Haircare - Hair

How Does Toning Shampoo Work: Your Quick Guide

Here’s how toning shampoo works, and what it does depending on the color of your hair.

Written by Amber Belanger
how does toning shampoo work

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Toning has long been a common practice in hair salons. Hair dye even goes as far back as 1500 B.C.

But as we’ve developed, so has our tools to manage hair color.

One of the more recent ways to achieve the perfect hair color is toning shampoo.

These products are special shampoos, made to alter your hair color.

They don’t dye your hair. They remove unwanted tones to bring out the color you want. And they work.

Here’s how toning shampoo works on all hair colors.

Hair Color and Undertones

Toning shampoo neutralizes undertones, so your desired hair color becomes more vibrant. Colored pigments in toning shampoos target undertones with specific colors (e.g. purple shampoo eliminates yellow tones).

Here’s the science behind it.

The Color Wheel and Hair

When it comes to hair color, you need to understand the color wheel. This is important to the inner working of your hair’s undertones.

The color wheel consists of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. In the hair world, these colors are used to neutralize or emphasize certain tones in your hair.

For example, if you have blonde hair, you might notice yellow undertones in your hair. Yellow is opposite purple, so we can use purple pigments to remove the yellow tones.

Similarly, if you have brown hair with orange tones, you could use a blue shampoo to neutralize the brassiness. Blue is the opposite of orange.

What is Toning Shampoo?

What is Toning Shampoo

Toning shampoo is a special type of shampoo designed to help maintain your hair color and fight brassiness. Unlike regular shampoo, toning shampoos contain pigmented formulas that correct unwanted tones in your hair.

When you use toning shampoo, it deposits color onto your hair. This cancels out tones you don’t want and emphasize the ones you do.

This is different from clarifying shampoo and color-depositing shampoo, but it serves a similar purpose.

How Does Toning Shampoo Work?

Toning shampoo works by adding pigments that cancel out brassiness or unwanted hues.

Think of the color wheel that you learned about in art class. Colors that are opposite each other on the wheel can neutralize each other.

The most common brassy tones in hair are yellow, orange, and red:

  • Yellow is opposite purple
  • Orange is opposite blue
  • Red is opposte green

This is why we have purple, blue, and green shampoo.

color wheel

Toning shampoos work by depositing color-neutralizing pigments into your hair strands.

When you apply it to your wet hair and lather, the pigments in the shampoo are released. They then start to work on adjusting the tones in your hair. The longer you leave the shampoo in, the more pronounced the effect will be.

Follow the instructions on the bottle for the best results. You might need to use it more frequently if you have a lot of brassiness. Most brands recommend using it once or twice a week.

How Quickly Does Toning Shampoo Work?

Toning shampoo works fast. You can see the difference after just one use, two tops. Simply apply the toning shampoo and follow the instructions on the bottle. After your wash, your brassy tones should be gone.

The best way to use toning shampoo is regularly though. Don’t use it as a “quick fix” before a night out.

While toning shampoo is an easy way to fix unwanted brassy and yellow tones in your hair, it’s not permanent. Toning shampoo usually lasts up to 4-5 weeks.

Keep in mind that the results vary depending on factors like:

  • The starting color of your hair
  • The level of brassiness or discoloration
  • The specific toning shampoo you’re using
  • How you use it
  • And more

It’s also essential to choose the right shampoo that matches the tones you want to correct.

In some cases, you might need to use the toning shampoo multiple times to achieve the desired results.

How Toning Shampoo Works on Different Hair Colors

Toning shampoo doesn’t have the same effect on all hair types. You also need different colored shampoo depending on your hair color.

Here’s what you need to remember for different hair colors.

Hair ColorToning Shampoo ColorPurpose
BlondePurpleTo neutralize brassiness and correct yellow tones
BrunetteBlue or GreenTo cancel out red or orange tones
Platinum/SilverPurple or SilverTo maintain icy tint and prevent yellow/brassy tones
RedRed or CopperTo refresh and enhance vibrancy of red tones

Toning Shampoos for Blonde Hair

For blonde hair, toning shampoos should contain purple pigments. Purple pigments neutralize yellow brassiness, making your blonde hair look more vibrant and lustrous.

So, if you want to correct yellow tones in your blonde hair, go for a purple toning shampoo.

Toning Shampoos for Brunette Hair

Brunette may experience unwanted red or orange tones. To counteract this issue, you can use blue or green toning shampoos for brown hair. Blue shampoo for orange tones, green shampoo for red tones.

These shampoos help cancel out warm tones, giving your brown hair a cooler and more balanced appearance.

Toning Shampoos for Platinum or Silver Hair

For people with platinum or silver hair (either dyed or bleached), a purple or silver toning shampoo is the ideal choice.

It helps maintain the icy tint of the hair color while preventing it from turning yellow or brassy.

Toning Shampoos for Red Hair

If you have red hair, you can use a color-depositing shampoo to refresh and enhance the vibrancy of your red tones. Look for shampoos that have red or copper pigments.

Remember, toning shampoos don’t magically work in just one wash. It’s important to use them regularly in order to see and maintain the desired results.

Learn more: How to Use Toning Shampoo

How Toning Shampoo Colors Work

There are three main toning shampoo colors:

  • Purple
  • Blue
  • Green

Purple Toning Shampoo

Purple toning shampoo is specially designed for people with blonde, silver, or gray hair. It works by using purple pigments to neutralize yellow and brassy tones in your hair.

When you use a purple toning shampoo, the purple color pigments attach to the yellow tones.

It’s essential to choose a sulfate-free formula that is gentle on your hair and provides nourishment, shine, and overall hair health.

Blue Toning Shampoo

Blue toning shampoo works similarly to purple toning shampoo but is meant for people with brown or dark blonde hair. It targets orange tones that can occur in these hair types.

Green Toning Shampoo

Green toning shampoo is for dark hair, such as dark brown. It targets red tones, as green is opposite red on the color spectrum. This helps maintain a beautiful dark hair color.

Toning shampoos are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your hair type, color, and specific needs play significant role.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does toner shampoo take to work?

Toner shampoo works quickly to remove brassy and yellow tones in hair. You’ll notice a difference in just a few minutes. Follow the instructions and rinse it out properly. Results may vary, so it might take a few uses to get your desired outcome.

What does toning shampoo do for blonde hair?

Toning shampoo removes unwanted brassy or yellow undertones in blonde hair, helping to maintain a cooler shade like platinum or icy blonde. It keeps the color fresh between salon visits when you use a toning shampoo specifically made for blondes.

Can toning shampoo be used on brown hair?

Yes, toning shampoo can also be used on brown hair. Toning shampoos for brunettes address unwanted warmth like red or orange tones, maintaining a more balanced brown shade. Choose a toning shampoo made for brown hair and follow the instructions for best results.

Photo of author

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.