Say Goodbye to Brass by Mastering Toners


Have you ever admired someone’s natural-looking blonde haircolor? Or, maybe you’ve seen a bright blonde that looks yellow and brassy? The biggest difference between the two is toner. To create the trendiest blonde looks that our clients are after, we must master the application of toners over pre-lightened hair. Applying the right toner and achieving a perfect blonde can win a clients’ loyalty and set us apart as experts in the field of haircolor.

Mastering blonde toning means understanding the fundamentals of color. The three primary shades are RED, BLUE and YELLOW. Two primary colors can be mixed with one another to create the secondary colors VIOLET, GREEN, and ORANGE. When a secondary color is mixed with the primary color it’s missing, it neutralizes. These principles apply to haircolor as well. When we have hair that is pre-lightened to yellow, we must neutralize it with violet (a mixture of the missing primaries, blue and red). The result is a balanced, natural-looking blonde.

RED HAIR: Neutralize with Green  ORANGE HAIR: Neutralize with Blue YELLOW HAIR: Neutralize with Violet


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Now that we've covered the basics of primary and secondary colors, we can talk about levels of light and dark. Haircolor is sorted in to 10 standard levels—1 corresponds to black and 10 to ultra-pale blonde. Each level also has a natural undertone. For example, level 5 hair will have a natural red undertone.

1. Blue

2. Blue-Violet

3. Violet

4. Red-Violet

5. Red

6. Red-Orange

7. Orange

8. Yellow-Orange

9. Yellow

10. Pale Yellow

When we understand what undertone sits at each level, it make it easier for us to select the proper toner. If the pre-lightened hair appears yellow-orange, we know that we must select a level 8 haircolor with a violet-blue based tone to neutralize effectively. If we apply a level 9 toner to level 8 hair, the color will be too light to effectively tone the hair.

Finally, let’s talk about the "unicorn" haircolor that every blonde has desired at some point: white hair. This is the most challenging haircolor to achieve since it requires the hair to be lifted past a level 10 and toned just enough to achieve a clean, white finish. The key is making sure there is absolutely no yellow left in the hair. If we remove the lightener from the hair while there is even the slightest bit of yellow left, the end result will not be a true white no matter what toner we use. Remember, white is the absence of color and we cannot use toner to create an absence of color. Make sure that the guest understands the difficulty in achieving this color during your consultation, and discuss realistic options for their hair. Happy Toning!