Is Zone Toning the Best Service for You?

Is Zone Toning the Best Service for You?

If you’ve heard of this term before, you know that it probably has to do with toning your hair. Complicated, right? Well, yes actually!

If you asked someone, they might say that toners “tone the hair”. Which is a very true statement, but not a very helpful one. So what actually is “toning”, and better yet, what is “Zone Toning”?


Toning refers to the process of changing the appearance of the undertone in a hair colour. Undertone? Why is there so much lingo!

All hair can be categorised into “levels” from 2-10, which tells you how dark the hair colour is. But what about the actual colour? Someone with ashy blonde hair could be technically as dark as someone with pastel pink hair, but they’re definitely not the same colour!

Undertones refer to colour of light that is reflected from the hair, where as Levels refer to how much light is reflected. Toning is a process of adding colour to the hair to change the colour that is reflected, the undertone. For example changing a warm blonde to a more cool-toned blonde gives a different coloured look, but doesn’t change how light the hair is. BUT! Because some colours reflect less light than others (think, silver vs grey), some undertones can make hair look darker, but they never make it look lighter.

OK! So now we understand toners…. what about Zone Toning?

Zone Toning

Zone-Toning can be one of two things. It always involves “zoning” the hair into sections where different coloured toners are applied, but it can be for different reasons.

The two main reasons we’d use a Zone Toning technique would be:
1. With the intention to achieve one overall colour (starting from different coloured zones) OR
2. With the intention to achieve a multi-toned effect (either starting with one overall colour or starting with multiple colours).

In this image (below), the hair isn’t one uniform colour, so we’d probably use different toners in different sections after lightening, to achieve a nice overall colour.

(It’s worth noting that the colourist probably used different strength lightening products as well as different toners!)

In this image (below), the hair starts off as a nice uniform colour all over, so we could use different toners once we’ve lightened, to achieve a certain look like this root fade/balayage look.

In this image, the hair isn’t one uniform colour, but we don’t want it to be either. In this case, we’re using zone toning to both correct for the bands, but also to achieve the zoned final look.

Are you a hairstylist who loves using Zone Toning? Or a client who is wondering if Zone Toning is for you? Leave us a comment below, or ask us at your next appointment!