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If you have color-treated strands, a toning shampoo is key for keeping brass out of your hue. Here’s how to select the right one for you.

Why Toning Shampoo Is a Must-Have for Your Haircare Routine

If you have color-treated strands, a toning shampoo is key for keeping brass out of your hue. Here’s how to select the right one for you.
Why Toning Shampoo Is a Must-Have for Your Haircare Routine

If there’s one non-negotiable product in any color-treated haircare routine, it would have to be toning shampoo. This type of in-shower formula is basically a secret weapon for keeping your salon hue looking vibrant for longer. But there are many different kinds of toning shampoos out there—in bright shades like blue and purple—each of which suits distinct hair colors. Finding the right one to meet your needs can get a bit hairy, so we’re here to help. Ahead, learn what toning shampoo does and which type can best fit into your routine. We’re also naming some of the best toning shampoos from the L’Oréal portfolio of professional brands. Let’s jump in.

What Does a Toning Shampoo Do?

Toning shampoo is a type of tinted haircare formula that deposits vivid pigments (often blue, purple, or green) onto hair’s surface to neutralize the appearance of brass. Different colors of toner can help address different unwanted undertones in your hair:

  • Purple toning shampoo: Purple can help cancel out yellow brassy tones in blonde, silver, or gray hair for a more cool-toned look.
  • Blue toning shampoo: Blue toners can help offset orange brass in dark blonde and lightened brown hair so they appear more neutral.
  • Green toning shampoo: Green, although less common, can help balance red brassy tones in very dark hair to enrich its depth and add shine.

Their efficacy all goes back to the basic concept of color theory: Hues that lay opposite on the color wheel can cancel each other out when overlaid. To determine which type of toning shampoo you’ll need, examine your strands, identify any undesired, underlying hues, and choose a shampoo in a contrasting color.

Who should use toning shampoo?

Anyone looking to minimize the appearance of warmth in their hair can benefit from a toning formula. Those with lightened or very blonde hair will see the most noticeable results from using a toning shampoo, but it’s not exclusive to one shade. This brings us to our next point…

Good hair day by @brentondiallo.

What Does Toning Shampoo Do to Brown Hair?

All three shades of toning shampoo can help enhance the vibrancy of brown hair. However, picking the right one all comes down to your hair color level. For background, your hair level is simply a measurement of how light or dark your hair is on a scale of one (black) to ten (platinum/white). Choosing the right hue is essential if you want the most effective toning results.

For example, lightened brunettes with highlights or balayage level eight or higher can reach for a purple shampoo to cool down their blonde accents. Meanwhile, anyone with black to dark brown hair (levels 1-4) can benefit from a green toning shampoo to offset red undertones that typically appear. Brunettes who fall somewhere in the middle can pick up a blue toning shampoo, which is specifically designed to address orange undertones in this hair color range.

Is Toner Just Purple Shampoo?

Purple toning shampoo may be the most well-known kind of at-home toner (especially if you’re a bottle blonde), but there are other options. These can include glosses, conditioners, masks, and sprays. And, as discussed, different colors of toners are available, too.

It’s worth noting that the word toner can also refer to in-salon toners. These are demi-permanent hair dyes that your stylist can apply to enhance your hue, minimize brass, soften your strands, and add shine. While both in-salon and at-home toners can help refresh and balance your hair color, the formulas—and how long they last—are very different. Professional toners can last up to eight weeks, depending on how often you wash your hair, whereas the effects of toning shampoo usually last 2-3 washes.

Good hair day by @ishh.

How Do You Use Toning Shampoo?

How to use toning shampoo can vary from product to product, so be sure to read the label on your chosen formula. With that said, there are a few general steps for washing with a tinted shampoo.

First, you’ll want to determine how much shampoo you’ll need based on your hair’s length. Typically, a dime-sized amount works for shorter hair, while a quarter-sized amount will do for longer lengths. You’ll want to use a little bit more than your normal shampoo to ensure your hair gets fully saturated with the vivid dyes.

Next, massage your shampoo onto your scalp using circular motions to help loosen any buildup. Then, gently work the lather down through the lengths of your hair. Usually, you'll want to let toning shampoo sit on your hair before rinsing so it can really work its magic. How long will depend on the specific formula.

Finally, maximize the brass-busting effects of your shampoo with a toning conditioner from the same range. If your shampoo doesn’t have a matching conditioner, follow with a moisturizing formula to add shine and softness to your mane. Apply your conditioner from the mid-lengths to the ends of your hair, avoiding the roots. Let it sit for the allotted time indicated on the label, then rinse.

How long do you leave toning shampoo on?

As mentioned, reading the product packaging is the best way to gauge how long your toning shampoo (and conditioner) should sit on your strands. As a general rule of thumb, though, let the hair color you want to achieve guide you. If your previously ashy hair has turned severely brassy, your toning products might need to sit a bit longer to restore those cool tones. Those who prefer warmer-leaning hair, on the other hand, may require less exposure to toner to help strike their desired balance of golden but not brassy.

Your hair's porosity can also impact when you should rinse out your toning shampoo—namely, if you have high-porosity hair. High porosity hair simply means that your hair is extra absorbent (commonly associated with curly, coily, or damaged hair) and tends to soak up haircare products like a sponge. This can make highly porous hair more susceptible to getting stained by toning shampoo. Exercise caution with how long you let the shampoo sit—we recommend setting a timer on your phone to avoid any mishaps. Already slipped up? A clarifying shampoo can help remove unwanted pigment.

How often can you use toning shampoo?

It’s important to note that toning shampoos aren’t intended for daily use. The effects of these formulas can last for a few washes, and using them continuously can darken or stain your strands. As such, try limiting their use to once or twice a week—or simply any time your hair looks more brassy than you’d like.

Our Favorite Toning Shampoos To Try

Now that you’re clued in on all things toning shampoos and how they work, you can start shopping. Ahead, discover a few of our best toning shampoos (and conditioners!) from the L’Orèal portfolio of professional brands.

Matrix Brass Off Shampoo

Ideal for brunettes who lighten their hair, Matrix’s Brass Off Shampoo deposits balancing blue-violet pigments to help reduce the look of brassy tones. For moderate toning, you can round out your routine with the corresponding Brass Off Blue Conditioner to further remove brass and provide hair with twice as much moisture. If you only need light toning, use your regular shampoo with the pigmented toning conditioner to nourish your strands and refresh their cool tones.

Matrix So Silver Shampoo

Whether you have naturally gray hair or color-treated blonde strands, Matrix’s So Silver Shampoo can help eliminate any dull yellow undertones that pop up. Like the Brass Off line, you can boost the effects by following it up with the complementary So Silver Purple Conditioner—or opting for the toning conditioner on its own.

Redken Blondage Shampoo

Redken’s Blondage Shampoo is a toning shampoo for blonde hair that can help refresh your color and address the damaging effects of bleach and hair dye. The purple formula, which contains citric acid, helps strengthen hair from the core while removing brass for a brighter, truer blonde hair color.

Kérastase Bain Ultra-Violet Purple Shampoo

With ingredients like hyaluronic acid (a super hydrator), Kérastase Bain Ultra-Violet Purple Shampoo can help keep bleached hair feeling nourished. However, its pigmented, anti-brass formula is what might make it a true star in your blonde haircare routine.

Shu Uemura Art of Hair Yūbi Blonde Anti-Brass Purple Shampoo

Shu Uemura Art of Hair Yūbi Blonde Anti-Brass Purple Shampoo contains an exclusive Japanese-crafted technology to help deposit more neutralizing pigments onto your strands with every wash. This toning shampoo for blonde hair also helps smooth your locks and leave them with a natural-looking glow.

Next Up: Brassy Hair: What Is It, How To Correct It, and Prevention

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