Toner vs. Hair Dye: a hairdresser tells you all the differences so you know which one to choose

  • The biggest difference between toner and hair dye is their goals. They also differ in terms of application, durability, and maintenance.
  • If you want to achieve a hair color change and a less intense maintenance routine, it is best to choose a dye.
  • If you want to neutralize unwanted shades, have coloring skills, and don’t mind renewing the neutralization every two weeks, you should go for a toner.


with brush

As you can see, toner and hair dye are two very different products. They’re used for different purposes, and their application also differs.

The first thing you need to think about is what you want to achieve on your hair.

  • Do you want to achieve a permanent color change?
  • Do you want to neutralize unwanted shades that appeared on your hair after bleaching?


That leads us to the first difference.

  • Differences in purpose: the hair dye changes the hair color, and the toner neutralizes unwanted shades.
  • Differences in application and ease of use: the hair dye is applied with a 20-volume developer, and the toner is applied with a 10-volume developer or without any. The hair dye can be used by anyone, and the toner requires professional knowledge in colorimetry.
  • Differences in durability and maintenance: the permanent hair dye lasts between 5 and 7 weeks, and the toner lasts only two weeks.


Do you still have doubts?

Rest assured that they won’t last long. We’ll analyze the differences so that you can make the right decision about which product to use on your hair.

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1- Differences in their purpose: What is the hair dye for? What is the toner for?

brown and dark hair

Do you want to change your hair color from blonde to brown or from brown to red, for example? Then, you need to use hair dye.


  • Hair dye colors hair permanently because it changes the structure and color of your hair.
  • Now, if you’re looking to neutralize any unwanted shades, such as orange and yellow, or want to add a little shine, you should use toner.


The toner is a semi-permanent dye that doesn’t change the structure of the hair. It’s deposited on the surface of the hair to correct or highlight any existing tone.


2- Differences in application and ease of use

how many boxes to buy

If you’ve already decided that you want a total color change, you’re lucky. Hair dye is much easier to apply than toner, even more since the invention of coloring kits.


  • The hair dye is applied with a 20-volume developer. Remember that you need to generate a chemical reaction for the new color to penetrate the core of your hair.

You only have to prepare the coloring mixture with dye and peroxide. Then, apply it to the hair from root to tip. Finally, you just have to wait for the color change to happen.

Generally, it’ll take 45 minutes. In the meantime, you can watch a series or read a book without fearing that your hair color will get saturated. This means that   you don’t need advanced coloring knowledge to apply hair dye. 


  • Now, if you want to neutralize unwanted tones, the process is different. Toner application is more complex.

To begin with, you must know what toner color to apply to neutralize unwanted shades. You’ll need to understand how the color wheel works.


Believe me, I know many clients who ended up with their hair gray when trying to neutralize yellowish tones. So think twice if you know absolutely nothing about colorimetry.

Also, the toner works very quickly. So, you won’t be able to take your attention off the process for even five minutes.


Believe me, because I know clients who wanted to neutralize red tones at home and ended up with green hair.

Once you’ve applied the toner, you need to monitor the progress of your hair minute by minute. Never leave it on for more than twenty minutes.


3- Differences in duration and maintenance

To be honest, I mention this difference between toner and dye on an informational level. Why do I say this?


  • You can’t decide which product to use by thinking about how long the effects will last on your hair.  You have to think about your goal. 

Even if the hair dye lasts longer, if you want to neutralize unwanted tones, it won’t do you any good.

Why does the hair dye last longer?


In addition, the change it produces in the hair is permanent. You can see it getting duller after a lot of washing, but it never fades completely.

That’s why it requires less maintenance, too. If you like the color and want to keep it, you’ll only need to touch up the roots rather than applying the product to all your hair.


  • Now, if you’re looking to neutralize unwanted shades, you’ll need to use the toner. Unfortunately, it lasts about 2 to 3 weeks, depending on what toner you use and how much you wash your hair. Yes, bad news. But it’s a logical matter.

Toner simply forms a film of color on your hair. It doesn’t penetrate it. Every time you wash your hair, some of the pigments fade with the water and shampoo.


  • To keep it as the first day, you should apply it every two weeks to have a vibrant color. As for your hair routine, things don’t get any better because you’ll have to be very strict.

You’ll have to use color depositing shampoo and wash your hair less frequently. Also, you won’t be able to enjoy long hours under the sun or look like a mermaid at the beach or pool because chlorine and sun rays are toner’s worst enemies.



There are very noticeable differences between toner and hair dye. They’re designed for different coloring processes.

So first, decide what you want to achieve on your hair, to choose the right product. Have you selected the product your hair needs?


Let’s recap to see if you’ve made the right decision.

  • If you want to make a significant color change, you should opt for a hair dye. It’ll stay on your hair longer and require less maintenance.
  • If you want to neutralize unwanted shades, choose a toner. It’ll last less time, but you won’t see your hair oxidized, dull, and untidy.

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