Does toner damage hair? How should you use it to avoid ruining your hair?

fragile and brittle

When people ask me these kinds of questions, it feels like they’re asking a trick question to see if I’ll end up with my foot in my mouth.

But before we discuss the answer in-depth, I want to clarify a few things:

  • When used correctly, toner does not damage
  • So long as your hair was healthy, to begin with, it won’t ruin it.
  • It’s a very helpful product for subduing those awful yellow or orange tones that can appear after bleaching your hair.


 I honestly don’t know where people get the idea that toner can dry out your hair. It’s simply not true. 

It’s similar to asking if getting some sun in the summertime is harmful.


Getting some sun isn’t harmful. It’s laying out in the sun like a lizard without a drop of sunscreen that can wreak havoc on your skin.

You can sunbathe and get that beautiful tropical tan, but it’s important to use high SPF sunscreen of at least 30 or higher to protect your skin.

If you don’t, of course, you’re going to damage your skin, and the consequences can be very serious.


Well, toner works in the same way. It’s a godsend for anyone who bleaches their hair in a quest for that perfect blond.

But then gets yellow or orange strands -and feels like they could be seen a mile away- after bleaching it.

That’s when the marvelous toner swoops in to save the day.

But, like most marvels, it also has its dark side.

Do you want to know what it is?


Then keep reading, because in this article we will discuss:

  • What type of toner to use for your hair
  • How to get the best results
  • How to keep your hair healthy after using toner.


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 Don’t be afraid of using toner; just make sure to get the right kind and use it correctly. 

But don’t worry, because after reading this article, you’ll be able to use toner without damaging your hair.



What type of toner to use

color sync

All this talk about toner reminds me of a client who came into my salon in practically a sea of tears.

It was obvious why she was crying: her hair looked bad. Really, really bad.


I can assure you I’ve seen my share of hair disasters during my career as a hairdresser, especially when someone experiments with their hair without fully knowing how the products work.

But this looked like an extreme case that even I didn’t know how to fix.


Noelle had bleached her hair at home. I’m not going to start discussing the dangers of bleaching hair incorrectly, or this article could turn into an encyclopedia.

 I’ll just tell you that she bleached and applied toner the same day. Because she couldn’t stand the ugly orange tones left by the bleach, of course. 


But something happened that Noelle didn’t expect: the bleach had ruined her hair. This, I know, because I asked her a few questions.

Can you believe Noelle used 40 volume peroxide to bleach her brown hair?


And that’s not all. As if that weren’t enough, she also decided that leaving the bleach in twenty minutes would not lighten it enough, so she left it in another twenty minutes.

And to top it all off, applied the toner immediately after.


  • She didn’t notice that her hair was probably already fragile.
  • She didn’t check her scalp, which had visible signs of irritation.
  • Nor did she think to check for split ends or if her hair needed to be moisturized.

No, none of that. It was as if she thought that her hair was like superman: made of steel.


After all that, she thought the toner had ruined her hair.

After everything I’ve told you, what do you think?

Do you think it was the toner… or Noelle’s recklessness?


 I can see that you’re paying attention because you’re right: it was Noelle’s own recklessness that ruined her hair, not the toner. 

Toner is an acid-based product that modifies and alters your hair color, brightness, and chemical composition. Nevertheless, when used and applied properly, and the right type and quality are used, it’s not harmful.


It’s like asking if hair dye damages your hair. Of course not, but they are chemical products, and it all depends on how you use them.

It’s also important to keep in mind the type and quality.


  • As with dyes, toners are divided into different strengths: 10, 20, 30, and 40.

If you’re going to use a toner, I recommend using a 20 volume because it’s gentler.

However, if you notice you have weak hair, don’t hesitate to use 10 volume toner. It’s the least powerful but will still subdue those bothersome yellow tones.


  • As well as the strength, the quality of the toner is also important.

After all, if you’re about to process your hair chemically, using the highest quality products possible is only logical.

If you buy the cheapest toner anyway, what can I say? You’ll pay in consequences and dry hair.


  • What if there are just a few yellow-tinged strands after you bleach your hair?

In that case, I recommend using a purple shampoo to tone your hair. It does the same things as a toner but without a 20 volume developer. Because of that, it's much more gentle.


It's also easier to use: apply it like your regular shampoo and let it sit for three or four minutes.

Just don't leave it in longer than recommended, or you could end up with violet hair.


 So far, we've learned that toner is not harmful and which one you should use depends on your hair. 

And that it's better to invest in high-quality toner and use a 20 volume developer so as not to damage your hair.


Now the million-dollar question: when should you apply toner?

That's what we'll discuss next.


How long to wait before applying toner

If Noelle has waited a few days before applying the toner, her results would have been completely different. In the meantime, I would have recommended that she also nourish her hair to strengthen it.

As well as waiting to apply toner, it's also important to consider the state of your hair after being bleached.


  • If your hair is damaged, wait about three weeks.

I know it can seem like forever to walk around with bright yellow highlights, but that's better than ruining your hair.


  • During those three weeks, use a deep hydration treatment every three or four days. And if you can, invest in a good moisturizer mask. Your hair deserves every penny.


  • On the other hand, if your hair feels strong after bleaching it and returns to its original shape after being stretched, you can apply a toner two or three days later.

Just remember to use a high-quality 20 volume toner.

With that, you can make those yellow or orange locks disappear without damaging your hair.


It's also important to remember to care for your hair more an ever after using the toner.


How to care for your hair after using a toner

Depending on how often you wash your hair, you might have to use a toner again in about four to six weeks.


The less you wash your hair, the longer the toner's effects will last. Washing your hair every day removes its natural oils anyway and dries it out.


  • Whenever you chemically process your hair, whether it’s with dye or toner, it’s best to give it some TLC.

You could use a leave-in conditioner or a mask occasionally.

Or opt for one of my favorites: extra virgin olive oil.


To treat your hair with olive oil, heat it until it's warm to the touch, and then massage it in your scalp to moisturize your hair and stimulate your hair follicles.

Then leave it in for at least 30 minutes, and wash it out with a sulfate-free shampoo.


But before we wrap things up, do you want to know what happened to Noelle?



I never saw her again after she left my salon that day.

What I can tell you is that unfortunately, I couldn't help her that day. Her hair practically fell apart in my hands when I touched it.


But you can avoid the same fate because now you know how to use toner without damaging your hair.

Just remember: it's not about the product, but how you use it.

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