The 10 Best Hair Toners for a Subtle Color Boost

When your hair needs a refresh, these formulas are great in a pinch.

Camille Chifflot poses backstage ahead of the Sportmax fashion show during the Milan Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 on February 23, 2024 in Milan, Italy.
(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Coloring your hair is a commitment. While your hair may look impeccable when you're leaving the salon, it's natural for it to dull in color after a few weeks, especially if you've been exposed to environmental factors like sun, salt water, chlorine, and harsh hair products. Investing in the best shampoos and conditioners—especially blue shampoos and purple shampoos—can help your color stay longer. But using one of the best hair toners or hair glosses in between appointments is key for maintaining color vibrance.

In case you're unfamiliar, "A hair toner is a product used in hair coloring to neutralize or enhance certain tones in the hair, especially after bleaching or lightening," explains Luis Perez, Color Designer at the Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa. "It helps achieve the desired shade by counteracting unwanted colors like brassiness or yellow tones." He notes, however, that hair toners come in all hair colors. Hair toners can be formulated to eradicate ashy tones from warm hair and yellow tones from ashy hair. "It can also calm the color down so it is not so bright," explains celebrity colorist Rita Hazan.

To better understand the breadth of hair toners available on the market, we asked Perez and Hazan to list their favorite hair toners of all time. They've also provided guidance on how to use a hair toner, so you don't have to wait for your next salon appointment to feel your best.

Best Hair Toners

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Do I Need a Hair Toner?

Brassiness is the most common reason to incorporate a hair toner into your routine. After lightening, warm tones like yellow or orange can become more prominent, explains Perez. "A toner can neutralize these tones to achieve a cooler, more natural-looking result."

But hair toners aren't limited to those with blonde hair. "If someone wants to achieve a specific hair color, a toner can help enhance or adjust the tone to match their desired shade," says Perez. "In cases where the initial coloring result is not as expected or there are uneven tones, a toner can help correct the color and achieve a more uniform appearance."

Finally, hair toners can be used to maintain dyed hair over time so that your style lasts longer. "Over time, hair color can fade or become dull due to factors like washing, sun exposure, or environmental pollutants," he explains. "Toners can help refresh and revive the color, keeping it vibrant and true to the desired shade."

What to Look for in a Hair Toner

  • Ingredients

As with all hair and skin products, not all hair toners are built alike. For the sake of your hair health, check the ingredients list of the product you're considering before you purchase. More specifically, Hazan says, "Look for a toner with moisturizing agents like Pro Vitamin B5 or acai extract." Meanwhile, she suggests avoiding harsh, damaging ingredients like ammonia and peroxide.

  • Color

Perez adds that many hair toners are made for specific hair colors, so it's best to choose one that matches the shade and results you're looking for.

How to Use a Hair Toner

Perez advises starting with clean, towel-dried hair free of any product residue. Then, once you've familiarized yourself with the instructions on the bottle (different toners require different methods), he says to put on a pair of gloves to prevent your skin from staining.

"Apply the toner evenly throughout your hair, focusing on areas where brassiness or uneven tones are most prominent," he explains. "Use a brush or applicator to ensure thorough coverage." Allow the toner to process according to the instructions provided. This typically ranges from five to 30 minutes, depending on the toner and the desired result.

Perez warns that it's imperative to watch the time while the toner sits in order to avoid over-processing, which makes hair dry and brittle. Once time is up, "rinse your hair thoroughly with lukewarm water until the water runs clear." Use conditioner if your hair toner's instructions call for it, dry your hair, and style as usual.

How Often Should I Use a Hair Toner?

While hair toners can be used regularly for color maintenance, you shouldn't use them every time you shower. Hazan says that although frequency depends on your hair type and the potency of your formula, toners should only be used two to three times per week. Perez also says users should patch test before using a toner for the first time in order to avoid skin irritation.

Meet the Experts

Luis Perez
Luis Perez

Luis Perez is a professional hairstylist and color designer who works with Julien Farel. He specializes in balayage and in creating natural, flattering looks for all skin tones and hair types. He is currently based in New York City

Rita Hazan
Rita Hazan

Rita Hazan is a professional hairstylist with over 30 years of experience. She specializes in hair color, having cut her teeth during the highlights and bleaching craze of the 1990s. She now has her own namesake hair salon in New York City, as well as her own line of color-safe hair products.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at