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The Truth About Toner

14 January 2011

White, platinum, silver, light ash… whatever you want to call it. Shades of light blonde are some of the hardest to attain and maintain which leads to a lot of bad information about how to go about it.

Let me explain how it works.

Getting white hair isn’t really a matter of bleaching the hell out of your hair. There is a hell of a lot of bleaching involved but it’s not the whole process. To bleach your hair all the way to white is not impossible, it’s just not a great idea. Expect a ton of breakage, extreme dryness and hair that resembles spaghetti when wet.

So how is it done?

First you lighten your hair to pale blonde and then you use some colour trickery to make it appear whiter. It’s all to do with colour theory. Remember in art class when you drew the colour wheel? No? Catch up here.
So if you compare blonde hair to white hair, what’s the difference? Blonde hair is really just light yellow hair. To go white you need to mask this yellow with another colour – the opposite of yellow.
If you’ve ever used a white toner, you’ll know that they’re very pale violet in colour. The violet, being the opposite colour to yellow, in effect cancels out the yellowness in your hair giving it a whiter appearance.

How do you get silver hair?

For a shimmery pale silver colour, you’re doing the same process. There’s enough violet in the silver toner to eliminate the yellow tones, but there’s also a hint of blue. This very, very pale blue gives the hair a silvery look. It’s also the same reason old ladies sometimes end up with a “blue rinse”.

So now we understand the colour theory, what is there to confuse? Well, a lot of people think if your hair is dark blonde and you add enough of a darker violet it will go white. Wrong! They’re forgetting lightness. If the base colour is nowhere near white in lightness then there is no way adding more colour can make it lighter.

What happens if you put violet on yellow-blonde hair?

You get a weird neutral greyish brown colour, not quite mousy brown but similar. It’s not pretty like dark ash blonde. It’s a dull muddy colour, not even a cool dark grey. (Hey, want to know how dark grey is made? I have a recipe for you).

So there you have it. I hope this explains how silver and white toners work.

Colour wheel


  • You posted this article one and a half times! Report Comment
  • cool! to share my experience, I wanted to add how right u are about not bleaching your hair to death! its a gradual process. Patience is needed, I found a hairdresser to bleach bath my Mandarin hair! we did a weak peroxide mix, then weaved highlights through so it looked light ginger with strawberry blonde highlights, I went back and had this process 3 times over 3 months untill it was light enough then to lightly bleach it whole head, then a wella ash blonde semi was used over it to turn it a white/blonde. I use silver shampoo and toner it weekly and now all I need to do is have my roots bleached 3 monthly, my hair is in great condition as I took time and allowed the experts to do it gently over time.....perserverence and patience keep healthy hair! XXX Report Comment
  • Thanks tooblue, fixed it. Report Comment
  • Can I use the toner even if my hair r pale green? Report Comment
  • I you were to use a violet toner on green hair, you'll end up with a funny greyish colour. Report Comment
  • pinkbex jezzzzz 3times monthly r every 3 months lol Report Comment
  • So I don't really need to bleach my hair? Report Comment
  • This is just what i needed to read - thank you Report Comment
  • This is really useful! :) I'm actually planning on doing this soon, so this was really insightful, thanks :) Report Comment
  • Wait what about the bleach prism lites in violet does it lessen the orange color Report Comment
  • when i bleached my hair it whent almost white at the top but a burned orange colour at the ends, is there a way to prevent this?? Report Comment
  • ^ bleach the bottom half of your head first. Put the bleach on about 1 inch 1-1/2 inchs away from your roots. Once this is done go back and do the roots-- hair on top of your head takes less time to process because of the heat from your scalp, especially if it is virgin hair Report Comment
  • Brilliant my hairs wrecked as it is.. :) This basically cuts out the middle man. <3 PEACE!<3 Report Comment
  • when using a home made toner, do you apply it to wet or dry hair. does it matter, does one work better? i haven't been able to find any information about the application of home made toner Report Comment
  • In m endevours to tone my hair I applied to dry hair and ....tbh i was winging this as i had no clue either..... but i find dry hair easier to handle. plus it's easier to keep track of where you've applied the toner as it doesn't have the same consistancy as most colour dyes do. It's more gel like and transparent almost (besided the faint violet of course.) Although I have no idea if it would be better or worse with wet hair. <3 hope this helps :3 Report Comment
  • hello , i was wondering if any of you could tell me what would happen if I aply manic panic's voodo blue in my hair without bleaching , I know it won't be a bright colour , but any way i want to try it , the colour of my hair without bleaching it's ash blonde , please help me , is the first time i use manic panic's products , im 12 , yeah i know im young , thanks <3 Report Comment
  • anybody know the proper procedure to go platinum the right and healthyist way possible? cause after i do that I got an aqu blue im putting in Report Comment
  • Can I apply white toner on a turquoise hair if I want it to be brighter, or it won't work on already dyed hair? Report Comment
  • If I dilute purple dye can I make my own toner? Report Comment
  • I make my own toner via diluting directions ebony due to it resulting in a silvery purple rather than diltuted pastel purple :) Report Comment
  • I had silver hair but it turned a greenish tone. If I use pink shampoo will that neutralize the green? Report Comment

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