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If you're looking to put a little perky into those dull, dishwater locks, an ash-blond toner may seem like the right way to go. After all, toner's a great temporary fix for plenty of mane woes. But if you're looking to lighten, it's important to understand that toner will drop you a few shades shy of your style destination.
What Toner Does
People tone blond hair all the time, and for good reason. Toner puts the hurt on all those monstrous shades of orange that love to sneak up on hopeful blondies during the dyeing process. It's a fantastic neutralizer and has more than earned a place of honor in the DIY'ers emergency beauty kit. It's also fast, easy and, as a semi-permanent color, won't damage your locks as much as a permanent, high-lift color.
What Toner Doesn't Do
Toner is a deposit-only product, which means that it can't lighten, brighten or otherwise rescue a too-drab 'do. It can only inject a note of sanity when your goldilocks start flashing neon yellow. No matter what shade of flaxen perfection the model on the box is sporting, deposit-only color will take your hair to a deeper, darker shade of blond. And while timid types may like the sound of a semi-permanent color, it tends to fade after a few weeks, making it a fairly high-maintenance hair fix.
It's Bleach, Baby
You can go as dark as you want without ever needing to hit the hard stuff, but like it or not, there's only one way to move up the color chain into sunnier territory: bleach. If you want to lighten your hair, even only a teensy bit, you have to remove the pigment with a bleaching agent. While that may sound scary, take heart! You won't need to re-bleach your whole head every four to six weeks -- you'll only need to touch up the roots.
If you just want to liven up a too-blah blond, a few well-placed highlights will do the trick. For maximum impact with minimal commitment and damage, concentrate your highlights on the strands that frame your face and the crown of your head. For a more radical change, though, you may need to take the plunge with an all-over color. When going more than a shade or two lighter, it's best to consult a stylist for help -- it may cost extra, but nothing says "amateur hour" like the wrong shade of blond.