Can you apply toner to greasy or dirty hair? I don’t recommend it

woman touching her greasy hair

  • Has it been more than two days since the last time you washed your hair, and do you feel your hair is dirty? I recommend that before applying toner you rinse it with lukewarm, almost cold water to remove dust and other particles.
  • Is your hair very greasy, that is, is it stiff and doesn’t move much? It’s always recommended that you wash it before applying toner, using shampoo and warm water. You shouldn’t use conditioner. Why? Because excess oil can prevent the toner from penetrating the hair.


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As you can see, you need to practically check your hair under a magnifying glass to see if it’s dirty or oily before applying toner.

 Because if your hair’s very dirty or greasy, the toning process won’t be successful. 


But if it’s only been 24 hours since you last washed your hair, or you feel that it’s only oily at the roots, you can apply the toner without any problems.


I know that for you, the oiliness of your hair isn’t a minor issue, especially if you want to tone your hair.

Because  excess oil and dirt  can act as a barrier that prevents the toner from penetrating into the hair.

Why? Let’s delve deeper into both situations.


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If your hair is very dirty, you should rinse it with lukewarm, almost cold water before toning

woman makes a disgusted face when touching her dirty hair

What do I mean when I say very dirty hair?


Well, hair can be dirty for several reasons:

  •  You haven’t washed your hair for several days.  And when I say several days, I mean four or five days. That’s very dirty hair and you shouldn’t apply toner to it.
  •  You were at the beach all day or doing outdoor activities.  Your hair will also be very dirty because it will be full of dust and other particles. You shouldn’t apply toner here either.
  •  You were swimming at the pool.  It’s important that you wash your hair first to remove the chlorine, whether you want to apply toner or color it.


In any of these cases, I recommend that you rinse your hair using lukewarm, almost cold water.

This way, the water will remove any particles stuck to your hair.  And don’t use conditioner. 


You shouldn’t because most conditioners leave a creamy residue in the hair, which can prevent the toner from working properly.

Once you’ve washed your hair to remove the dirt, you can apply the toner, since it works on both wet and dry hair.


If your hair is very oily, wash your hair with shampoo and hot water before applying the toner

woman touches her hair before toning it

I want to highlight a difference here.

 It’s one thing to have very oily hair and it’s another thing to have only oily hair at the roots. 


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Having greasy roots is normal because the scalp secretes sebum to keep the hair follicles and hair healthy.

  •  If you only feel like you have greasy roots,  you can apply toner.
  •  If we’re talking about oily hair, where the greasiness is noticeable from the roots to the ends , you’ll notice that your hair will be stiff, dull, and won’t be very free to move. And that’s when you should wash your hair with hot water and use special shampoo for oily hair before applying the toner.



Because you apply toner with 20 volume developer, and it contains ammonia. The chemical reaction it generates in the hair opens the cuticles so the toner pigments can enter the hair, neutralizing unwanted colors.


If you don’t remove excess oil from your hair, in addition to the toner pigments, oil molecules will also enter your hair.

Therefore, the hold within the hair fiber will be less and  the toner will fade more quickly or leave an uneven color in your hair. 

How should you wash greasy hair before applying toner?

  • Run water at the hottest temperature you can stand through your hair for 3 minutes.
  • Apply shampoo and gently rub your scalp with your fingertips.
  • Wash the rest of your hair and rinse.
  • Don’t put any conditioner in.



You can apply toner on dry or wet hair. So if your hair is dirty, you can rinse with warm to cold water without using shampoo.

But if your hair is very oily, I recommend that before you apply toner, you wash your hair with shampoo and water at the highest temperature you can handle.

After washing or rinsing, remove excess water with a towel and then apply the toner.

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