Do Toners Damage Hair? Here Is What You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S.
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated

When it comes to flaunting a flawless look, this can be done best by none other than beautiful hair giving a perfect shiny look. Hair dye and bleaching work best to make the hair look more fashionable.

However, the color may fade if your hair is exposed more often to hair processing and sun bleaching.

As experienced hair professionals, we did deep research to find the solution to bring back all the lost shine your hair had before it turned undertoned and brassy. We got hair toning as the best possible solution to fix the issue instantly.

But after testing the procedure of different hair tones like silver-blue hair, orange hair, yellow shades, and dark brown hair, we found that most hairs turned a little dry after the toning process. 

It was when we started looking deeper into, “do toners damage hair?”. Continue reading to know what we found! 

Summary

While toning gives a beautiful finish to your hair, doing it wrong can have terrible effects.

Toner, when used correctly and as directed, usually does not damage hair. However, if left on the hair too long, used too frequently, or applied to already damaged hair, it can cause some damage.

Do your research before selecting a product and then continuing with it. Read the instructions carefully. If you have damaged hair, consider seeing a professional stylist.

Read on to find out why and how can you avoid and fix it!

What is a hair toner, and how does it work?

do toners damage hair

As the name implies, hair toners are hair products containing pigment that offer a professional finish after the hair has undergone the coloring process.

This semi-permanent dye, sometimes containing ammonia, enhances or neutralizes the unwanted tone to get your hair into a specific color. 

To get your locks professionally toned, pre-lighten or color the strands first. The toner then works by following the color theory, i.e., colors that are opposite on the color wheel balance one another out.

The toner will introduce the perfect shade to neutralize unfavorable or unwanted tones but not completely change your shade, thus retaining your natural hair color. 

For instance, if you notice yellow and orange tones after you bleach your hair, use a purple toner to neutralize the unwanted tones or shades and get a perfect look. 

Types of hair toner

do toners damage hair

Because hair toners come in many different colors, it's important to know ahead of time which one will work best for your hair. Toners for hair are classified into three types based on color resistance: 

The temporary toner, the semi-permanent toner, and the permanent toner. 

Temporary toners

Temporary toners are the best choice if you just want to lighten your hair and try a different color. As the name implies, it does not remain intact on the hair strands for an extended period of time. Use it once a week to keep your hair color warm, and you are good to go! 

Semi-permanent toners

Semi-permanent toner offers a temporary solution to getting a new hair color. It does not last long and fades away after 10 to 12 washes.

Permanent toners

Permanent toners can fix major color problems caused by permanent hair dye in a way that lasts for a long time. It opens up the hair cuticles, so the toner penetrates deep into the hair structure, darkens the hair shade, and offers a new shade altogether. 

It has the ability to lighten virgin hair from 1 to 5 levels. 

Permanent toners contain ammonia as their main ingredient, so it is better to get your hair toned by a professional hairstylist. 

Does hair toner damage hair?

blonde hair, purple shampoo

Toner, when used correctly and as directed, usually does not damage hair. However, if left on the hair too long, used too frequently, or applied to already damaged hair, it can cause some damage.

You may have read an article about hair toner damage and need clarification on whether it is the right choice for your hair and whether hair toners really damage your hair.

It would be wrong to say that toners are all good or all bad since rating a toner is based on multiple factors. 

Blaming a hair toner for your dry, brittle hair because the last product you used was a toner is all wrong. Not every hair type settles with a hair toner and reacts against it. So the toner is not to blame if you have had a similar experience. 

Toners with harsh chemical compositions are to blame for your toner damaging your hair.

Exposing your strands to the toner that tends to alter the structure of your hair is risky. If your toner needs to be mixed with a hair developer, it is terrible for your hair. 

In short, always consider the toner for your deposit-only strands, so the hair follicles remain undisturbed and the cuticle never loses its strength and remains healthy. 

Read this: 17 Easiest Ways How To Repair Damaged Hair Naturally

Seven signs of toner damage

color treated hair

After sharing every detail about whether toner damages hair, you must know several toner damage signs so you can easily point them out and fix the issue. 

Your hair is falling off

Hair loss is an indication of thin, dry strands, but toner is to blame if you suddenly lose a lot of hair in places after toning. The excessive use of toner weakens the strands, saps moisture, and eventually causes them to break. 

Read this: 15 Easy & Effective Ways How To Stop Hair Breakage At Home 

Your hair color won’t last

Do you feel exhausted from spending a lot of time toning your hair and still not getting the desired result? It's time to call it quits because you must have been over-toning them recently. 

Your hair's porosity level determines if it can lock in enough moisture. Because medium-to-high porosity hair dries out quickly, over-toning may cause your strands to stop locking in color.

Your hair seems lifeless or dull

Hair gradually starts losing its shine if it is not properly hydrated or is exposed to harsh chemical products. The insufficient hydration level turns the strands dry, and exposure to harsh chemical toners worsens the situation. 

Toners containing ammonia are dangerous. Also, avoid using ammonia-containing shampoo and conditioner for good strand health. 

Your hair is curly and brittle due to a lack of moisture

Normal, healthy hair has its cuticles laying parallel to each other, giving the strands a straight, voluminous look.

Brittle strands after toning indicate that the cuticle of your hair has been affected by some product ingredients and is now more prone to easily rolling over each other, promoting hair breakage

Your hair is split at the end

Excessive toning, high-porosity strands, and medical problems restrict sebum secretion by the hair follicle. When you don't make enough sebum, it's hard to keep water from escaping, which can lead to a split, dry ends. 

Read this: How To Repair Damaged Hair Follicles? 

There is no bounce in your curls

Your strands' lack of vibrancy and elasticity shows that they have been through some trauma in recent times. Excessive heat styling, tight braiding resulting in stretching of strands, and use of harsh hair toner products can contribute to the problem. 

Read this: How To Grow Your Hair Overnight?  

Straw-like hair covers your scalp

Straw-like hair is difficult to maintain and looks super messy. This type of hair indicates that the strands are extremely dry. Dry, brittle hair makes hair styling impossible, exposing it to hair breakage.   

This is a common problem you may experience with non-professional hair toner. 

How to avoid damage when using a toner?

You do not need to worry if you notice any of the above damage signs in your hair. After detailed research, we have come up with some tips on how to avoid or repair damage when using a toner. 

Bio-Pilixin® Activation Serum

activation serum

No matter what toner you use, it will always slightly affect your hair's strength. An activation serum like Bio Pilixin Activation Serum is the best way to ensure your hair's health.

Bio Pilixin helps reduce damage and helps nourish hair follicles to stimulate better growth. It has plant growth factors that feed your scalp and repair damage caused by hair products, especially in hair that has been toned.

Bio-Pilixin® Activation Serum | For Women
Bio-Pilixin® Activation Serum | For Women
Drug-free & clinically tested

Choose an ammonia-free toner

Another effective way to minimize toner damage is to opt for an ammonia-free toner. Ammonia-less toners are generally milder than ammonia-based ones.

They open up the cuticles, but not too much, so your hair does not lose a lot of moisture during the process. The result might not be as vibrant as the ammonia-based ones, but they sure are more gentle on your hair. 

Use conditioner

While toning chemicals take away your hair’s natural luster, conditioning them is an excellent way to rehydrate.

Toning conditioners coat your hair with essential nutrients to keep it from getting damaged and help it heal. Depending on your hair's hydration needs, you can opt for a hair mask or keratin treatment.

Hair Recovery Conditioner | For Women
Hair Recovery Conditioner | For Women
Aims to improve smoothness & durability while helping to reduce breakage

Read this: 14 Best & Proven Hair Regrowth Conditioners To Buy In 2023

Avoid dyeing your hair too often

Your hair needs healing breaks of about 6–8 weeks before you re-dye them. Dyeing your hair too often can make it frail and dry. 

After dyeing, apply hair care products and give your cuticles enough time to relax and repair. Once they do, you can continue with the dye job. 

Shampoo less often

Shampooing too often removes your hair's natural shine and leaves it rigid and brittle. Natural oils help condition the color and keep it vibrant. 

Shampoo washes it off and makes your hair dull and dry. In such cases, dry shampoos are often our best friends. 

How to use toner without damaging hair?

No matter how many blogs or claims you find online, toning your hair with zero damage is a myth, especially if a developer is involved.

However, what we can do, is minimize the damage. Following are some tips to tone your hair by minimizing damage risk. 

Use the right developer

Before choosing a developer, you need to understand the job. A developer raises your cuticle, which lets the color get into or out of it.

They are available according to their volumes, 10, 20, 30, or 40. The higher the number, the more it will lift the hair cuticles. As a result, there will be more damage. 

Avoid cheap toners

Toning is the most important step in coloring your hair. You need to make sure you're using a high-quality toner with no ingredients that could hurt your skin. 

Since it goes deep into the hair and changes it from the inside out, we wouldn't recommend you use cheap toners.

Before buying, analyze all the chemicals and choose the right professional toners to prevent maximum hair damage. 

Don’t overprocess bleached hair

Overprocessing is when you leave the toner and developer in for longer than what the package says you should.

Most toners require about half an hour to work efficiently; after that, they mostly overdo their job and damage the hair beyond repair. When you rinse it off, make sure to remove all of it thoroughly.

Be careful with ammonia-based toners

Always try to get your hands on ammonia-free toners to avoid any possible hair damage. A toner made with ammonia is harsh on hair because it opens the cuticle, goes deep into the hair shaft, and changes the structure of the hair. 

This change in structure often shuts down the scene because it stops the strand from making sebum, which gives it much-needed moisture. 

Even though the amount of ammonia in toners made with ammonia is not this high, some risk is still involved.

How often can you tone your hair without damaging it?

hair growth

As you know, you have to keep toning your hair at certain intervals to retain the color. But how long should these intervals be? It mainly depends on your hair condition.

If your hair is brittle and has not recovered from the previous toning episode, you should give it at least a 7- to 8-week break. However, if you feel like they are in better condition, you can tone them after 4 to 6 weeks. 

Toning the hair twice a week to fix a problem you don't want can do much damage. 

How long do toners last on hair?

There is no definite answer to this question. It depends on multiple factors. Your hair type, hair condition, washing routine, etc. If you have colored your hair multiple times, the toner will likely fade early.

However, if you color them for the first time, they will last longer. Moreover, if you wash your hair more often, the toner will likely be washed off soon, and you will need more regular toning. 

Conclusion

While toning gives a beautiful finish to your hair, doing it wrong can have terrible effects. 

Do your research before selecting a product and then continuing with it. Read the instructions carefully. If you have damaged hair, consider seeing a professional stylist.

Remember to hydrate your hair, and remember that healthy hair is beautiful. Happy dyeing!

Read more:

Dr Amy Revene M.B.B.S. graduated from the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. She is currently working as a General Physician at New Hope Medical Center. Amy has a passion for research and offers her expertise and opinions to help people in their quest to lead healthy, happy lives.