DIY Toner Color Refresher

So this idea popped up in my head a while back and I’ve been tinkering, testing, and researching until I was confident enough to share with my stamp of approval.  A DIY toner. With hair down my back that is determined to turn yellow or orange when I dye it, I’ve been all over chemical toners with results ranging from waste-of-time to why-is-my-hair-blue?! And I’ve yet to come across a blue/purple shampoo or conditioner (So Silver, Shimmer Lights, etc) that did much and didn’t stink…  So I figured, why not make my own?

In fact, if you make it yourself, you can tailor it to your hair color needs AND get to use a shampoo/conditioner you like.

Now before you get excited and run out and try this, settle down and take a moment to consider any consequences of messing up and ending up with odd colored hair. If you have any fancy events to go to, or you’re meeting your significant other’s great granny, or you have a job/school that might frown upon your purple/green/whatever hair, then make sure you tread a little lightly or make sure you have a few days to fix any boo-boos because I’d hate to know you had to stay up all night with your head in scalding water using dish detergent to fade the color. How’s that for a run-on sentence? I’m just saying it’s better to find you need to add more color than to find out too late that you added too much… Also, that I’m not responsible if you have to attend a funeral with purple hair.

Ready to begin?! Then gather up the following:

  • A white/clear conditioner (or shampoo) of your choice with a removable cap
    • (I have not tried shampoo, but in theory it would work the same)
  • A deposit only semi-permanent color such as Manic Panic or Special Effects (something that doesn’t require a developer!)
    • I have Manic Panic in Ultra Violet to tone down yellow in blonde hair, but you can use whatever color you need, more on that later
  • A mixing container… preferably something that won’t stain like a glass bowl
  • A mixing instrument. Again, something that won’t stain or can be tossed. I used a hair dye brush thingy.
  • A container to put the final product in
    • I used the original conditioner bottle, but that required a funnel that Alton Brown taught me to make with a paper plate. If you’re making smaller batches you’ll need something to put it in like a tupperware container, condiment bottle, empty water bottle… something.

DIY Toner Ingredients

That’s your basic list. I also recommend having paper towels handy. Lots. And not to do this over carpet. I picked a large bottle of fairly cheap conditioner because I didn’t intend to use it often and essentially just wanted something to dilute the dye.. plus I glob it on so most of it would be wasted anyhow… Plus this bottle was transparent enough to see what’s in it so my husband won’t accidentally use it in my daughter’s hair.

So once you’ve got everything together, we’ll get to the real stuff.

Step 1) Put conditioner (or shampoo) in mixing container and add colored hair dye in small quantities. I’m saying start with half a pea size and mix it in before adding more. I ended up using less than half a teaspoon with 32oz of conditioner. People dilute these dyes with conditioner to make pastel colors on bleached hair, so don’t test the fates. You can always add more. Technically you can add more conditioner/shampoo to dilute it more, but I hope it’s not too late for your hair if you need to do this.

DIY Toner Manic Panic

Step 2) Mix together adding more color or diluting it until desired hue is achieved. It really depends on your intentions to say what your final product will look like. If you’re going to use it every wash, you’ll want it more diluted… If you use clarifying shampoo and scalding water, you may need it a bit darker… If you’re going to let it sit on your head for extended amount of time, more diluted. Just a couple minutes, darker. Slight toning, diluted. Once a month refresher, darker. See what I’m getting at? It really depends and the only way to know for sure for your needs is trial and error.

DIY Toner Mix

Step 3) Put it into a container and use! I had made a few test batches before deciding to make the full amount, which is why it’s not full (not that you care) … I also want to throw in that I rinsed the bottle before putting it back in the bottle so I didn’t have globs of non colored conditioner coming out.

DIY Toner Conditioner

Now on to some tips and stuff that you didn’t ask for but I knew you really wanted to know.

  • This could be used to make any color last longer. So if you dye your hair blue with Manic Panic already, you could mix a blue batch to extend the life. Or say you use a permanent red (which still fades like crazy) you could refresh the red tone with a red batch.
  • You can mix the colors to make a custom color. I recommend testing a small patch first before applying to entire head.
  • Using color theory, you can use complimentary colors to cancel out unwanted tones (hence the purple to remove yellow)
  • If you make this too strong, it can stain skin or transfer if you don’t rinse it out well, so keep that in mind.
  • The longer you leave it on, the more color will transfer to your hair, so be careful if you leave conditioner in for extended lengths.
  • More porous hair will absorb more color, so watch your ends or highlights to ensure they don’t come out crazy.
  • This doesn’t have to be used in the shower. You can apply it just using the conditioner to dilute and carry the color let it sit, or process with heat (be careful!)
  • As with any dyes, it’s best to do a patch test to make sure you or your hair won’t have any adverse reaction.

There you have it. Your own homemade toner of your own choice to fit your own needs. Pretty simple, huh?

DIY Toner Color Refresher by

21 Responses to “DIY Toner Color Refresher”

  1. I’m not blonde anymore, but genius! I was actually researching this method to refresh my permanent red color with some Vampire Red + conditioner & I’ll probably mix in some protein filler while I’m at it.

  2. You didn’t specify an approximate time to leave it in! I made mine a little darker last night and let it sit for 3 minutes and it only worked on my ends.. Going to try letting it sit for longer today on my roots!

  3. If your hair soaked up more color than the roots to mid way down the strands, you can use a neutral protein filler (get it at Sally’s) on your entire head. This will make all your hair equal in terms of the porosity. Before coloring, shampoo hair, do not condition, then apply the neutral protein filler all over entire hair (start at the top and work your way down) and comb through very gently with a wide tooth comb. The neutral protein filler’s consistency is similar to water so poor it into a spray bottle for easier and a more thorough application. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, your hair may feel “crunchy” that’s ok, then apply the manic panic conditioner mixture. The amount of time you would allow the conditioner/manic panic mixture to process is depending on your desired results. The protein filler smooths out porous texture in the hair shaft so I would leave it for 45 minutes, wipe off a strand to see where the process is at, then you can determine from there if you want to leave it on longer depending on what color you would like to achieve. Hope that helps:)

  4. Sorry, forgot to say my comment was to help Amanda, good luck honey:) Hope your hair turns out fabulous!

  5. When doing this, shampoo does not work. I’ve tried it before all it does is foam up.

  6. Design line has a combo shampoo and conditioner usually 2 for 20 in pints the shampoo is purple and conditioner is blue and it works great try that before you try this !!!! They carry it at all the tgf and WalMart salons its for grey and highlighted hair

  7. I’m wanting to use this as a daily thing to make my red dye last longer. Would I need to fully dry my hair after every shower to keep it from staining or stripping or soaking into anything?

    • The absolute best thing you can do to prevent color from bleeding in my experience is to completely RINSE it… and then rinse it again. And maybe once more for good measure.

      This advice comes from someone with currently blue hair and white towels.

      As long as I rinsed everything 100% (I know how tempting it is to leave just a touch of that silky conditioner in; don’t!) I’ve never had issues even after adding products that don’t fully dry (oils, leave-ins, serums, wax/clay, etc).. My theory is that if there’s no color bleed while it’s soaking wet, it shouldn’t matter if you fully dry it, but I dry mine anyway because it get’s fuzzy if I don’t.

      I’ve heard of people doing vinegar rinses to help prevent color from bleeding as well, but it’s not something I’ve had to try personally.

  8. Do I use this before I wash my hair (on dry hair) or do I just use this as a conditioner after washing my hair? Will it work if my hair is wet when I apply it? I have silver hair (natural) and just trying to keep the yellow tones out. The purple shampoos haven’t been working well for me.

    • It can be used on wet or dry hair, but I use it on wet hair after I wash it (no point in washing the color out!) But dry hair absorbs more color.

      Take that for what it’s worth. I personally won’t put shampoo on dry hair, but I think shampoo is evil in general. I just don’t understand how a product that washes away color could deposit color as well as a conditioner… That’s just my thought, but if my hair weren’t processed, my opinion of shampoo would be better.

      Conditioner you can let sit for as long as it takes and bask in the luxurious results.

  9. I have been researching DIY colour depositing conditioners, and all of them say to use semi or demi-permanent. Is there any reason to not use permanent? Thanks!

    • I think most if not all permanent hair dye needs peroxide to develop. It would kill hair in less than a week if used daily.

    • Permanent hair color needs a peroxide based developer to work. It won’t dye the hair if you just put it in conditioner.

      DIY color depositing shampoos/conditioners utilize temporary dyes that ‘stain’ the hair, rather than chemically alter it… what they mean is to use a dye that does not require a developer in order to dye the hair. Some demi-permanents still require a developer, so you have to be careful to use one that does not.

      Good luck!

  10. Ashleigh says:

    My hair has been bleached blonde for over a year and I’m trying to return to my natural very dark brown but I’m worried the dark would take well as hair is damaged and less pourous. I’m going to try the neutral protein filler and mix some dark dye in with conditioner regularly, but I’m wondering if I can just put permanent dye in the conditioner as I’m trying to get my hair darker not lighter? Would you recommend this or just stick to semi permanent and any other advice? Ps thank you so much!!

    • Samantha says:

      Use a dark red non permanent color in ur shampoo and conditioner and also add a bit to the color mix when u dye ur hair to add depth and shine and to avoid a dull grey or green overtone on the new darker color

    • Permanent dye needs a peroxide developer to work (unless there’s some new fancy shmancy ones invented) so you can’t just add it to conditioner… but if you’re going darker, you can easily use a low volume developer for better results and less damage since you don’t need the higher volume ‘lift’.. some demi-permanent colors also use a developer (with even less peroxide than permanent developers) and hold better than just using temporary color.

      Any non-permanent color will fade, so you’d have to be consistent on maintaining it… but it works by temporarily staining. Damaged hair is just as guilty of absorbing TOO much color as it can be about not absorbing it, so it’s kind of a trial and error thing.. one thing’s for sure, damaged hair fades faster.

      If it were my hair, I’d just use a permanent dye with low volume developer to lessen the constant need to dye it due to fading… but I know my hair and I know how lazy I am, and I’m quicker to invest my time in conditioning it than coloring it.

  11. Ashleigh says:

    Dark dye WONT take well **

  12. Thanks for this post, i have a question, can i use food coloring? I live in a third world country and have no access to this blue product manic you mentioned. So I need another alternative. My hair is famous for turning orange and brassy after a week of having my hair done. So I really hope food coloring can de an option to mix with the conditioner and maybe leave in for 10 min? Just need a good opinion.
    Thanks for helping,
    Jan

    • Food coloring can work; I know that some people dye and tone their hair with it… but I’m not personally familiar with it enough to suggest amounts of product or time. I’d probably avoid too many drops of color and check your hair every 5-10 minutes and be careful of the ends, as they may absorb more color than less processed hair.

      Hope that helps :)

  13. I am hoping something like this would work for me! I have been getting my hair done professionally for a few years and need to save some money and get my hair back to my natural color. Here my question:

    If my roots are light ash brown (my natural color) and my dyed pieces are med.-dark auburn red, should I try this with conditioner and a cool tone to remove the red?

    Any input would be helpful! I’m hoping I don’t have to bite the bullet and get a heavy duty overhaul at the salon.

  14. Definitely not a fan of manic panic but desperate times call for desperate measures and this was an amazing technique. I had SUPER orange hair after going to the salon and bleaching out 6 years of red to black to brown to purple to black hair dye and all the way around again. It looked so weird and she told me to buy purple shampoo but I heard bad things about how harsh that stuff is on your hair. So I came across this and bought the same exact conditioner and made the concoction maybe 2-3 shades darker than in the picture and left it in for 5 mins and the shampooed and conditioned with the shimmer lights purples shampoo and conditioner. It made my ends a lot more… Purple/gray? Colored but fabulous. I still have some orange tones so I’m going to mix a little more ‘ultra violet’ manic panic and a little bit of my blue ion hair dye to cancel it out and leave it in maybe 7-10 mins. I’m full of guts and am willing to walk around with light purple-blonde-gray (whatever color you want to call it) hair. Good luck to anyone who tries this out. I know it really saved me some money!

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