Haircare - Hair

How to Use Toning Shampoo: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to use toning shampoo for the best results: a step-by-step guide to choose and use toning shampoo.

Written by Amber Belanger
how to use toning shampoo

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Toning shampoo is helps maintain the vibrancy of your hair color and combat brassiness. It’s a popular choice for those unwanted tones as it’s easy to use.

So how do you use it?

First of all, you need to understand the underlying tones in your hair. Depending on these, you need to pick a specific toning shampoo color.

Then, there’s the application itself. Different brands (such as Olaplex or L’Oreal) provide different directions. But don’t worry, it’s not that complicated.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What Is Toning Shampoo?

Toning shampoo is a special type of shampoo designed to help maintain and improve the color of your hair. It works by neutralizing brassy or unwanted tones in colored, highlighted, or natural hair.

The magic behind toning shampoo is the pigment it contains. The pigment helps remove unwanted tones by following the color wheel principle.

For example, purple shampoo works on blonde hair because purple is opposite yellow on the color wheel. Blondes tend to develop yellow brassy tones.

That’s why it’s important to choose the right toning shampoo color.

Before Use: Choose the Right Toning Shampoo

To get the best results from toning shampoo, you need to choose the right one for your hair color.

They come in different colors that target specific hair issues:

  • Purple shampoo
  • Blue shampoo
  • Green shampoo

Here’s how to choose.

Purple Shampoo

If you have blonde hair or light highlights, a purple toning shampoo is what you need. Purple shampoo works best for neutralizing yellow tones in blonde hair.

Blue Shampoo

If you tend to develop brassy or orange tones in your hair, blue toning shampoo is the right choice for you. It’s perfect for brown hair, especially if you have blonde highlights or lighter brown hair.

Green Shampoo

For those with dark hair looking to tone down red tones, use a green shampoo. Green toners help cancel out red undertones, giving it a more natural appearance.


When choosing a toning shampoo, check its formula as well. Opt for one that suits your hair type and is free of harsh chemicals.

You can also use semi-permanent hair color as toner, but remember that shampoo will be a milder option.

How to Use Toning Shampoo

There are five steps to use toning shampoo:

  1. Wet your hair
  2. Apply the toning shampoo
  3. Let it sit for 1-5 minutes
  4. Rinse it out with cool or lukewarm water
  5. Apply a conditioner or toning conditioner

Step 1: Wet Your Hair

Before applying toning shampoo, make sure your hair is thoroughly wet. Wet hair helps in better distribution of the shampoo. It also makes it easier for you to create a lather.

Use warm water to wet your hair, to help your hair cuticles open.

Step 2: Apply Toning Shampoo

Pour a coin-sized amount of toning shampoo into your palm and massage it into your hair. Focus on areas where you notice unwanted tones or brassiness.

Make sure to distribute the shampoo evenly in your hair for best results.

Step 3: Let It Sit

Allow the toning shampoo to sit in your hair for approximately 1-5 minutes (depending on the product). This gives the shampoo enough time to work its magic and neutralize the brassiness.

Don’t leave it on for too long, as over-toning can lead to an unwanted color change.

Step 4: Rinse (With Cool Water)

After letting the shampoo sit, rinse it out of your hair using cool water.

Cool water helps in sealing the hair cuticle, locking in the toning benefits, and preventing color from fading.

Step 5: Toning Conditioner

To improve your hair’s tone and add moisture, follow up with a toning conditioner.

Apply the conditioner to your wet hair, focusing on the mid-lengths and ends. Leave it in for 2 to 3 minutes, then rinse.

How Often to Use Toning Shampoo

Use a toning shampoo once or twice a week. This depends on the product you’re using, and the brassiness of your hair. If you use it too much, you may experience dry hair or discoloration.

Learn more: How Often to Use Toning Shampoo (From the Brands)

How to Use Toning Shampoo on Different Hair Colors

Toning shampoo helps achieve the perfect hair color, whether you’re a blonde, brunette, or rocking silver or gray hair.

Here’s explore you can use toning shampoo for different hair colors:

Hair ColorToning Shampoo ColorApplication Time
BlondePurple3 to 5 minutes
Silver/GrayPurple (milder solution)1 to 3 minutes
Light BrownBlue3 to 5 minutes
Dark Brunette/BlackGreen3 to 5 minutes
Bleached/Highlighted/Lightened (Yellow tones)PurpleFollow bottle directions
Bleached/Highlighted/Lightened (Orange tones)BlueFollow bottle directions
Bleached/Highlighted/Lightened (Red tones)GreenFollow bottle directions
Dyed (various colors)Specific for your shade / Color-depositing shampooAsk your hairstylist

Blonde Hair

For blondes, go with a purple shampoo. Blonde hair tends to develop yellow undertones, so purple shampoo will work well.

To use one, simply wet your hair, apply the shampoo evenly, and let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Follow up with a conditioner or purple conditioner.

If you have light blonde hair (such as pearl or platinum), be careful not to leave it on for too long. You can also go with a platinum shampoo (a light version of purple shampoo).

Silver and Gray Hair

Much like for blonde hair, purple toning shampoos are the go-to for silver and gray hair. As silver and gray hair can be more delicate, opt for a milder solution. This will prevent discoloration.

Follow the same steps as with blonde hair, but consider leaving it on for less time, around 1-3 minutes.

Brown and Black Hair

For light brown hair, go with a blue shampoo. This counteracts orange tones. If you are a dark brunette or have black hair, you’ll want to use a green-toned toning shampoo. This helps against red undertones.

Simply apply it to wet hair, let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes, and rinse well. Condition your hair afterward for added moisture.

Bleached, Highlighted, or Lightened Hair

If you have colored strands, highlights, or lightened hair, you need a toning shampoo specific to the underlying tones.

If they are yellow, go for purple shampoo. If they are orange, go with blue shampoo. And if they are red, go with green shampoo.

You can also ask a hairstylist for the best product recommendations. Follow the directions provided on the bottle to maintain your desired color.

Dyed Hair

For dyed hair in various colors, you may require a toning shampoo designed for your specific shade. Or, you can use a color-depositing shampoo.

If you have dyed hair, it’s best to ask your hair stylist. They can help you find the best solution for your hair color.

Common Toning Shampoo Mistakes

Toning shampoo can go wrong. If you’re not careful, you may end up with stains or dry hair.

Here are the most common mistakes to avoid:

  • Using toning shampoo too often.
  • Leaving toning shampoo on for too long.
  • Using the wrong color of toning shampoo.
  • Using toning shampoo on dry hair.

Using Too Often

Using toning shampoo too frequently can lead to over-toning. This may cause your hair to look dull or stain.

Stick to using the shampoo 1-2 times per week, or follow the directions on the bottle. Your hair is unique, so adjust the frequency based on how your hair reacts.

Leaving It on for Too Long

Letting the toning shampoo sit on your hair for too long can result in an uneven or overly toned result.

To avoid this, follow the recommended time on the package, usually around 1-5 minutes.

If you have a specific toning goal, consult with a hair professional for advice on the appropriate amount of time.

Using the Wrong Color Toning Shampoo

You need to choose the right color toning shampoo for your hair type to get the best results.

Toning shampoos come in various shades. Each is designed to neutralize specific unwanted tones. If you use the wrong color, it won’t work.

Remember these basic rules:

  • Purple shampoo: Targets yellow tones in blonde hair.
  • Blue shampoo: Neutralizes orange tones in brunette hair.
  • Green shampoo: Neutralizes red tones in dark hair.

Using On Dry Hair

Always use toning shampoo on wet hair. If you use it on dry hair, it can lead to uneven results as the product won’t distribute evenly. Wet hair makes sure it’s distributed properly.

Additionally, consider using a clarifying shampoo before toning to remove buildup. This allows the toning shampoo to work more effectively.

Why Your Toning Shampoo Isn’t Working

Are you experiencing brassiness in your hair after using a toning shampoo? Here are some tips if your toning shampoo isn’t working.

If you’re blonde, check out our guide on why purple shampoo isn’t working for you.

Are You Using the Right Shampoo?

First, make sure you’re using the right toning shampoo for your hair.

Remember that toning shampoos are designed to correct specific undesired tones in your hair. Identify the undertones you want to correct before choosing a shampoo.

For example, purple shampoo works best for canceling out yellow tones. Blue shampoo is suitable for counteracting orange tones.

Are You Overusing or Underusing?

You may not see results if you’re underusing your toning shampoo. If you don’t leave it on for long enough, it won’t have time to work.

At the same time, if you’re overusing it, it may leave stains in your hair. If you have purple stains after using purple shampoo, use it less.

You can fix it by washing your hair with a clarifying shampoo.

Avoid overusing or applying too much toning shampoo. More product doesn’t mean better results. Stick to using a dime-sized amount when working with highly pigmented toning shampoos.

Use Regularly

If you don’t see long-lasting results, it may be that you’re not using the toning shampoo regularly.

To maintain your vibrant hue and deliver a long-lasting effect, use the toning shampoo once or twice a week. This keeps your hair from fading and your desired undertones in check.

Additional Hair Toning Products

Toning shampoo is not the only solution to keep your hair looking perfect.

The following enhance and preserve your hair color and offer some extra benefits:

  • Hair toners
  • Toning hair masks
  • Tinted shampoos
  • Salon appointments

Hair Toners

Hair toners are great for neutralizing unwanted tones. They’re often used by stylists during a salon appointment as a color correction tool after dyeing your hair.

Toning Hair Masks

Hair masks offer deep conditioning for your hair. But some also possess toning properties, especially for color-treated hair.

Apply a hair mask weekly to enhance the health of your hair, reduce brassiness, and maintain your desired hair color.

Tinted Shampoo

Tinted shampoos are slightly different from toning shampoos. They contain a gentle color deposit formula that revives your hair color while cleansing.

These shampoos are a great choice for refreshing your hair color in between salon appointments.

Go to the Salon

A salon appointment is always an option if you feel the need for a professional touch-up or color correction. Stylists use advanced techniques (such as applying a lightener or hair dye) to achieve the desired shade for your hair.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply toning shampoo to my hair?

To apply toning shampoo, wet your hair thoroughly and massage a small amount into your scalp and hair. Lather the shampoo, concentrating on the areas with unwanted tones. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes (or follow the specific product instructions) before rinsing thoroughly.

What is the best way to use toning shampoo with other hair products?

When using toning shampoo, it is a good idea to follow up with a conditioner designed to work alongside it. Avoid mixing with other hair treatments that may interfere with the toning shampoo’s effectiveness.

Can I use toning shampoo on dry hair?

Typically, toning shampoos are meant to be used on wet hair. Applying it to dry hair may not achieve the desired results or distribute the product evenly.

How often should I use a toning shampoo to maintain my hair color?

It is generally recommended to use toning shampoo once or twice a week to maintain your hair color. However, this may vary depending on factors such as the specific product and your hair type. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best results.

Are there any specific techniques for using toning shampoo on highlights or balayage?

To target highlights or balayage areas with toning shampoo, apply the shampoo mainly to those sections. Focus on massaging the shampoo into the areas with undesired tones, leaving it on for the recommended time before rinsing out.

Do I need to follow up with a purple conditioner after using toning shampoo?

While it is not mandatory to follow up with a purple conditioner, using one can help enhance the effects of the toning shampoo. A purple conditioner can add extra nourishment and shine to your hair, sealing in the toning effects and maintaining the desired color for a longer period.

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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.