What can I use instead of developer for toner? Short answer: nothing!

orange hair woman puts her hand to her forehead

  • You can’t use anything in place of developer to mix with toner. The developer is indispensable in a toner mix.
  • It’s because toner is a type of permanent coloring, which needs the action of the developer to penetrate the cuticles, deposit the pigments, and neutralize the unwanted colors.
  • What you can do is use 10-volume developer instead of 20-volume developer. It will damage your hair less. And what if you want to avoid using developer? Instead of toner, you can neutralize any harsh colors by using a toning shampoo.


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Wait, did my eyes read this query correctly?

Someone asked me  if you could use some other element instead of developer to mix with toner. 


And the answer is that the only thing you can use to mix with toner is developer.


The first few seconds after reading the query, I thought there must be many bored people around trying to reinvent, unsuccessfully, the wheel.

But then, with a calmer mind, I thought that maybe this person wants to replace the developer in the mix with something else because they don’t want to damage their hair with chemicals.

If you’re wondering about this question for that reason, later on I’ll tell you about another alternative.


It’s also common for people to ask me if toner is applied on dirty or greasy hair. And here you’ll find the answer.

In the meantime, let’s delve into why it’s essential to mix developer with toner.


Developer is the only thing you can use to mix with toner

developer and other items to mix with toner

Because when you mix toner with developer, a chemical reaction occurs. That is,  the developer opens the hair cuticles, allowing the toner to penetrate into your hair fiber and core to change the color of your hair, neutralizing harsh colors. 


Since toner is a permanent hair color, it needs the developer to generate the chemical reaction in the hair. But unlike permanent hair dyes, toner contains less ammonia, so it will completely fade with washing.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you replace toner with some other ingredient.

  • If you mix toner with water, there will be no chemical reaction. Therefore, you will have wasted toner and your hair will still have the same harsh colors.
  • If you mix toner with conditioner, your hair may or may not be softer, and when you rinse the mixture out, the harsh colors will still be there.

Now let’s imagine another possible scenario.

  • If you apply the toner on its own, it won’t set in your hair because the pigments won’t penetrate the inner layer of the hair. Therefore, you will waste time and money and the harsh colors will remain anyway.


As you can see, all these situations have two things in common:

  •  Without developer, the toner didn’t neutralize the harsh colors. 
  • But since the toner contains ammonia, you will have exposed your hair to the chemical aggressiveness of the toner without achieving what you were looking for.

So, here’s the million-dollar question.


What alternatives are there if you don’t want to use chemicals to tone your hair?

Fanola toning shampoos

I’ll be honest with you.  There are two alternatives to neutralize harsh hair colors. 

  • Toner.
  • Toning shampoo.


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The advantage of toner is that it lasts longer, because thanks to the developer, the pigments penetrate the inner layer of the hair.

10 volume developer to mix with toner

What you can do  if your hair is damaged or dry is to replace the 20-volume developer with a 10-volume developer . This will still open the hair cuticles so the toner can penetrate inside the hair.


 And what if you don’t even want to mix 10-volume developer with the toner ? The only alternative you have to remove the harsh colors from your hair is to use a toning shampoo instead of toner.


A tinting shampoo deposits pigments with each wash, neutralizing the unwanted colors gradually. If you don’t want to wait for at least three washes to see results, apply a color mask using toning shampoo.

  • Comb your dry hair and apply the toning shampoo from the roots to the ends.
  • Leave it on for 40 to 60 minutes.
  • Rinse your hair with plenty of cold water.
  • To keep your hair free of harsh colors, use the toning shampoo twice a week.



Developer is the only thing you can use to mix with toner. Otherwise, you won’t be able to neutralize any harsh colors.

If you’re concerned about damage to your hair, you can use 10-volume developer to mix with the toner. Or you can avoid toner altogether by using a toning shampoo.

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