Does toner darken hair

By: | Last Updated: April 19, 2022

Have you ever tried getting your hair bleached, but it turned out lighter than you wanted it to be?

Since you don’t have the time or budget to go back to the salon, you figured you’ll just fix it yourself.

So from digging through the internet, you read that you can use toner to darken hair. You know this sounds suspicious since you know that toner is for color correcting your hair.

But you’re scared to use hair dye since you only want to darken your hair by 1-2 levels. So you’re thinking about giving the toner method a try.

But will toner really darken your hair? Read more to find out.

What does toner do to hair?

What does toner do to hair

A hair toner corrects the warm brassy hues you usually get from bleaching or dyeing your hair.

It does this by applying color theory by using the opposite color of the shade you want to get rid of.

So if you want to remove yellow, you’ll need to use a purple toner. If you’re going to get rid of orange, you’ll need to use a blue toner. While if you want to mute down red, you’ll need to use a green toner.

You can refer to a color wheel to determine which toner you’ll need according to your hair color.

But aside from an oxidative toner, you can color correct your hair with a toning shampoo or a hair gloss. They’re easy to use, so you can maintain your hair when you’re in-between color appointments.

Is toner supposed to look dark?

Have you ever tried applying toner, only to see that your hair has turned darker than it’s supposed to be?

So you’re stuck wondering: Why is toner making my hair darker?”

Toners can come in different levels, according to how light or dark your hair is. So aside from choosing the right toner color, you’ll also need to be familiar with what level your hair is.


You can refer to a hair level chart to determine which level is closest to your hair color since you’ll need to match it to your toner level if you want to neutralize the brassy tones properly.

Otherwise, your hair will turn darker if you choose a toner level that’s meant for darker hair.

To ensure you have the correct toner level, you can do a strand test. Apply toner to a small patch of hair, preferably near the nape of your neck. Let it sit according to instructions.

If you’re satisfied with the result, you can apply the toner to the rest of your hair. But if it turns darker, you’ll need to get a toner that’s 1 level higher.

How to lighten toned hair that’s too dark?

How to lighten toned hair that’s too dark

So you accidentally turned your hair darker when toning, what should your next steps be?

If you want to keep your base color, there’s no need to resort to bleach. Since most toners contain demi- or semi-permanent hair dye, they’ll fade out after a few washes.

But if you don’t want to wait, you can use a clarifying shampoo to wash the pigments out. 

To use, apply a pea-sized amount of clarifying shampoo to wet hair. After massaging, let it sit for 10-20 minutes before rinsing. If your hair is still dark, you might need to repeat the process 2-3 more times.

But make sure to apply a moisturizing conditioner after since clarifying shampoo can dry your hair out.

Can toner darken bleached hair?

If you bleached your hair and it turned out lighter than you wanted, you can use a toner to mute its brightness by neutralizing its warm undertones. 

So if your hair is a level 8, you can use the same level toner or go down 1-2 levels if you want a cooler blonde.

But can toner turn your hair brown? The short answer is no.

Toner can make your hair cooler or warmer, but it can’t alter your overall hair color since it doesn’t contain as much pigment. So if you want to turn blonde hair into brown, you’ll need to use hair dye to achieve that.

Does tone brown hair make it darker?

You might think that hair toner is only for blonde or pre-lightened hair. But you can also use it on brown hair.

Toner won’t make brunette hair darker. But it will give the illusion of making it look darker since it eliminates warm or red undertones to create an even brown hair.

Choose an ash brown toner that matches your hair color level, or use a blue toner to cancel out the orange pigments. In contrast, you’ll need a green toner if you want to mute down the red undertones in your hair.

If you’re growing out your highlights, you can also use toner to make them blend into your natural hair. You’ll just need to use an ashy toner close to your base color to make it look natural.

But on the flip side, if your hair is reddish-brown, you can freshen it up by applying a red toner to make it look brighter. It will give your hair a subtle red tint to make the color more vibrant.


Does hair lighten after toner?

Does hair lighten after toner

Since toner won’t darken your hair, it also won’t lighten it. Your hair may look lighter after toning, but that’s only because it’s cool-toned.

So even if you’ll use a toner that’s 3-4 levels higher than your hair color, it won’t alter its shade. Most toners use 10-20 volume developers so that they won’t lift as much of your base color compared to bleach with 30-40 volume developers.

So if you want to lighten your hair properly, you’ll need to use bleach first, then apply toner.

Does toner lighten natural hair?

Toner will not lighten or darken natural hair, but you can use it to color correct or neutralize brassy undertones.

If you have brown hair, you can use a matching level toner to cancel out red and orange pigments to turn it into a richer brown. Plus, toner will make your hair shinier, making it look healthier than before.

You can also use toner on blonde hair since it tends to turn green after swimming in a chlorinated pool. So you’ll need to use a red toner to get rid of the green.

But if you plan to tone your natural hair, it’s best to use a toning shampoo since it’s less damaging and won’t alter your base color. But if you need to use an oxidative toner, make sure to use a 10-volume developer so it won’t lift your natural hair color.

CHECK OUT: Does toner damage hair

The final takeaway

Toners are great for turning brassy hair into a cool and richer shade. So if it makes your hair darker, you might be using the wrong level. 

So it’s essential to do a strand test beforehand to know if it matches your hair. But you can also consult your hairstylist on which toner is best for your hair color to avoid mishaps.

Also, remember that toner won’t make your hair darker or lighter. So if that’s the result you want, save your money and efforts and use hair dye instead.

Leave a Comment