Toners, glazes and getting the perfect highlighted colour

There are few things I used to despise more than toners! Generally I viewed them as a money making exercise for hairdressers. Well what’s changed? In some senses not much. Apart from a much better understanding of glazes. I still despise toners, but I understand the rational behind them better.

So what is the difference between the two? Again, not much, so lets start with toners:


Are usually used when a hairdresser has F#$&ed up! (Probably why I despise them so much)  Generally speaking and if you have highlighted your hair regularly I am sure you will have had this experience. A toner consists of:

  1. Having your hair rinsed
  2. Hairdresser mixing colour
  3. Shampooist / hairdresser applying colour faster than Wayde van Niekerk can run.
  4. Hairdresser develops colour a little longer than Wayde van Niekerk runs the 400m
  5. Shampooist / hairdresser gets client to basin faster and rinses faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100m
  6. Client leaves salon with:
  • Perfect coloured hair/
  • Purple rinse that they are assured will wash out in a day or two
  1. Glaze washes out well before next appointment and client is stuck using purple shampoo.

Well if you’re cooking, a glaze is a glossy coating. If you are doing pottery it is a coating fused to the outside, or if your painting it is a layer of paint thinned so as to be somewhat transparent. The last is perhaps the closest to the definition of a glaze as used in hairdressing.

There are 2 ways of glazing in our understanding:

  • The first is you mix your colour with developing lotion, read peroxide and a condition/treatment as a diluent.
  • In the second is you use a pastel developer (usually about 1/3 the strength of normal developer)
  • Both of the above mean that a glaze can not make the colour it is applied to lighter it can just add other colour to it.

Either work equally well! Now is however the time to point out the key difference between a glaze and a toner, if done properly: In a toner the colour is rinsed when the hairdresser thinks it has developed to the right colour. While in a glaze the colour is developed to completion. The net result of this is if done properly is glazes are:

  • More precise as the colour is developed to completion.
  • Far more durable as a colour developed to completion is less likely to wash out.
  • Usually take much longer and use more colour.
  • Cost far more to do.

Where as with a toner you have a lot of half developed colour molecules who don’t quite know what they are supposed to do. Which is probably why they rinse out of your hair so quickly. And it is so easy to get purple hair!

Why I despise toners
  • Any idiot can highlight hair and then cover up the fact that they did not rinse at the proper time to get a decent highlight with a toner. (Good luck will ensure that a toner will give the right result most of the time)

However with modern colour cooler shades are becoming more and more requested and it takes real skill to:

    • Develop the highlights until they are light enough to achieve the target shade.
    • Select the correct glaze and develop accordingly to achieve it.

Yes, I dare say, I may be going soft in my old age, but the more I work with glazes the more I believe they are a legitimate part of a colourists tool bag. They allow me to guarantee a clients colour every time with a precision I can not do with highlights alone. Glazes can also do this in some instances faster than I can do with highlights alone, even including their extra development time. They also allow me to guarantee with reasonable certainty that my clients colour will last between appointments.

The Way of the future

I am reading more an more of , and using more often too, double glazing techniques. No I am not talking about windows, but rather a process where not one but 2 or sometimes 3 or 4 glazes

Usnig 2 differenet glazes instead of a toner at Simon Clark Hairdressing

Using 2 different glazes instead of toners to kill chicken fat yellow at Simon Clark Hairdressing the best hair salon in Port Elizabeth

are applied one after the other or in combination to achieve the desired result The picture along side was done using a full head of foils using 2 different strengths of highlighting mixture and then doing another full head of foils using 2 different glazes. A simple analogy is you would not expect an artist to create an master piece using one colour,  so how can you expect your hairdresser? This though is a topic for another blog. Modern hair colour is no longer a case of just doing a few highlights and the slapping on a toner. If you want a colour that will stand out from the crowd it will take a little time, but at the end of the day, if you have the right hairdresser, it will be time and money well spent!

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5 thoughts on “Toners, glazes and getting the perfect highlighted colour

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