root to the end of the hair shaft. Coat each section with a liberal amount of toner. Saturate the hair completely, using fingers to comb toner throughout the length of the hair. Put on the plastic cap and wait the allotted amount of time described in the instructions for toner to develop, approximately 20 minutes, depending on the brand of toner. Rinse all of the toner from the hair and scalp using a color-safe shampoo. Dry the hair and style as needed.
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