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What Does Toner Do to Brown Hair?

If you’re rocking any brunette looks, you may have wondered if applying toner to your hair is a good option to spice things up a bit.

Toner is great for adjusting the color of your hair, and if flashy shades are on your list, it’s natural to have this question in mind: What does toner do to brown hair?

Let’s dive deeper and understand what effect different toners have on brown hair.

What Does Toner Do to Brown Hair?

using toner on brown hair

Applying toner to brown hair will typically neutralize the color, helping to create a more even and natural look. Whether you’ve had your hair dyed brown or it’s naturally brown, using a toner on it can slightly adjust the color, so you can achieve the stunning brown color you want.

Below are the different ways toner can affect brown hair.

Hair Dye Color Correction

The most common reason to apply toner to your brown hair is to even out the brown hair dye. Brown hair dye contains warm tones that can create an orange, red, or brassy color.

If this is not the color you wanted, using a cool toner can offset these warm undertones to correct the brown color to the soft and cool brown color you wanted. Warm-toned brown hair leans toward a honey-blonde or red color.

Highlight Color Correction

toning effect on brown hair with highlights

If you add highlights to your hair, toner helps make them look more natural and seamless with the rest of your hair. As mentioned, hair dye often has warm tones.

If you have cool-toned brown hair, a fresh set of highlights may add an odd brassiness and warm color to your hair, making it look unnatural.

Toner can help cool down the highlight color and create a more even and natural color. While most stylists will tone your hair after highlighting it, using toner at home can help maintain the cool color as the highlights settle in.

Corrects Color from the Sun

Sun exposure causes hair to become lighter. The UV rays bleach hair melanin, which can reveal warm tones in your brown hair and even make them redder.

A toner can help balance the warm tones by bringing the cool tones out again and correcting the color.

The sun affects color-treated hair more substantially than natural hair, so your dyed hair or highlights can lighten significantly from just a few hours in the sun.

If the sun lightens your natural brown hair, a toner can still help subdue those unwanted warm tones!

Corrects Color from Heat

If you use heat-styling tools often, like straighteners, curlers, or blow dryers, these tools can bring out the warm brassy tones in your brown hair. Heat can oxidize the pigment in your hair, whether dyed or natural.

However, dyed hair will oxidize quicker and more dramatically, as your hair strands are more porous after a color treatment. Your hair does not have to have significant heat damage for this to happen.

If you notice your cool brown hair turning more red and brassy from heat styling, a blue-based toner can return it to its chillier brown color.

Moisture and Shine

shiny brown hair after using toner

Dyed hair can become dry and brittle, especially if dyed repeatedly. Dyed dry hair can come out unevenly and patchy, as the dry spots won’t absorb color at the same rate as hydrated hair.

But toner can moisturize and soften your hair, making it less porous. Using a toner on your brown hair can make it softer, shinier, and more hydrated.

When Should You Use Toner on Your Brown Hair?

Toner should not replace your regular shampoo or conditioner and is not suitable as a daily product. While it can help your hair, it can also damage it, like any other chemical.

If your hair color is redder or brassier than you would like from dye, highlights, the sun, or heat styling, toner is a solution.

But which toner? And how do you choose between purple, blue, and all the other colors?

Purple Toner

Purple toner is probably the most popular type of toner. It’s the ideal choice if you want to carefully even out your brown hair color and reduce the warm undertones.

Because purple toner has some warm tones (purple is a mix of red and blue), it will not overcorrect your hair, making it look too cool.

Use the toner once and assess your color. If it’s still too warm, use it once a week until you achieve the desired result.

Blue Toner

blue toner for brown hair

Blue toner is more intense than purple toner, as it contains zero warm tones. Blue toner is the best option if your brown hair has taken on a drastically warm color. It’s also the better option if you have a very dark shade of brown, as purple toner is sometimes not strong enough to correct the warm red tones in darker brown hair.

Levels 6 and 7 are medium browns, which can be corrected with purple or ash shampoo. But levels 3, 4, and 5 likely require blue shampoo to tone out the warmth.

Silver Toner

On the other hand, silver toner is less intense than purple toner, so it’s best for correcting yellow undertones and refreshing the cool tones. Silver toner will not be strong enough if you have substantial sun bleaching, heat oxidation, or warmth from hair dye.

This toner is best for those with light to medium brown hair who want to create a more ashy, silver-toned look. You can also use silver toner on dark brown hair to refresh and maintain a cool, ashy hue.

Ash Toner

ash toner for brown hair

Ash toner is similar to purple toner; it’s stronger than silver but weaker than blue. However, it’s slightly more effective than purple at reducing bold, warm tones. Like blue toner, ash contains no warm tones, unlike purple.

This blue-based toner is ideal for reducing the warmth in lighter brown colors, so use it if you have serious brassiness and your hair is a level 6 or 7.

What Does Toner Do to Brown Hair With Highlights?

Typically, toner will darken the highlights in your hair, bringing them closer to the brown color of the rest of your hair. Toner works best on dyed hair, as it can adjust the color of the dye by neutralizing ammonia and color correcting.

If you have highlights but the rest of your hair is not dyed, toner will mellow the highlights while moisturizing the rest. If you want to reduce the warmth of your highlights, you can do so with one of the toners discussed above.

The toner will not change the highlight color completely but will help it blend better with your brown hair to make it look more natural.

Does Toner Lighten or Darken Brown Hair?

will toner darken or lighten brown hair

No, toners will not lighten your brown hair. Any toner you use will likely darken your hair; however, it may not even do that. Toner is not meant to change your hair color, darken it, or lighten it. The purpose of a toner is to tone down, meaning it neutralizes certain undertones in your hair, usually red and orange.

If you want to change your hair color substantially, a toner is not the way to do it. Toner can refresh cool tones and even out shades, but it will not turn your fiery ginger hair into a soft brown.

If you want your brown hair to be lighter or darker, you need other products, like hair bleach or a hair-darkening shampoo.


Toner helps reduce red, orange, yellow, and brassy undertones in brown hair, returning it to the cool and soft brown color. The ideal toner for evening your brown hair will depend on the level.

Generally, purple, ash, silver, or blue toner is ideal for reducing warm tones and refreshing the cool tones in brown hair.


Can toner turn brown hair to orange?

No, most toners offset warm tones, so a purple, ash, silver, or blue toner would not turn your brown hair orange.

Will toner lighten or darken brown hair with highlights?

A toner will subtly darken your highlights, but will mostly just adjust the tone of the color.

Can I use purple toning shampoo on my brown hair?

Yes, purple toning shampoo is excellent for reducing brassiness.

Can I use green shampoo on my brown hair?

Yes. Green shampoo can help you neutralize subtle warm tones in darker brown hair.