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Last updated: November 25, 2020

7 Tips For Toning and Glazing

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Toning, glazing, glossing, overlay. There are many different terms for the “second act” of a haircolor service, and to be honest, many colorists disagree on the precise definition and details of each of these terms.


Some colorists assert that glazing is a process that should be done only with a demi-permanent formula. Others, like International Platform Artist and Educator Sue Pemberton, say that strictly speaking, toning is defined as the process that’s done to refine a full-head bleach or bleach highlights, while glazing is a service performed on natural or colored hair to add shine or warmth or to cover gray. CoCre8 Co-Founder John Simpson believes that overlays can be done with demi, semi, permanent or reflective permanent formulas, and Sue agrees.


Bottom line? As with all color, the specifics of toning and glazing are open to each colorist’s personal methods, philosophies and approaches. That said, here are some indispensable tips and observations about these services—no matter how you define them—from some of haircolor’s leading artists.



1. Choose Your Weapons
When should a colorist tone or overlay? “Always!” declares Simpson. “Every canvas needs some sort of adjustment.” To choose the correct overlay, he offers these guidelines:

  • Overlay with a semi-permanent when your canvas is pretty close to perfect or needs refreshing.
  • Choose a demi-permanent when the hair requires stronger deposit and more durability.
  • Choose a permanent overlay when you want maximum penetration to the hair cortex or to conquer warmth when doing color correction. (Make sure the hair is light enough first!)
  • Choose a reflective permanent like Goldwell Elumen Haircolor for maximum shine and durability. A reflective permanent penetrates to the cortex with less surface saturation than a permanent formula.


2. Follow The Laws
The laws of haircolor and underlying pigment do not change when toning, notes Kenra Senior Artistic and Education Director Robb Dubré. As with every color service, keep in mind that:

  • Pale violet neutralizes yellow
  • Blue-violet neutralizes gold
  • Blue neutralizes orange
  • Green neutralizes red

(Basic stuff, but always a good idea to review these laws from time to time!) “I believe demi-permanent, deposit-only color is the best option when toning,” adds Robb, “because it will not lift the natural pigment and expose underlying warmth.”



3. Bleach and Tone
The biggest mistake when bleaching and toning, says Sue, is failing to lift the hair to the correct level in the first place. The correct level is a 9 light blonde or 10 very light blonde. “If you’re looking for a pretty highlight,” she says, “lift to Level 9. If you want Marilyn Monroe blonde, lift to 10. If you don’t get the hair light enough, you’ll be fighting too much yellow or gold with your toner. You may neutralize the warmth initially, but after the client shampoos, the unwanted warmth will reappear. So do the heavy lifting. When you bleach, rinse, shampoo and condition, the hair had better look pretty because the toner isn’t going to fix or lift. It will only refine.”


4. The Blonde Finish
The finish is what makes blondes so special, believes John. So when formulating, decide upon the finish that best fits your overall haircolor design—an opaque saturation for cool, Nordic shades; a reflective, warm sparkle; slight saturation or a neutral, cool, reflective tone. “It’s about more than ash or gold,” John says. “It’s also about opacity and reflection.”



5. Prep Step
Robb espouses the wisdom of proper prep steps—namely preconditioning and equalizing porosity—before toning. “Pre-lightened hair can have many porosity levels throughout the head,” he explains, “so using a porosity equalizer like Kenra Color Porosity Equalizing Spray before toning will help ensure that your toner processes evenly.”


6. The Perfect Gloss
For a dazzling dose of shine on previously-colored hair, or as an introduction to color for the timid, “I’m not ready to go red…yet” client, try this:  1/3 tonal color + 1/3 developer + 1/3 conditioning treatment.


7. Red Rules
When overlaying a red, says John, keep in mind that there is a fine line between an animated red and a sophisticated hue. Study the existing canvas carefully and determine what is missing. “I favor reflective permanent formulas for reds because they provide durability and intense shine,” John says. “And remember, if you pull the same color through each time, the hair will eventually ‘brown out.’”