Highlights with toner vs. no toner: 4 differences to help you decide

highlights with toner vs no toner

  • Difference 1: the color of highlights with toner is more harmonious than highlights without toner.
  • Difference 2: highlights with toner require more maintenance than no toner.
  • Difference 3: applying toner is more damaging to the hair than not using it.
  • Difference 4: toner highlights are more versatile than non-toner highlights because they allow you to change colors.


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I’m really surprised.

In my colorist mind,   it’s impossible to separate the words highlights and toner. 


I always apply a toner after doing highlights in my salon. In my opinion, toner is to highlights as a strawberry is to a cake.

That’s to say, toner adds shine, luster, and a touch of color.


That’s my opinion.

As the saying goes, there’s nothing written in stone.

For example, after bleaching small well-distributed strands of your hair, your first impression may be that you like the color.

However, after a few hours, you may notice some uneven colors.

They may be a little orange, yellowish, or reddish. So, you’ll feel that your highlights have gone wrong.

Then, you wonder, should I apply toner on my highlights?


Whether or not you should apply toner is mostly a matter of taste.

But to check if your taste matches your expectations,   you should know the differences between highlights with toner and no toner. 

We’ll talk about this in-depth today.

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Difference 1: The color of toner highlights is completely different from no toner highlightstoner improves the color of highlights

Many women use highlights to brighten their hair.

We already know that highlights are achieved by bleaching the hair. This process   can bring unwanted undertones to your strands.  


Therein lies the first difference between toned and non-toned highlights.

Those unwanted colors will make your non-toner highlights look unharmonious. It’s as if you had a beautiful piano out of tune.

Even if the pianist is very good and the piano is excellent, the music will sound terrible.


In my opinion, highlights without toner are out of tune.  Your highlights without toner will make the strident colors stand out.  

  •   When you bleach light brown or dark blonde hair, your highlights can look dark orange or dark yellow.   These colors may look very pretty in a painting by Pablo Picasso, but they’re very bad for the highlighting technique.
  • [  When you bleach black or dark brown hair,   your highlights can look reddish. It’ll probably not be the result you’re looking for.


Now, take a look at your hair.

  • If your highlights are orange, you can apply a blue toner.
  • If your highlights are yellowish, you can apply a violet toner.
  • If your highlights are reddish, you can apply a green toner.


Using or avoiding toner is up to you.

But obviously, if you don’t like sharp contrasts or strident colors, your best option is toner highlights.


Difference 2: no toner requires less maintenance than highlights with tonerhighlights maintenance

As my grandmother would say, “No pain, no gain!”

What do I mean?


When you apply toner on your highlights, the resulting color will be in harmony with your entire mane and almost customized for your own hair.

However, things aren’t free in life. At least when it comes to coloring.


 Although toner is a type of permanent coloring, it fades after three weeks.   At that time, the unwanted tones that toner had removed from your highlights will reappear.

Therefore, you’ll need to reapply toner to your highlights. That means a visit to the salon and paying for a colorist’s service.


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  Tonerless highlights take less maintenance   because instead of returning to the salon every three weeks, you should do it every six weeks, for total renewal.

  •   If you choose toner highlights  , once a month, you’ll have to pay a professional to maintain the color.
  •   If you choose no toner,   your salon visits will be every month and a half.

That’s a significant difference in money.


Difference 3: No toner highlights damage the hair less than highlights with toner

healthier highlighted hair without toner

Why do you think that highlights without toner damage hair less than those with toner?


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That’s right!

Earlier we talked about toner being a type of permanent hair coloring.

You probably already know that permanent coloring is always applied with a hair developer, which is a chemical.


Also, don’t forget that some sections of your hair have been bleached to get the highlights.
During this process, the cuticles were opened to remove the color and lighten your tresses.

This is achieved by using a 30-volume developer and bleaching powder.

So, your bleached strands lost color, but also moisture and nutrients.


The toner is applied with a 20-volume developer, so, you’ll be using 50-volume developer in one day.

Colorists always evaluate the health of the hair before doing highlights. We know the whole process, and we know that the hair will resist both bleaching and toner application.

Sometimes we use some products like OLAPLEX, for example, to prevent irreversible damage.


But if you apply highlights to your hair on your own, disregarding your hair health can lead to disaster.

  If you notice that your hair is very dry after bleaching, you can’t detangle it when it’s wet, or notice significant hair loss, don’t apply the toner.  

Otherwise, you’ll damage your hair irreversibly.

My advice is to go to a salon and a professional will give you different alternatives in case you want to apply toner.


Difference 4: highlights with toner are more versatile than no toner ones

How is this possible?


Let’s say you bleached some sections of your hair to get golden highlights.

But when you go back to the salon after three weeks for your highlights makeover, you decide you really want ashy highlights.


 “] If your highlights are toned, you can change the toner color according to your preferences. 

That is, you can have copper blonde highlights one month and red, blue or green highlights the next month.

If you don’t tone your highlights, , they’ll always maintain the color resulting from bleaching.



If you don’t want to tone your highlights because you fear damage or haven’t decided on the color, I recommend a toning shampoo.

The toning shampoo is a type of toner, but it doesn’t contain ammonia or isn’t applied with a developer. Therefore, it’s not permanent coloring, and it fades with washes.

You’ll be able to remove the strident color from your highlights until your hair recovers from the damage of bleaching or until you decide on the final color for your highlights.

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