The Best Toners For Blonde Hair, According To An Expert

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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 is 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 toners for blondes.

Pro Pick: The Best Permanent Toner For Double-Processed Hair

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). You’ll need to use it with the brand's cream developer, which has to be mixed in with the toner 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.

User review: “This toner is amazing! I bleached/lightened my dark brown hair to a very light blond but it was very brassy. I got this toner and it worked so incredibly well. The natural blond tone is lovely.”

Editor’s note: Pick up a mixing bowl and dye brush for easy application, found here.

Pro Pick: The Best User-Friendly Toning Treatment For Blondes

For a more user-friendly option, Koyanagai recommends Shu Uemura's Color Lustre Reviving Balm for those looking to refresh their highlights and accentuate their tone. "I highly recommend it because of the toning quality and the residual effect on the hair,” she says, while noting that it also gives your hair an "amazing condition." 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.

User review: “I have tried several over-priced and trendy purple shampoos and conditioners, and they all just fade and leave my hair dry. This product not only staves [off] brassiness but it actually lasts in keeping my lightened dark blonde hair ashy/cool AND soft. Totally worth the price! I highly recommend this, especially for bleached-blondes with locks that tend to go brassy quickly. A bit fragrant but not unpleasantly so like other purple products I own.”

Pro Pick: The Best Affordable Toning Shampoo For Cool Blonde Tones
  • Also available at Ulta, $10

"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 some people prefer to avoid — if you've had a smoothing treatment done (like a keratin treatment or Brazilian Blowout), you should steer clear of sulfates. Personally, I’ve 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.

User review: “I have very white hair, started in high school now its full on and in style! I've tried all the "blue" shampoos and this one rules! The shine and color are amazing. People compliment my hair all the time and it's the shampoo!”

Pro Pick: The Best Sulfate-Free Toning Shampoo For Cool Blonde Tones

Koyanagi also recommends Oribe's purple shampoo, which she calls "a posher recommendation for those who won’t consider Clairol.” It's an award-winning formula that eliminates brassy undertones, brightens highlights, and enhances overall shine. But the best part is, this elegant formula is sulfate-free, which is hard to find among purple shampoos (so it’s safe to use on dry, sensitive scalps and chemically treated hair). In addition to a host of botanically derived extracts that sound good enough to eat, this shampoo contains a blend of nourishing 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, and provides UV protection to keep hair protected from the sun. Bonus points for the intoxicating, Cote D’Azur scent, a feature of all Oribe products.

User review: “So my hair has gone through so much damage from bleaching and have used expensive products to maintain the color and the damage that’s been done due to bleaching. I’ve used this shampoo and conditioner combined one time and the difference is night and day!!! My hair has never been this soft since bleaching and I’m absolutely amazed. Will buy this amazing product as long as I’m a blonde.”

Editor’s Pick: The Best Sulfate-Free Purple Shampoo Under $10

I’ve used both Shimmer Lights and Oribe Bright Blonde throughout the years, and both are excellent products. But recently, I discovered this purple shampoo from L’Oreal’s EverPure line, which I’ve been really impressed by — especially considering its under-$10 price tag. The formula is free of both sulfates and salts, so it’s quite gentle, and the purple hue neutralizes unwanted brassiness with each wash. For best results, use once or twice a week to maintain a cool-blonde tone.

User review: “I was brassy from the H20 in my home and completely got rid of the brass in one use. I am making this a weekly "treatment" to avoid future brass! Cost less than salon brands and does the same job! Smells good too. BRASS NO MORE;).”

The Best Purple Toning Conditioner
  • Also available at Ulta, $20

Whether you tone your hair using a purple shampoo or conditioner is mostly a matter of personal preference — maybe you have a shampoo that you already really love, for instance. If that’s the case, MATRIX Total Results So Silver Conditioner is a great option for blondes, as it helps counteract warm tones while simultaneously infusing your hair with plenty of moisture. Like with any purple shampoo or conditioner, the longer you leave this on, the more effective it will be, so keep that in mind while you’re in the shower.

User review: “LOVE having products where my hair smells fresh and sweet instead of like chemicals or cleaning products. The So Silver line also revitalized my hair COMPLETELY after [a] somewhat regrettable, third round of bleach fried my hair from mids to ends. Also, it keeps my hair from fading much longer than the last brand of purple hair products did which is definitely a plus for me!”

The Best Toning Mask For Shiny Blonde Hair

This cool product from dpHue is kind of hard to define: it’s a toner, semi-permanent hair dye, and conditioning mask all at once. When used on pre-lightened or naturally light hair, it’ll deposit whatever color you choose — for blondes, it comes in both Light Blonde and Medium Blonde shades — while also giving your hair the type of shine that would typically require a salon visit to achieve. There are a few other practical reasons that make this appealing, too: For one, it’s not purple, so it’s less likely to stain your shower curtain and hands; and also, it comes in a convenient pump-top bottle. This won’t lighten your hair, but it will enhance your color and overall luster.

User review: “I have light blonde highlights, and medium to dark blonde natural hair. This made my hair so soft, glossy & brought it back to the natural color without brassiness. Did not change the color like purple shampoo can if left in too long, just brought it back to the color it was when I left the salon with highlights.”

The Best Toning Mask For Warm Blonde Hair
  • Also available at Ulta, $28

If you want your blonde to look warmer and not cooler, try this Four Reasons Toning Treatment in the shade Caramel. It can be used on both blonde and light brown hair to deposit a warm tone, while also amplifying existing warm tones. Note that Four Reasons makes several color-depositing toning masks for various shades of blonde, including Champagne Blonde, Vanilla, Silver, and Pearl.

User review: “Adds a nice caramel shimmery effect to my bleached level 10 golden toned hair. I wanted to add depth and go a little warmer and darker while my level 7 roots grow in. Really nice, not dramatic, but pretty and a nice toner for in between color times.”

The Best Leave-In Toning Spray
  • Also available at Ulta, $15

Sun Bum uses violet extract and blue spirulina to bust brassy undertones in their blonde-enhancing leave-in spray. Spray it onto washed, towel-dried hair and blend with your fingers or a comb to instantly cool down any visible warm tones. It’s a unique way to tone your hair, and it helps smooth away unwanted frizz and protect your color from UV rays, as well.

User review: “It instantly takes the yellow out of my hair without weighing it down or making it sticky. A very small amount works. I bought it to use after the pool but I am buying another to use after washing my hair to make it even whiter. (I use purple shampoo) I totally Love this product and will be using it daily.”

The Best Leave-In Toning Foam

Here’s another cool way to tone your hair, this time courtesy of Color Wow. This one-of-a-kind product is a leave-in toning foam — the texture is similar to a mousse, but it leaves your hair hydrated and soft instead of sticky and crunchy. At the same time, the purple-hued foam works to bust brassiness (hence its name), so your blonde hair looks cool, icy, and bright.

User review: “I love this product. It makes my color look rich and my hair shines.”


Cyd Koyanagi, a hair color consultant and master colorist at Warren Tricomi Salon in Greenwich, CT

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