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Hair toners are the next best thing to seeing your colorist IRL—here’s how to use ’em

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosApril 20, 2020

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Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold

There’s a stark contrast between the color of your hair that first few days after dyeing it, and your hair color about six weeks later. The color starts to fade and lose its vibrancy (and don’t even get me started on the roots)… but not everyone is bold enough to dye their hair at home. So, what can ya do? Abide by this hair toner guide, straight from a hair colorist.

Also known as a gloss, hair toner is a low-maintenance and non-permanent way to boost your hair’s color at home. “It’s the perfect thing to use in between color appointments to keep your hair lively and boost the vibrancy and radiance,” says Juliana Ohlmeyer, a New York City-based hair stylist and color pro, who notes that the seasons changing can lead to more dryness and lackluster color. “Think of a gloss as one coat of nail polish—it can be as natural and sheer as you want it to be,” she says.

Toners, or gloss, aren’t a one-size-fits-all, though. It’s important to pick your toning product based on the color of your hair. “For blondes that are starting to lose their sparkle, a violet-based toning conditioner will counteract any shabby or brassy tones and reveal sunny and bright highlights,” says Ohlmeyer, who prefers conditioners over shampoos, as they are less drying. “For redheads, who are feeling dull and lifeless, look for a copper-based conditioner, and more vibrant redheads can look for a universal red gloss for lots of shine. Brunettes, who are seeking shine should get a clear gloss to encourage the existing color.” If you have brunette hair with highlights that need to be cooled down, she recommends an ash-brown conditioner.

Note that a hair toner isn’t going to take care of your roots—it’s more of a refresh for your overall hair shade. “Glosses are a great, low-key way to keep your hair looking satiny and healthy with no commitment,” says Ohlmeyer. Unlike dyeing your own hair, using a hair toner is as easy as washing. Follow using a toning gloss product with a color-preserving shampoo and conditioner, then add in a hydrating mask treatment once a week “to keep your hair velvety-soft,” she suggests. And voila—that’s it, and it should last through about 12 to 20 shampoos. “You can do a gloss as frequently as once a month or every two months for upkeep.” Keep scrolling to shop toners for yourself.

For blondes:

Davines Alchemic Silver Conditioner, $31

Photo: Davines

Ohlmeyer recommends this product for blondes looking to brighten their strands. It’s especially good if your blonde is on the more platinum or cool side.

Kevin Murphy Blonde Angel Treatment, $41

Photo: Kevin Murphy

Combat brassiness with this moisturizing and toning treatment. All it takes is a one to two minute soak, rinse, and voila—a you’ll have a more vibrant blonde.

Living Proof Color Care Whipped Glaze, $29

Photo: Living Proof

The Living Proof toner, which is in an actual whipped, mousse texture, brings blonde hair back to life as it rebalances tone.

For brunettes:

Christophe Robin Ash Brown Shade Variation Mask, $53

Photo: Christophe Robin

An expert-approved fave for brunettes, this mask treatment restores gloss in brown hair and gets rid of any brassiness. Ohlmeyer says this one is also really good at cooling down highlights.

Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss, $14

Photo: Kristin Ess

This shine booster for brunettes (particularly dark brunettes) neutralizes your brown, removing any warm or brassy hues, and leaves a gorgeous, glossy finish.

Bumble & Bumble Bb. Color Gloss, $34

Photo: Bumble & Bumble

Brunettes get their rich brown back when using this clear gloss, which keeps hair shining and bold between color appointments.

For reds:

Evo Fabuloso Copper Intensifying Conditioner, $35

Photo: Evo Fabuloso

Snag this copper-based conditioning toner if your red hair needs extra TLC. This treatment revives shine and the vibrancy of your color as it restores moisture to dry strands.

DPHue Copper Gloss + Semi-Permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner, $35

Photo: DPHUE

DPHue makes a toner for all hair colors. This copper gloss brings that gorgeous red color back to redheads as it nixes any dullness that may have accumulated.

Overtone Ginger Coloring Conditioner, $29

Photo: Overtone

If your red hair is on the lighter side, this color conditioner works to bring that gorgeous hue back to your strands and combat lifelessness of your color.

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