Haircare - Hair

The Truth: Does Toning Shampoo Really Work?

Does toning shampoo really work? It’s not as simple as you think.

Written by Amber Belanger
does toning shampoo work

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Most people who look for toning shampoo have unwanted tones in their hair. If that’s you, then we have good news:

Toning shampoo does work.

For the most part. That is, if you’re using it the right way, and if you’re using the right toning shampoo for your hair.

Because even though experts claim that toning shampoo works, there’s more to it. You have to pick the right one, and do it right.

Here’s how.

The Basics of Toning Shampoo

Before diving into whether or not toning shampoo works, here are the basics of what it does.

If you know about toning shampoo already, you can skip this part.

What Is Toning Shampoo?

Toning shampoo is a type of shampoo that helps maintain or change the tone of your hair color. It does so by removing unwanted yellow, orange, or red tones (depending on the toning color).

These tones most often show up in color-treated and bleached hair. This is because the color of your hair is stripped away, leaving room for underlying tones to come out.

There are toning shampoos for all hair colors: blonde, brown, dark brown/black, and so on.

If you have colored hair (such as vibrant blue or red) don’t use toning shampoo. Use a color-depositing shampoo instead.

Toning shampoo is different from regular shampoo because it contains color-depositing pigments. These are what neutralize the unwanted tones.

It is also different from toner, which is a liquid applied to the hair after bleaching or coloring to neutralize any unwanted tones.

The Science Behind Toning Shampoo

Toning shampoo works by depositing color pigments onto the hair shaft. The pigments work as they are opposite in color to the tones they remove.

Think of the color wheel. Purple is opposite of yellow, so purple shampoo neutralizes yellow tones. The same goes for blue and green toning shampoo.

The pigments in toning shampoo are designed to be temporary and will fade over time with regular washing. The toning effect lasts differently depending on factors such as porosity, frequency of washing, and type of toning shampoo used.

Benefits of Toning Shampoo

Toning shampoo has several benefits, including

  • Maintain your hair color: Toning shampoo can help to maintain the tone of your hair color between salon visits. It can also help to extend the life of your hair color by neutralizing any unwanted tones.
  • Enhance your hair color: Toning shampoo can enhance the tone of your hair color, making it look more vibrant and shiny.
  • Neutralize unwanted tones: Toning shampoo can help to neutralize any unwanted tones, such as yellow or brassy tones, making your hair look more natural and healthy.
  • Convenience: Toning shampoo is easy to use and can be incorporated into your regular hair care routine.

Does Toning Shampoo Work?

Yes, toning shampoo does work. But you have to use the right shampoo for your hair. The pigments work to neutralize opposite tones. If you use the wrong toning shampoo with the wrong color of pigments, it won’t do anything.

Does Toning Shampoo Work on Natural Hair?

Toning shampoo does also work on natural hair. While lightened or bleached hair has a tendency to develop more brassy tones, natural hair can have the same problem. Toning shampoo works on both.

How Fast Does Toning Shampoo Work?

The time it takes for toning shampoo to work depends on several factors:

  • Type of toning shampoo
  • Color of your hair
  • Intensity of the unwanted tones
  • Porosity

Much like the toning effect fades over time for the same reasons, the effect may not work immediately.

Most people will see almost instant results though. If you don’t see results after the first wash, you most likely will after the second.

For best results, it is recommended to use toning shampoo regularly, depending on your hair’s needs.

Toning Shampoo for Different Hair Colors

Toning shampoos work differently depending on your hair color. Here’s how toning shampoos work for different hair colors:

  • Blonde hair
  • Brown hair
  • Gray and silver hair
  • Black hair
  • Red hair

Blonde Hair

For blonde hair, toning shampoos are used to neutralize any unwanted yellow or brassy tones.

Purple toning shampoo is the best option for blondes as it contains purple pigments that counteract the yellow tones.

Learn more: Toning Shampoo for Blonde Hair

Brown Hair

For brunettes, toning shampoos are used to enhance the richness of the hair color and reduce any red or orange tones.

Blue toning shampoos are best for brunettes as they contain blue pigments that neutralize the red and orange tones.

Learn more: Blue Shampoo for Brown Hair

Gray and Silver Hair

Gray and silver hair develop yellow tones. Use toning shampoos to reduce these and enhance the silver or gray tones. That’s why purple shampoo is best.

Learn more: Purple Shampoo for Gray Hair

Black Hair

Black hair is tricky, as it doesn’t always develop strong undertones. The natural pigment of the hair is too strong. Undertones most often develop if you lighten or bleach it.

If you do this, you’ll likely experience orange or red undertones. For this, green or blue shampoo is best.

Learn more: Green Shampoo for Dark Hair

Red Hair

If you have red hair, toning shampoo isn’t the recommended treatment. You’re likely looking to enhance your color, so use a color-depositing (or similar) shampoo.

If you use purple, blue, or green shampoo, you’ll end up fading your hair color or stain it.

Common Toning Shampoo Mistakes

Toning shampoo works. But, there are a few common mistakes that will make sure it doesn’t work the way it should:

  • Overuse
  • Leaving it too long
  • Using the wrong color

If you want to make toning shampoo work for you, avoid these.


One of the most common mistakes people make with toning shampoo is overusing it.

While toning shampoo is a great tool to keep your hair looking its best, overuse will cause damage to your hair.

Overuse can leave your hair feeling dry and brittle, and can even cause your color to fade faster.

To avoid overusing toning shampoo, follow the instructions on the bottle carefully. Most toning shampoos are to be used once or twice a week.

Leaving It on for Too Long

Another mistake people make with toning shampoo is leaving it on for too long.

While leaving the shampoo on your hair for a few extra minutes seems harmless, it’s not. It can actually damage or stain your hair.

Most toning shampoos are designed to be left on your hair for just a few minutes. Don’t leave it on for longer than that. If you do leave it on for too long, you may notice that your hair feels dry and brittle, and may even start to break.

Using on Dry Hair

Another mistake is to use toning shampoo on dry hair. While it can be done, it’s not recommended.

The best way is to use toning shampoo in wet hair. This makes it easier to distribute and wash out.

Using the Wrong Color Toning Shampoo

Finally, one of the biggest mistakes people make with toning shampoo is using the wrong color. If you use the wrong color, you won’t see an effect. And you may stain your hair.

You should use the toning shampoo opposite to the colors you want to remove. So, the best one depends on the unwanted tones. Not your hair color.

Who Can Use Toning Shampoo?

The short answer: Everyone can use toning shampoo. Everyone who wants to remove unwanted tones.

But which one to use depends on your hair color.

Light Hair Colors: Blonde, Gray, and White

If you have light hair colors like blonde, gray, or white, then toning shampoo can help you maintain the brightness of your hair color. These hair colors are prone to yellow brassiness.

Purple shampoo is for you.

Brown Hair: Light and Medium

If you have light or medium brown hair, then you are prone to orange brassy colors. Go for a blue shampoo.

Dark Hair: Dark Brown and Black

If you have dark brown or black hair, then you’ll likely develop red-ish tones. The best shampoo for this is green shampoo.

Hair Toner vs. Toning Shampoo

Hair toner and toning shampoo both work. But which is best?

Both serve to neutralize unwanted tones, but there are some differences between the two products.

ProductHair TonerToning Shampoo
Where to useSalon or home useHome use
Use caseApplied after highlighting or bleaching serviceUsed to maintain blonde or gray hair
How it worksDeposits color onto hair strands to neutralize unwanted tonesDeposits a small amount of color onto hair strands to neutralize unwanted tones
ColorsVarious colors available (purple, blue, green)Various colors available (purple, blue, silver)
LongevityNot a permanent solution; fades over timeTemporary fix; needs regular use
FrequencyRe-apply every 6-8 weeks.Use once or twice a week.

Hair Toner

Hair toner is typically used in a salon setting. It is applied after highlighting or bleaching to achieve the desired hair color.

It works by depositing color onto the hair strands to neutralize any unwanted tones. Exactly like toning shampoo.

The biggest difference is that hair toner is stronger, so it lasts longer.

Toning Shampoo

Toning shampoo can be used at home. It works by depositing a small amount of color onto the hair strands to neutralize unwanted tones.

Go for this if you don’t want to go to the salon every 6-8 weeks.

How to Get Results With Toning Shampoo

To get the best results with toning shampoo, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Here’s is an easy guide on how to use toning shampoo:

  1. Wet
  2. Apply
  3. Wait
  4. Rinse
  5. Condition

1. Wet Your Hair to Prepare

Wet your hair thoroughly before applying toning shampoo. This will help create a good lather and distribute the product evenly throughout your hair.

2. Apply Shampoo

Apply the toning shampoo to your hair and massage it into your scalp. Be sure to lather up all of your hair, from root to tip.

3. Let It Sit

Let the shampoo sit in your hair for a few minutes. The amount of time you leave it in will depend on the specific toning shampoo you are using. Check the instructions on the bottle for guidance.

4. Rinse

Rinse out the shampoo thoroughly with warm water. Be sure to get all of the product out of your hair.

5. Condition

Apply a conditioner to your hair after using toning shampoo. This will help keep your hair soft and moisturized.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between toning shampoo and purple shampoo?

Toning shampoo and purple shampoo are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between them. Toning shampoo is designed to neutralize unwanted tones in hair. Purple shampoo is a type of toning shampoo designed for blondes.

How often should I use toning shampoo?

The frequency of using toning shampoo depends on your hair color and the amount of brassiness you want to eliminate. Generally, it is recommended to use toning shampoo once or twice a week. If you have severely brassy hair, you can use it more frequently.

Can toning shampoo help with brassy tones in blonde hair?

Yes, toning shampoo can help with brassy tones in blonde hair. It contains color-correcting pigments that neutralize the unwanted tones in your hair. Toning shampoo is especially effective for color-treated blonde hair to prevent fading.

Does toning shampoo work on brown hair?

Yes, toning shampoo can work on brown hair. It can help neutralize unwanted red or orange tones in brown hair.

Are toning shampoos suitable for all hair types?

Toning shampoos are suitable for most hair types, but they may not be suitable for everyone. If you have dry or damaged hair, toning shampoo can further dry out your hair. If you have sensitive skin or scalp, be sure to choose a toning shampoo that is gentle and free of harsh chemicals.

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Amber Belanger

Amber is not just a beauty enthusiast. She has spent countless hours doing the nails of her friends, researching the newest studies on personal care, as well as tried and tested numerous hair products. She prides herself on her factuality and luscious hair.