In the world of hair color, a chic silvery-blonde is always a good look. But if you’re trying to get this color at home, you may find yourself overwhelmed with all the different choices.
This article will break down two products that are very popular right now — the Wella T14 and T18 toners. We’ll explain the similarities and differences between them, and let you know which one you should use depending on the hair color you’re starting with, and your desired result.
What is a toner, anyway?
If you’ve never gone to cosmetology school, chances are no one’s ever explained exactly what a toner does. A toner is considered a demi-permanent hair color. This means it uses a peroxide developer to activate it, much like a permanent color, but it doesn’t last as long. Your toner will need to be refreshed every 3-4 weeks in order to maintain your color.
Unlike other hair color products, a toner isn’t meant to create a dramatic change in color. It is mostly used for color correction — that is, removing unwanted brassy tones from bleached blonde hair.
In other words, a toner will be able to shift the color of your hair just enough to take out undesired orange or red tones, but it won’t be enough to take your hair from a dark brown to a light blonde all on its own.
T14 vs T18: what’s the difference?
T14 and T18 are both part of Wella’s Color Charm line of toners. They are both ash toners, meaning they create cool tones in blonde hair. When bleaching your hair from dark to light blonde, it’s common to see orange, yellow, or red tones come out in the color.
In order to get to a platinum or silvery color, those tones need to be canceled out using cool colors. That’s where these two popular toners come in.
T14: This toner has a violet-blue undertone, and will give you a pale ash blonde with gray or purple undertones. It is best for canceling out orange.
T18: This toner has a violet undertone, and will leave you with silver or platinum hair. It’s best for canceling out yellow.
Which one should I use?
Before answering this question, it’s important to know a bit about how the bleaching process works. As you bleach your hair from a dark color to a lighter color, you will reveal different undertones in your hair.
This is what’s referred to as “brassiness”. These tones are always revealed in the same order, from darkest to lightest: red, then orange, then yellow. So if your hair still has orange tones in it, you’ll know it’s still slightly darker. This is relevant when choosing to use T14 or T18.
When deciding between the two toners, ask yourself two questions. Which warm tones are you trying to remove? And what do you want the end result to look like?
- To remove orange and get a pale gray blonde — Use T14. Blue cancels out orange, and since T14 has blue undertones, it is the best choice for removing orange from your hair. It will also give a more gray tone to your blonde, and may even look a little purple in certain light.
- To remove yellow and get a platinum or silver blonde — Use T18. Violet cancels out yellow, and T18 has a violet undertone. This will remove the last traces of yellow from your hair to give you a silver or even white-blonde look.
- To remove orange and get a platinum or silver blonde — If you still have orange in your hair, it’s not light enough yet to go platinum. First, you will need to bleach your hair again to remove the remaining orange and pass through the yellow phase. If you’ve already bleached your hair a few times by now, we recommend seeing a professional for this last stretch to avoid damaging your hair.
- To remove yellow and get a pale gray blonde — Neither of these toners is exactly right for you. T14 won’t do as good a job at removing yellow, and the result may be more purple than you want it. But T18 will give you a more silvery color than what you’re looking for. The good news is that Wella’s Color Charm line has plenty of other options for you to choose from to get the desired results.
Can You Combine T14 and T18?
Is it possible to use both T14 and T18 on your head at the same time? Technically yes, but we don’t recommend it.
Toners aren’t meant to be combined, so your results will be unpredictable. You might end up with patchy coverage, or purple hair, or another unexpected outcome.
If neither T14 or T18 sound like what you’re looking for, consider other options in the Wella’s Color Charm line. Or head to the salon and have a professional colorist pick out the perfect toner for you.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Toner
Now that you’ve decided which toner is right for you, here’s a step-by-step guide to make sure you get the best results possible. Read these tips carefully, but remember, ultimately you should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using any color product.
Make sure your hair is light enough
Toner is meant to be the last (or one of the last) steps in the lightening process. This means that if your hair is too dark when you apply toner, you won’t notice any difference in color. Both of these toners are meant to be used on hair that is at least a lightness level 9, or a very light blonde. Look up hair level charts online if you’re not sure what that means.
Use the right developer
When using toner, it’s best to use a 10 or 20 volume developer. Since your hair has been bleached so much already, a higher volume developer risks damaging your hair.
20 volume will help your toner last longer, but if your hair is already fragile or damaged, stick to 10 volume. Also, make sure you use the correct ratio of toner to developer. Both T14 and T18 require a 1:2 ratio.
Fully saturate your hair
In order to get an even result, use plenty of product, and apply it to small sections of hair at a time. There’s nothing worse than washing out your hair only to find that you’ve missed spots, or the toner was unable to take full effect because you used too little of it. Mistakes like this are difficult to correct, so it’s better to take you time and get it right the first time.
Keep an eye on the time
Toner shouldn’t stay on your hair for too long. We recommend setting a timer for ten minutes once it’s is fully applied, then checking a strand of hair to see if you’ve achieved your desired tone. If not, reapply toner to that strand and leave it for ten more minutes. Repeat for no longer than 30 minutes total before washing out your hair.
Use the right kind of shampoo
With any color product, a sulfate-free shampoo is going to be your best friend. It will gently cleanse your hair without stripping out as much color, so your beautifully toned hair will last longer in between touch-ups. With T14 and T18 you could also opt for a purple shampoo, to help maintain those cool, ashy tones.
Don’t wash your hair every day
Did you know there’s such a thing as washing your hair too often? It’s true, especially with color-treated hair. If you wash your hair every 48 hours, instead of every day, you’ll wash out less toner. This will help maintain your desired color for longer.
Although Wella T14 and T18 may look very similar to the untrained eye, they are actually quite different products. They each do their job well, but it’s important to make sure you use the right one for your hair color, and your desired results.
Take some time to learn about what orange tones vs yellow tones look like in bleached hair, as well as what different lightness levels look like. This will help you choose the right toner for you, so you can get the silvery blonde hair of your dreams!