What’s That Purple Stuff? AKA How To Use Toner

Just lately, it seems like quite a few of you are going blonde. You must be, otherwise, why would you be writing in asking about toner?  What is it, how does it work? Will it make me look thinner?

Lets work on these one at a time. What is hair toner?

Toner, clearly, affects your hair’s “tone.” Great. What does that mean? Tone is usually described in one of three categories, cool, warm and neutral. Generally speaking, Attic customers are looking for cool. (Otherwise, why would they be in the Attic? Heh, yeah…) Cool tones have a more blue base, and those snow white, and fog grey colors are about as cool as you can get, tonally speaking. When you’re in a salon, toner is usually used in conjunction with color to achieve a specific shade. There are warm blondes (strawberry,)  and cool blondes (ash,) warm browns and cool ones. Each compliments a different skin tone, and achieves a different look.

You want white? You need this.

Toners are are available in semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent varieties. Here in the Attic, we carry Semi-permanet toner by Special Effects. People using our toner tend to be trying to achieve WHITE white hair. Some people also use toner to create pastel dye effects, or to stretch out a bottle of dye to make it cover more hair.

White hair

How does she get rid of the orange? Toner.

Hair toners main purpose is to remove the unwanted pigments left behind in the hair after bleaching or lightening and they work by canceling out the unwanted pigments using the opposite color of the pigment on the color wheel (see below.) For example, unwanted orange pigments (often referred to as “brassy”) in hair will be neutralized by a blue toner, yellow pigments are neutralized by a purple or violet toner, and so on. Hair toners provide a way to fine tune hair color and create the exact shade desired without further damaging the hair.

Why can’t green and red just learn to get along?

Special Effects toner (and Manic Panic toner) is a violet shade, so it is going to work the best on hair that’s been lightened to a yellow tone. If you can’t get your hair past orange with bleach, you’ll need to add a bit more blue to your toner. How much blue? VERY LITTLE. We’re talking, one drop at a time in the whole bottle of toner. It’s going to take some playing* but at some point, you’ll hit that expert level and get the elf hair of your dreams.

*A note: bleach is VERY damaging to hair. There’s nothing that will ever change that fact. Bleach works by softening and raising the cuticle of the hair,  once the cuticle is raised, the bleaching agents penetrate the shaft and disperses the color molecules. The more color molecules that are dispersed, the lighter the hair becomes. This is one of the more violent procedures you can put your hair through, and if you bleach too much, or too often, your hair will usually respond by simply breaking off.


Don’t let this happen to you, kids!

The good thing about Special Effects and Manic Panic toners is that they’re suspended in a conditioning base, which can help a *little* bit with post-bleach repair, but remember, nothing is ever going to bring your hair back to pre-bleaching health, so toner isn’t a fix all solution, but much like putting lemons in your bra, it can’t hurt, might help!

Back to the Attic

2 thoughts on “What’s That Purple Stuff? AKA How To Use Toner

  1. ann harford


    a lot of the above was helpful.but i’m still confused.i am a senior i have natural white hair,BUT there is a dark hair patch at the back that has not whitened AND my hair is brassy .i was given a small bottle of purple toner to use at home,your site did not say how to use the toner.can i rub it in and how long to wait.i would appreciate any help you can offer.

  2. Amalthea Post author

    Hi there! Toner works by counteracting brassy tones. Toner, being light purple, blocks out lighter yellow and orange shades. Our toner works in the same way our dye does, and is applied in the same way. You might want to check out this post for more info. It sounds like the best bet for you might be to lighten your dark patch first, and then comb bleach through the rest of your hair, letting it sit for a few minutes to open the follicles. After that, you’d want to wash with JUST shampoo, no conditioner, and, once dry, follow the directions on the link we just posted!

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