I haven’t found the courage to color my own hair altogether. I am, however, brave enough to undertake smaller, lower-risk color-adjacent jobs myself. Like glossing, toning my highlights is a perfect example of a low-risk, usually professional procedure I’m willing to undertake myself.
Until last July, I hadn’t explored, “proper,” toners or heard of Wella Color Charm Demi Permanent Hair Color. I’m risk averse, so I had been employing purple toning shampoo to tone down brass with this method.
About five months after my last balayage appointment, I decided to take a stab at toning my highlights properly. After several hours of research, I decided to try toning my highlights with the Wella Color Charm Demi Permanent Hair Color line.
Fortunately, Wella Color Charm Demi Permanent Hair Color and other Wella products aren’t all pro-only and any ol’ person can buy from Sally Beauty or Amazon.
Selecting the Correct Toner Shade
First, assess your toning goal. My goal was to cool down the brassiness/warmth that my balayage highlights had accumulated over time. Depending on your hair, you might seek something with neutral or cool/ash tones to achieve this goal.
Next, assess the level you need. When it comes to hair, levels refer to how light or dark your hair is. The general rule is to tone your hair in alignment with the lightest levels present in your hair.
Although very little of my hair was this bright, this guideline led me to choose Wella Color Charm Demi Permanent Hair Color shade 10NA-10/01 Light Ash Blonde ($7). If they had a level 9 that would have been a better fit for me – but they didn’t, and it is perfectly fine.
If you’re following in my footsteps and purchasing a Wella Color Charm Demi Permanent Hair Color, you’ll also need the correct developer – in my case, that’s the Wella Color Charm Activating Lotion ($12). I am toning with a demi permanent color rather than a specifically-marketed toner, so read the packaging/product listings carefully and thoroughly to make sure you get the right thing. For example, Wella makes both the product I am discussing here as well as a Color Charm Permanent Liquid Hair Toner (which I have no experience with).
You’ll also need either a color bowl and brush or a mixing/applicator bottle. I already have both of these things, but you can get them inexpensively.
You may want gloves and section clips.
I also like using this Absolute Perfection Olaplex copycat ($1.79) from Sally Beauty – but it isn’t critical.
Using WELLA Color Charm Demi Permanent Hair Color
Can you make brownies from a box? Can you apply a deep conditioner? Great, you can do this!
You’ll mix two parts developer to one part color. Conveniently, the color tube contains little guide markers on the outside to help you see how much you’ve dispensed. I prefer to do this by weight for precision:
- First, throw my color bowl onto my kitchen scale and tare it.
- Next, I add double that weight of the developer.
- Then, I mix these together thoroughly with my brush.
- Finally, I add in an appropriate amount of the Absolute Perfection Booster and remix.
Once mixed, the road forks: you can meticulously section and apply, or be a bit devil-may-care about it. I learned from my colorist that devil-may-care works in my situation from how she tones me in the salon, but you needs may vary. I’d recommend playing it safe and applying with a brush where you need it until you get a feel for it. Be sure you saturate the areas you want to tone.
Once you apply, let it sit for twenty minutes. Then, rinse it out, then shampoo and condition. I typically condition after this since the hair shaft is being exposed to things out of the ordinary in this process.
At the end, my hair is toned where I want it to be. I don’t love the product’s fragrance, which lingers a bit even through shampooing and conditioning, but it could be worse. I’ve done this a few more times since then with great results. It is definitely lower effort than my shampoo method. Timing-wise, I have found roughly 8-9 weeks to be the sweet spot based on my hair, color, and environmental factors.
The Bottom Line
All in all, since I already had mixing tools, was able to do this for an investment of under $20. A single tube is four applications for my current needs, and the bottle of Activating Lotion will last roughly two tubes. That means my price per application is only $3.70 (including the Olaplex dupe. Seriously? Although this wasn’t something I did, returning for a standalone toner application at the salon is easily ten times that. If you visited the salon eight times a year for a toner refresh, taking matters into your own hands would save you over $200 with those assumptions – before tip – not to mention the cost of your time!
I’m still not brave enough to reach for the bleach, but I’m still happy with (uh, you know, apart from the CATASTROPHIC THINNING, thanks TRESemme/Unilever) how my hair looks. In a few weeks, it will be a year since my last balayage appointment, though, so who knows – once I get my hair back in better shape, I may find myself feeling daring.