Q: I studied cosmetology 5 yrs ago and I continue to do hair outside of my home with family and friends and my cup of tea is
cutting. Now a days everyone wants highlights in their hair and I have a hard time just keeping them even throughout the strands.
When I get it done in the salon, I notice that what happens is, the stylist will lift my color (being that I have almost naturally
black hair) and then she'll wash out the bleach or whatever she uses to lift, and then puts in the color while my hair is still wet.
My question is: Is she using a "toner", and if so, what’s the difference between a toner and just color?
Now the 2nd part of my question, usually when I am going to highlight someone's hair, I have them pick up the color they want for
themselves because I don't want to be responsible for ever putting a color in their hair they did not want, so should I be telling
them when they pick out a color or if its a toner that it should read "deposit only"? ( I want to add that I am a hispanic and the
majority of hair I do is on hispanic woman with very dark hair.)
Thanks in advance for your expertise in this matter. Have a great day.
A: What the stylist is doing when you go to the salon for highlights is called a ‘two-process color’. When you are dealing with very
dark shades of hair – especially among individuals of Latin, Asian, Middle Eastern and African descent – it is necessary to
pre-lighten the hair in order to get a good color result. This is especially true if the desired color is more than just a
shade or two lighter than the natural color.
The second stage of the ‘two-process color service’ is the “toner stage’. This just means that
the stylist will then apply a color to give the pre-lightened hair the desired shade. You can use most any permanent color
formulation in the toner stage as long as it is the desired color.
There ARE color products that are called “toners” which are deposit-only colors and are designed
to be translucent to allow the natural variation of the hair’s natural color to come through. Of course, there are color formulas
that aren’t listed as “toners” that are also translucent formulas for the same reason. The multiple uses of terms like “toner” are
one of the more confusing aspects of what we do. So, in short, almost any haircolor can be a toner if it is used in a two-process
color service to give the final color result, these may or may not be considered “toners” based on their formulation. There are
specific toner formulas designed to create a gentle shift in color results, such as adding a strawberry blonde tint to naturally
blonde hair, or an auburn tone to a neutral brown shade, or to shift the color from a brassy shade to something more natural. These
products may be used during the “toner stage” of a “two-process” color service.
For your second question, the answer depends on how light the highlights are meant to be
compared to the natural or starting color. If the highlights are simply meant to be subtle, such as a medium blonde with highlighting
that’s a couple of shades lighter, you can use a single-process color service with a lifting action color formula to get the desired results.
However, in any color service where you are going to be pre-lightening the hair, you can usually
use a deposit-only color to apply the color for the result that is desired. While I will agree that the ultimate choice should be
the client’s, there is something to be said for helping the client make the choice about the hair color to buy for application. You
are generally better qualified to determine whether the desired results can be achieved with a single-process, high-lift color
application, or whether there needs to be a pre-lightening and toning for a two-process color service (in which case, a
deposit-only color would be acceptable).