Blonde hair, whether natural or dyed, requires a lot of maintenance. "A blonde should use a toner to perfect the raw color of pre-lightened hair," explains Cyd Koyanagi, a hair color consultant and master colorist at Warren Tricomi Salon in Greenwich, CT. "For some, their hair lightens to the perfect color, but for most there needs to be some refining, which is where a toner useful. They're also quite [an easy way] for someone to refresh their hair in between services." Additionally, the best toners for blonde hair "can refine, condition, and provide shine when someone’s hair color has been over-worked either from chemicals or life," Koyanagi says.
However, toners for blonde hair aren't one-size-fits-all. There are tons of different toning products out there, each one individual to a specific shade of blonde — so you really need to do your research before investing in one. According to Koyanagi, "Those who would like a cooler [color] should look for [a product with] violet tones to eliminate or control gold or brassy tones. For those who enjoy a more golden blonde, look for gold or 'warm' in their toner to accentuate the gold, as shampooing, blow drying, hot tools, products, and the sun can alter a corn silk or sunflower tone." Meanwhile, "Strawberry blondes should look for an ultra-light copper."
Also, Koyanagi says that when shopping for a toner, you should look for something that reads as semi-permanent and has little to no ammonia. But even when taking all of these precautions into consideration, you still have to be careful. "At home toning is a scary business," Koyanagi warns. "The person who is toning has to make sure that the color they are trying to achieve is actually what the product will deliver. If someone thinks their hair is too orange or yellow when it actually isn’t, it can result in an over-toning, which [can turn] grey, or worse — blue or purple." Because of this, Koyanagi recommends using shampoos or conditioners to tone your hair at home. They're "much easier to use, practically fool-proof. If there is a mistake, at least it will wash out in a shampoo or two."
If you're still feeling confused, it's always a good idea to set up a consultation with a professional to guide you in the right direction. Or, you can simply read ahead to discover Koyanagi's picks — and a few by longtime bleacher, yours truly — for the best toning products for blondes
1. Best Permanent Toner For Double-Processed Hair
Wella Color Charm T18 Lightest Ash Blonde (2 Pack) With Developer
Though Koyanagi does forewarn caution when using a professional toner at home — especially a permanent one — she recommends Wella's Color Charm T-18 as the absolute best choice. This is best used on double-processed hair — basically, hair that's been treated in two steps, as opposed to a single process (hair that's platinum or bleached blonde is typically double-processed). Color Charm T-18 was formulated for professional use, so it's not playing around — but when used properly, it provides the most stunning, ice-blond shade (think Targaryen silver). This three-piece bundle includes two packs of toner as well as the brand's cream developer, which have to be mixed together for proper application on pre-lightened hair.
For what it's worth, I used this toner at home when I had silver-blonde hair, and it worked out fabulously. Granted, I did have to enlist help — so make sure a friend or family member who's dyed their hair at home before is around to help.
- Pick up a mixing bowl and dye brush for easy application, found here.
2. Best Toning Treatment For Golden Blondes
Shu Uemura Color Lustre Reviving Balm, Golden Blonde
Koyanagai recommends Shu Uemura's Color Lustre Revining Balm for those with golden blonde hair looking to refresh their highlights and accentuate their tone. "The Shu Uemura gold balm is user-friendly. I highly recommend it because of the toning quality and the residual effect on the hair." She also says it gives your hair an "amazing condition." According to reviewers, it "preserves the lightened golden blonde color, gives it newfound radiance... keeps it from getting brassy," and makes hair "so so soft and lovely." To use, distribute it evenly from root to tip on towel-dried hair after shampooing and conditioning. Leave it on for up to 10 minutes before rinsing out completely.
Though it's definitely on the pricier end, fans say it's worth it since it saves them "so much money that [would have been] otherwise spent on... expensive touch-ups and hair treatments."
3. Best Semi-Permanent Gloss For Shine
Clairol Professional Radiance Color Gloss - C - Clear Shine
If you're looking to eliminate dullness and extend the life of your hair color in between salon visits, Koyanagi recommends Clairol's Radiance Color Gloss as one of the easier-to-use options for at-home toning. The shade 'Clear Shine' is exactly what it sounds like — a clear gloss that increases shine, making hair look silky and vibrant. Just make sure you mix it with a developer, so it, you know, works.
"[I can] now get away from highlighting from 4/5 weeks to 8/10! A treatment you would pay in the salon and pay more with less results," raved one reviewer.
- Pair it with the brand's Color Radiance developer, found here.
4. Best Affordable Shampoo For Cool Blonde Tones
Clairol Shimmer Lights Shampoo
"Industry standard has always been Clairol Shimmer Lights shampoo," Koyanagi says. "Reasonably priced and when used in combination with regular shampooing, it has just the right amount of tone to keep a blonde neutral." The Shimmer Lights formula works to brighten fading highlights and reduce brassy or yellow undertones in just one wash. However, it does contain sulfates, which can suck moisture from the hair, making it feel drier. Also, if you've had a smoothing treatment done (like a keratin treatment or Brazilian Blowout), you should steer clear of sulfates. I personally used this stuff on my bleached hair for years and never had any issue — but be warned, it does have a slightly overpowering, chemical-like smell. Also, the deep purple color can stain your shower curtain, so be careful with application.
- Pair it with their conditioner, found here.
5. Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo For Cool Blonde Tones
ORIBE Bright Blonde Shampoo
Koyanagi also recommends Oribe's purple shampoo as "a posher recommendation for those who won’t consider Clairol." It's an award-winning formula that eliminates brassy, yellow undertones, brightens highlights, and enhances overall shine. But the best part is, this sophisticated formula uses mostly natural ingredients and is free of sulfates, which means it's safe to use on chemical- or keratin-treated hair. In addition to a host of botanical-sourced extracts, this shampoo contains a blend of oils (like olive, jojoba, baobab seed, and mirabelle plum), as well as shea butter to moisturize and soften hair. It's also vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and provides UV protection to keep hair protected from the sun.
- Pair it with their conditioner, found here.
6. Editor's Pick: Best Toning Mask For Cool & Baby Blonde Hair
Christophe Robin Shade Variation Nutritive Mask (Baby Blond)
For years, I had silver-white hair — only up until recently. During my bleached days, there was only one treatment I used to preserve such a hard-to-maintain hair color without constantly going to the salon: Christophe Robin's Baby Blonde Shade Variation Nutritive Mask. It's pricey, sure — but it also works better than anything I've ever tried. Christophe Robin, a luxury hair stylist from France, only uses the finest natural ingredients in his formulas. This one contains buriti oil, almond oil, shea butter, iris florentina extract, and silk proteins, all of which are rich in vitamins and antioxidants to leave your bleached hair hydrated and soft — and it doesn't contain any sulfates, parabens, phthalates, silicones, oxidants, or ammonia.
Here's the thing: this mask is so powerful that if you leave it on too long, it can actually turn your hair violet. I actually found this to be a good thing, because it turns out, allowing your hair to become slightly violet preserves that silver-white effect for longer. With each wash, the violet becomes more and more subtle, leaving you with the perfect shade of silver. Of course, you can leave it on less long — the brand recommends anywhere from between five and 30 minutes.
7. A More Affordable Toning Mask That Comes With A Leave-In
PRAVANA THE PERFECT BLONDE Purple Toning Masque & Seal & Protect Leave-in
Another great purple mask for platinum, grey, white, and light blonde hair is this one from Pravana. It contains ingredients like cocoa butter, coconut oil, and glycerin to hydrate and soften damaged hair, as well as a dual-violent brightening system to eliminate brassy and yellow undertones. But that's not all: it also comes with the brand's leave-in treatment mist, which further brightens, detangles, and enhances blonde hair. Both of these formulas are sulfate-free, so it's safe to use on both dry and chemical- and/or keratin-treated hair.
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