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Last updated: April 19, 2023

How To Formulate Blonde Toner (& Mistakes To Avoid)

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Photo Credit: Instagram via @josievilay

Your Complete Guide To Formulating Toner For Blondes

If there’s one thing that clients are always asking for, it’s the brightest blonde, blonder and blondest looks. Clients are lining up with hair dreams of classic platinums, ash tones and trend-setting warm, honey blondes. With the range of blonde requests growing wider, it’s best to be prepared with toning techniques for every look.


Keep scrolling for a list of blonde formulation tips from the industry’s toning experts!


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1. Red and gold add much-needed brightness to ash tones.

Struggling with blonde clients always complaining their hair looks too dark? A lot of times, clients say they want an “ash” or “icy” tone when what they really want is a nice, bright blonde. Schwarzkopf Professional® Artistic Team Member Josie Vilay (@josievilay) has a solution: Her “secret sauce”—a.k.a. your color bar staples Red and Gold.


Adding gold to your toner can help add brightness and shine to blonde hair. On the flip side, adding red can mute down ash tones and reflect light by adding warmth—no brass included! Plus, formulating in this way creates unique toners clients can’t find anywhere else.


Hit play to watch Josie’s application technique in action:

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A post shared by HAIRSTYLIST | EDUCATOR | SUPER MOM (@josievilay)


2. Here’s why your blonde gloss is looking too dark.

If you feel uneasy when your blonde gloss comes out a little darker than unexpected, you’re not alone. Luckily, blonding expert Carly Zanoni (@the.blonde.chronicles) has a cheat sheet you can follow to pinpoint where you need to correct your formula:


  1. Not formulating enough warmth. Yes, warmth. It’s essential for creating bright, healthy-looking blondes! Carly usually makes at least 1/4 of her formula warm-toned.
  2. Not adding a clear gloss. Think of clear gloss as an insurance policy for the end result. Sure, it will slow down processing time, but it also creates more time to ensure that any extra porous strands don’t grab super dark or ashy.
  3. The level you used was too dark. Carly recommends staying lighter with the gloss. You can always go darker if needed!
  4. The formula doesn’t account for the hair’s porosity. Remember, blonde hair is exceptionally porous. The best defenses against a porous blonde are warmth and clear gloss.


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3. Roots turning purple or ashy? Try this!

Josie likes to add gold into her formulas on freshly lightened areas. Why? Not only does it help keep those sections from turning purple or ashy, but adding gold also helps balance out the overall tone from roots to ends. Sounds like a win-win to us!


Check out Josie’s toning trick in action:

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A post shared by HAIRSTYLIST | EDUCATOR | SUPER MOM (@josievilay)


4. PSA: Toning affects your client’s hair history too.

The key to bombshell blonde transformations? Knowing how to troubleshoot your client’s hair history. Schwarzkopf Professional® Artistic Team Member Carlos Rojas (@colorbycarlos)‘s number one tip is knowing that “just a dark gloss” isn’t as simple as it sounds. 


“[My client] told me right away that she had a gloss months ago…I knew that depending on what her stylist chose to tone with would dictate my lift. Not all demi colors are the same and some stylists choose to tone with permanent color,” Carlos explains. “I chose a darker, neutral root smudge and a lighter, cooler midlength to ends toner using Schwarzkopf Professional® IGORA VIBRANCE®. In total, I used three different toning formulas to neutralize, enhance {and turn my client into} a gorgeous bronde goddess.”


Carlos had to tone creatively to give his client’s highlighted hair an even color story.

Photo Credit: Instagram via @colorbycarlos


5. Josie’s advice: Know the truth about toning.

We can guess why toning is Josie’s favorite salon service. It’s quick, satisfying and—most importantly—has a massive impact on your client’s hair without the time commitment and price tag of the initial color. Behind the chair, toning works for YOU—especially if you can sort through its many public misconceptions. 


Here’s what Josie wants you to know:


  1. Toning will NOT make blondes brighter.
  2. Toning is NOT expensive. Think of it more as a maintenance service.
  3. Lightener is NOT required. Toner just enhances, harmonizes and neutralizes your client’s current color.


Photo Credit: Instagram via @josievilay


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