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Can You Apply Toner to Dry Hair?

If you are researching how to choose and apply a toner to your hair, chances are, you are confronting a lot of overwhelming information. Many get confused if you can apply toner on dry hair or wet hair. After all, there are many different toners on the market, and all of them seem to have different instructions. 

You may have noticed that a lot of toners are applied to wet or damp hair. But does this mean that all toners can only be applied to wet hair? Is there any type of toner that can also be applied to dry hair? The answer is yes! In this article, we will discuss the answers to these three important questions:

  1. What is toner?
  2. What type of toner can be applied to dry hair?
  3. How can you apply toner to dry hair?

Continue reading, so that you can use the best methods, products, and techniques to tone your hair while it’s dry!

What is a Toner?

toner for hair

A toner deposits color without lifting any color out of your hair. There are color-depositing shampoos and conditioners that you can use to temporarily coat the hair with the color of your choice.

You may have seen this in the form of a purple shampoo or perhaps a color-enhancing conditioning mask. These, of course, must be applied to wet hair

A more commonly used, and longer lasting toner, is actually a demi-permanent hair color. A demi-permanent hair color is one that penetrates the outer cuticle, or barrier of the hair, to deposit color.

It doesn’t contain ammonia, so it does not penetrate through the core of the hair and it doesn’t remove any pigment from the hair. It lasts for twenty to twenty-four washes. (That’s at least ten weeks if you wash your hair twice a week.)

Demi-permanent hair colors come in two forms: liquid and cream-based. A liquid demi-permanent toner will be packaged in a small bottle, while a cream-based demi-permanent toner will be packaged in a tube. But, which one can be applied to dry hair?

What Type of Toner Can You Apply to Dry Hair?

Types of Toner

As we discussed, the two types of demi-permanent toners are liquid-based and cream-based. Both of these types of toners can be applied to dry hair! You may have seen liquid toners applied to wet hair, but they can also be applied to dry hair too!

Here’s a table that shows which types of toners/demi-permanent colors can  be applied to dry and wet hair. 

Apply when the hair is…Liquid-Based TonerCream-Based Toner
WetYesNo
DryYesYes

Notice how a liquid-based toner or demi-permanent hair color can be applied to both wet and dry hair, while a cream-based toner or demi-permanent hair color can only be applied to dry hair. So, both liquid and cream-based toners can be applied to dry hair! 

Truth is, applying a toner to dry hair can actually have a more dramatic result than applying it to wet hair, so if you want to make a drastic change in your hair color, I suggest either applying a liquid-based or cream-based toner to your dry hair. 

That leaves the question: How do I apply toner to my dry hair?

How Do You Apply Toner to Dry Hair?

The methods for applying a toner to dry hair can be slightly different depending on whether you are applying a liquid-based toner or a cream-based toner. There are a couple of ways to go about it, so please consult the guide below for detailed instructions. 

Materials You Will Need For All of the Following Color Processes:

  • Gloves
  • Cape/Apron
  • Towels
  • Plastic Cap
  • Timer

How to Apply a Liquid-Based Toner to Dry Hair

Method 1: No Sectioning Required

This method of applying liquid-based toner to dry hair is definitely a time saver because there is no sectioning involved. You simply squirt the bottle of toner/demi-permanent color onto your hair and rub it in, making sure all of your hair is thoroughly saturated with the color. 

In addition to the basic, hair coloring materials listed above, you need…

  • Liquid Applicator Bottle
  • Wide Toothed Comb
Apply a Liquid-Based Toner to Dry Hair - Without Sectioning

Step By Step Directions for Applying a Liquid-Based Toner to Dry Hair Without Sectioning

  1. Make sure your hair is clean and completely dry. 
  2. Put on your cape/apron and gloves.
  3. Pour the color into an applicator bottle, and then pour in the developer. The directions for the color will specify at what ratio you should mix the color and developer. Thoroughly shake the applicator bottle to mix the color with the developer.
  4. Flip your hair over a sink, shower, or bath tub. 
  5. Squirt the color all over your hair, making sure to saturate your roots. 
  6. Rub the toner in from roots to ends, just as you would a shampoo. Make sure your hair is fully saturated with the color. It may even lather. 
  7. Comb the toner through your hair with a wide toothed comb or your fingers.
  8. Cover your hair with a plastic cap to prevent making a mess, and to keep your hair from drying. 
  9. Set your timer for the recommended processing time, which is usually 20 to 30 minutes for liquid demi-permanent colors. 
  10. After your color has been processed for the recommended amount of time, shampoo your hair with a gentle shampoo and make sure to let your conditioner soak into your hair for a few minutes. Use cool water to shampoo and condition your hair. 

Method 2: Section by Section

This method of applying a liquid-based toner/demi-permanent color to dry hair is a little more time-consuming than the first method, but if you want to be extra thorough, this is the method for you.

This method involves sectioning out the hair and applying the toner onto each section with an applicator bottle, and then spreading it into the lengths of the hair with a color brush or your fingers. 

In addition to the basic, hair coloring materials listed above, you need…

  • Applicator Bottle
  • Color Bowl
  • Color Brush
  • Butterfly Clips
  • Rat Tail Comb
Apply a Liquid-Based Toner to Dry Hair - Sectioning Method

Step By Step Directions for Applying a Liquid-Based Toner to Dry Hair Section by Section

  1. Clean your hair and make it completely dry. 
  2. Wear a cape/apron and gloves.
  3. Put the color into an applicator bottle, then add the developer. Check the directions for the color to know at what ratio you should mix the color and developer. Shake the applicator bottle well to mix the color with the developer.
  4. Section your hair into four sections, and clip each section in place with your butterfly clips. 
  5. Squirt the color onto the perimeter of your hairline, and then use your color brush to brush in the color with strokes that are directed up away from the hairline. Then apply the color to the perimeter of each of the four sections of hair using the same method. 
  6. Start at the back of your head at the nape of your neck. Use your rat tail comb to section out a small section of hair.  
  7. Squirt the color at the base of the section (at your roots), and either use your color brush or fingers to spread the color all the way from the roots to the ends. You may have to squirt more color onto the section of hair to fully saturate it, especially if you have long hair. 
  8. Work your way to the crown of the head section by section. Then move to the front hair sections.
  9. Once you have applied the color to the whole head, take a plastic cap and cover your head. 
  10. Set your timer for 20-30 minutes. 
  11. Once your color has been processed for 20-30 minutes (recommended time), use a gentle shampoo and conditioner to wash your hair using cold water. Let the conditioner soak into your hair for a few minutes.

How to Apply a Cream-Based Toner to Dry Hair

A cream-based toner/demi-permanent color has a different texture than liquid-based toners and therefore requires a different application method.

Instead of mixing and applying the toner with an applicator bottle, you will need to use a color bowl and brush. You will then use the color brush to apply the cream-based toner onto each section of hair. 

In addition to the basic, hair coloring materials listed above, you need…

  • Color Bowl
  • Color Brush
  • Measuring Cup
  • Butterfly Clips
  • Rat Tail Comb
Applying a Cream-Based Toner to Dry Hair

Step By Step Directions for Applying a Cream-Based Toner to Dry Hair

  1. Make sure your hair is clean and completely dry. 
  2. Squeeze the tube of demi-permanent toner into a color bowl.
  3. Measure the proper amount of developer with your measuring cup. (The ratio of the amount of color to developer that should be used will be specified in the directions for the color.)Thoroughly mix the color and the developer
  4. Section hair into 4 sections. Use butterfly clips to clip each section in place.
  5. Dip the color brush into the color and brush it onto the perimeter of your hairline. Then apply the color to the perimeter of each of the four sections of hair. 
  6. Start at the back of your head at the neck nape. Use a rat tail comb to section out a small hair section.  
  7. Brush the color onto the hair, starting at the roots and working your way down to the ends. Use your fingers to squish and rub the color into your hair, fully saturating it with color.
  8. Work your way to the crown of the head section by section, and then move to the front sections of the hair. 
  9. After you have applied the color to your whole head, cover your hair with a plastic cap. 
  10. Set your timer for the recommended processing time. 
  11. After your color has been processed for the recommended amount of time, shampoo your hair with a gentle shampoo and make sure to let your conditioner soak into your hair for a few minutes. Use cold water to shampoo and condition your hair. 

In Summary

With the abundance of information out there, it is sometimes difficult to discern just exactly what you can and cannot do when it comes to coloring hair.

However, you can be sure that applying a toner/demi-permanent hair color to dry hair is perfectly fine! With the suggestions from this article and the right materials, you will be expertly toning your hair in no time!

Key Things to Know:

  • A toner can include color-depositing shampoos or conditioners, but the most common and lasting type of toner is a demi-permanent color. 
  • Both liquid-based toners and cream-based toners can be applied to dry hair. In fact, cream-based toners can only be applied to dry hair.
  • Applying a toner to dry hair will create a more drastic or dramatic effect than applying it to wet hair. 
  • Make sure to read all the directions for the toner that you are using before you start applying it.