While toning may come second nature to those working with blondes, it’s not always top of mind for other clients. But it should be.
Not only can toning help refine colour by neutralizing—or enhancing— underlying pigments in the hair, but it can also help boost business and bring clients back into your chair more often while ensuring that their hair colour looks salon-perfect at all times.
“Toning is one of the most important parts of the colour process because it’s going to give you the outcome that your client is looking for,” says Jenna Engel, a L’Oréal Professionnel portfolio colour artist and owner of Plush Salon & Spa in Medicine Hat, Alta. “Whether it’s a cool or warm tone or a beige or natural tone, toning is going to be the last step to conclude your colour service and will need to be touched up every six to eight weeks.”
“With all the advancement and innovation on the market right now, there’s a huge array of toning products for all hair colours and types,” adds Parfaite Koffi, a Montreal-based colourist and artistic educator for Pravana. “People tend to think of toning for blondes, but with the array of tones and levels we have now, toning is for everybody.”
PRO TIP IN ADDITION TO THE CLIENT’S DESIRED RESULT, CONSIDER THEIR HAIR LENGTH, TYPE AND DENSITY WHEN DECIDING ON YOUR TONING APPLICATION.
All in the Application
Whether you prefer to tone with a bottle at the sink or zone tone with a bowl and brush, both methods have their pros and cons. “It depends on the stylist’s preference,” says Engel. “I tend to apply at the sink with a bowl and brush or bottle applicator [with a liquid demi permanent colour], so it’s a quick, three minute process. The toners only sit on the hair for a maximum of 20 minutes, so the application is becoming a lot simpler now, especially as we’ve been moving away from shadow roots and toward more natural-looking colour.”
“Bottle applicators are quick and offer seamless applications,” she adds. “If you need something a bit more intricate—for example, someone at a level eight with orange or yellow tones—you need to make sure the hair is fully saturated, so I would use a bowl and brush since it’s more precise.”
“I prefer to zone tone at the chair,” says Koffi. “It does take longer, but I feel it’s really important because sometimes, when I’ve toned at the sink, I’ve missed spots, especially in the back and underneath. When I zone tone at the chair, I find that my application and saturation are better.” While she adds that her application can add 30 minutes—and sometimes even up to one hour—to her service time, it’s worth it, especially if it avoids having to tone the hair for a second time during the same appointment.
“MOST OF OUR CLIENTS CAN USE A TONING OR GLOSSING SERVICE. IT’S GOING TO CLOSE THE CUTICLE AND GIVE HAIR THAT BEAUTIFUL, HEALTHY SHINE THAT EVERYBODY WANTS.” — JENNA ENGEL, OWNER OF PLUSH SALON & SPA, MEDICINE HAT, ALTA.
For those working with blonde clients, a common misconception is that toning can be used as a way to “cut corners” with your lightening process. However, that’s not the case. “Toning can make or break your service,” says Koffi. “You’ve done all the work, so if you formulate it wrong when it’s time to apply the toner, it’s a big disappointment for everyone. I want to avoid that at all costs, so I put all of my effort into the blonding process, creating the most even canvas I can.”
While a client’s hair health will ultimately determine your course of action for the lightening and toning process, it’s also important to consider your client’s desired outcome when deciding on the level to lighten and tone to. “Some people tend to overlighten hair,” says Engel. “Right now, a lot of brunettes want to be lighter. Most of the time, you just need to neutralize the red undertones instead of going through a bunch of lightening processes. Keeping them at a consistent mushroom-brown tone—instead of lightening the hair constantly to get it back to a natural, dimensional brunette—you can tone to keep the shade that they’re looking for.”
PRO TIP WHEN TONING TO A COOL TONE, MAKE SURE THE HAIR IS LIFTED TO AT LEAST ONE LEVEL LIGHTER. WHEN TONING TO A NATURAL OR WARM TONE, MAKE SURE YOU’RE LIFTING TO THAT SPECIFIC LEVEL (AND NOT PUSHING IT ANY FURTHER).
Watch Your Tone
While it may be tempting to squeeze in a toning client between other services or try to sneak out for a quick break while the toner is processing, both Engel and Koffi say it’s not worth the risk.
“You can formulate something superstrong, but if you leave it on and watch it, it might be perfect after five minutes, but if you leave it on for a full 20 minutes, it will be way overtoned,” says Engel. “Watching how long your toners neutralize for is very crucial to having a perfect outcome. A lot of stylists think it’s time for a smoke or lunch break without realizing that someone’s hair can pick up that toner really fast and be overtoned by the time they get back.”
“Regardless of the toning product you use, you still need to watch it because everybody’s hair is different and things can take a turn,” says Koffi. “You need to watch it so you can clean off a strand to see that everything is going well or reapply product and resaturate, if needed.”
“Toning is something that should be taken more seriously and treated as a service within your service and given the time and attention it deserves,” she adds. “Depending on the service, you might have spent two to three hours foiling, so this is what takes it to the next level and brings everything together.”
PHOTO: HAIR: HOOKER & YOUNG, U.K., MAKEUP: MADDIE AUSTIN, WARDROBE STYLING: CLARE FRITH, PHOTO: MICHAEL YOUNG (COURTESY OF FPA), HAIR: MARK LEESON, MARK LEESON, U.K., MAKEUP: MADDIE AUSTIN, WARDROBE STYLING: S&R, PHOTO: RICHARD MILES