How to Look like Daenerys Targaryen: Toners that will Make Your Hair Turn White

First of all, Daenerys’ hair is a wig. So, step one, buy a wig. You’re done!

But for those of you who have achieved (or are born with!) that very pale blonde, you have other more temporary options available to you. There’s a handful of different toners on the market, and they can be quite confusing to navigate. Below, I’m going to touch on three different toners and my experience with them.

A couple tips before we get started (that may or may not differ from every other tutorial out there)

  1. There’s a lot support for the idea that toner will apply more evenly if your hair is damp, but I don’t agree with that, especially if your hair already has bleach damage. Chances are, if the porosity of your hair is high, the fact that it’s holding in more water than usual is going to cause your color to distribute more unevenly.
  2. I do, however, highly condone coating your dry hair in oil — specifically, coconut oil (although I will admit I’ve tried Paul Mitchell’s Skinny Serum as well and that helped me a lot as well). This minimizes damage, and also, in my experience, allowed the color to spread more evenly. Here’s my usual schedule: bleach roots (if necessary) -> rinse -> wait until hair is fully dry -> apply oil -> tone on 20 volume for 25 minutes -> rinse.
  3. If your hair is currently darker than medium blonde, then a toner won’t get you to white hair. But anything higher in level than that, you can probably achieve it by playing around with the different colored toners, and what counteracts your hair color on the color wheel. For example, I’ve been able to achieve white while my hair was still bordering on orange — I just had to use T-14 instead of T-18.

Wella T-18 – $6.99 at Sally’s Beauty Supply

I’m reviewing this toner first because Wella T-18 is, in my mind, the standard for how a toner should produce color, and even then, there are still a lot of issues inherent in the product. It is extremely harsh, and will more than likely create extra damage to your hair. The smell is borderline intolerable. All that suffering and the longevity is still pretty darn short — maybe a week of nice color, at best.

But the color!! Assuming you’ve done a good job of making sure the toner is fully saturating every single strand of hair, the color will deliver as promised. T-18 will make your hair white. If your hair isn’t quite pal yellow yet, mixing T-14 and T-18 will also make your hair white. Want to go slightly silver/gray? Pop some 050 violet additive into your T-18, and, voila, silver!

For a beginner, I would definitely try out the Wella line before veering into anything else, just make sure you have some sort of protecting oil over your hair before you apply it. Overall Wella Score: Color: 4 out of 5, longevity: 2 out of 5, healthy for hair: 1.5 out of 5.

Blond Brilliance Toner: Platinum – $5.99 at Sally’s Beauty Supply

There were a lot of references to Blond Brilliance being the less harsh, and better smelling alternative to Wella, with just as good of color payout. I agree that this absolutely does smell better, in fact, it’s a little floral-y. I did notice a little less breakage in my hair with this product compared to the Wella toner (although, at the end of the day, if you’re using 20 developer, there’s bound to still be at least a little breakage).

The color payout is… weird. The application is all well and good with the toner turning the expected purple, but after washing, you may notice that your light blonde hair is now stained green and blue and gray, particularly the finer pieces of hair. Ugh! Better not leave the house for a few days and bust out the clarifying wash, you might think. I advise you to wait until the third day: you may find the whitest white hair you have ever seen in your life. And it lasts for over two weeks!

This toner does not excel at saturation or spreading color as evenly as Wella does. Also, the nasty bruise-color your hair acquires in the first couple days after application makes this almost not worth it. I’d recommend this to anyone prepared to wait a couple days to see the true results, and someone willing to do the legwork in making sure every single strand is coated fully. Overall Blond Brilliance Score: Color: 4.4 out of 5, longevity: 3 out of 5, healthy for hair: 3.5 out of 5.

Manic Panic Semi-Permanent Virgin Snow White Toner – $10.99 at Sally’s Beauty Supply

It is really tempting to just use semi-permanent dye in between touch ups of toner or bleach, since it’s far less damaging than toner. You don’t even need to use developer, and it’s super easy to saturate your hair with!

But I’m convinced you need to have level 12 hair to even think about using this — and yes, I said 12, not 10. At which point, you probably already have the level you want… anyway? I think there was a bit of a white tinge to my super-fine and light pieces in the front, but other than that, there was nothing. Even if I could see the color, it would have washed out very quickly, since Manic Panic is not intended to stay around — two or three days, if I was lucky.

Some users swear this is also good for conditioning your hair, but I don’t really think that that’s true. Regardless of whether or not there’s conditioner in this product, Manic Panic still contains concentrated dye which, like all dye, is not great for your hair staying hydrated in the long run. Honestly, I would probably tell most people to skip Manic Panic in their quest for white hair, especially at it’s price point. Overall Manic Panic Virgin Snow Score: Color: 0 out of 5, longevity: 0 out of 5, healthy for hair: 3 out of 5.

The quest for Daenerys’s hair is a difficult one, and a damaging one as well. But with a little patience, conditioning treatments and a lot of trial and error, it can be done! ~A


One n’ Only Color Fix

Double feature Saturday! I wanted to write about this before I forgot about my experience with Colorfix. I’ve been experimenting with this product for close to three weeks now, and I’m hoping that my journey is nearing the end.

My natural color is dark blonde (7 or 8 color). I’ve been dyeing my hair either black or darkest brown (1 or 2) since I was 13 years old. It started off as a mistake that I figured would fade over time, but I actually grew to love the color. I carried on that way for sixteen years, dyeing my hair every 3 or 4 weeks to maintain the roots.

When I got bayalage about a year ago, I decided I was really tired of the black entirely. I knew right out the gate that removing SIXTEEN YEARS (!!) of black dye was going to be a near impossible task. But I bit the bullet, and picked up a box of Color Fix from Sally’s. Could a $13 product get rid of a 16 year love affair with black hair dye?

In the days leading up to this, I scrubbed my hair with Head n Shoulders shampoo, because dandruff shampoo unintentionally reigns supreme in fading out hair dye. I got home from work, made sure my social calendar was clear (in anticipation of looking a bit crazy for the next few days), and ripped open the box. There are three bottles within the ColorFix box, steps 1, 2, and 3. At the advice of the knowledgeable Sally’s employee, I threw out step 3 because it contains peroxide, which revitalizes shrunk hair dye molecules and in turn makes your hair dark again. Makes you wonder why One n Only even included it.

I poured out steps 1 and 2 into a regular mixing bowl, and mixed the two together. This is where the terrible sulfur smell of Colorfix comes into play. Even if you turn your fan on and open your windows, there’s practically no escaping it. The first time I used it, I felt sick to my stomach. Now that I’ve used it a few times, it’s still pretty disgusting, but it doesn’t phase me as much.

You can apply it with a brush the same way you would with a normal dye. After the dye is applied, try to massage the product into your hair to ensure the Colorfix is inundated in as much of the strand as possible. Find a plastic cap or bag to put over your hair to trap the heat, and wait for 20 minutes. I’ve read some anecdotes about using a blowdryer on the highest setting over the cap. I’ve tried this in a few of my applications, but I don’t really see a difference when I don’t use it — it neither increases or decreases the amount of color that gets pulled from my hair. I think all it does is create more unnecessary damage.

I rinsed it out after 20 minutes. A few times I used dish soap, thinking it would clarify the hair more than a normal shampoo clarifier, thus knocking the dye molecules out of the strand — but, in the end, I found that Head n Shoulders was just as effective, and way less damaging than dish soap. You have to make sure you rinse the ColorFix for AT LEAST 20 minutes — not only to get rid of the sulfur smell, but to make sure the product is removed fully before dye is applied over it (otherwise the color will re-oxidize and you’ll be back where you started).

The result? Well, if you’ve been dyeing your hair black for sixteen straight years, do not expect this to work much after the first application. It’s HIGHLY likely you’re going to have to repeat this process at least three or four more times, if not more. For a one-time black dye application, this probably works great, and immediately turns the hair into a rust-red color.

But for me — the process has been slow, resulting in blotches of orange, yellow, light brown, red, and LOTS of remaining black, no matter how meticulously I apply. And though I just hopped out of the shower coming off of my seventh application of the product over three weeks, I’d say that it’s only minimally improved. There are still patches of black that are clinging on for dear life.

My goal: C2 to C7. My hair color after Colorfix: C2, C9, C10, C11, C4, C3, C6….

But the point is that it WORKS. The process is arduous, sure, but I never thought I would see a full head of non-black dyed hair, and the progress toward that is evident. What I also appreciate about ColorFix is that it doesn’t fry your hair the same way that bleach does. It’s a bit damaging, but nothing that can’t be fixed by a week of deep conditioning and possibly a trim.

I know that was a lot, so here are the quick steps to using ColorFix:

  1. Shampoo with a clarifying shampoo before using
  2. Mix up Colorfix in a bowl.
  3. Apply Colorfix to dry hair. Rub it into your hair as much as possible.
  4. Put a processing cap over hair. Wait 20 minutes
  5. Rinse out hair with a clarifier for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Let hair dry, and determine whether or not the steps need to be repeated.
  7. If the old hair color has been satisfactorily stripped, apply hair dye of your choice (or don’t!)

Here’s a few extra things I would like to add about my journey:

  1. I used bleach very shortly prior to using Color Fix. Do NOT do this!!! Colorfix, on it’s own, is not the most damaging product in the world, but in conjunction with recent bleaching, it might just turn your hair to straw. Also, using bleach first will cause the color stripper to turn parts of your hair a somewhat unsightly yellow.
  2. Since you’ve basically wiped out a ton of molecules from your hair, your hair is now very porous. Naturally, it might start to darken on it’s own, even if you don’t apply anything else after the Colorfix. For the same reason of hair porosity, when re-dyeing, ensure that you are using a dye that’s 1 or 2 steps above the desired color.
  3. Yes, that smell will go away. I promise. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 3.5/5 (due to eventual/inevitable oxidation)

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Hair Dye and Hair Health

I used to go into my hair appointments and flat out not pay attention to what they were doing. I hardly asked any questions: they were the experts, after all, (well, most of them were, anyway…) they knew what they were doing! But that’s just it: they are the experts, why was I holding back? Why wasn’t I asking them why my hair was constantly breaking off at the end?

I’ve gotten a myriad of different answers from different stylists, but they all seem to ask the same thing: “Are you using box dye?” All through high school and college my answer was always yes. I’d insist that the leave-in conditioner that Nice n Easy provided was enough to wipe out the damage the dyes were creating, but they always shook their heads and carried on silently, letting me live in my delusion.

Now, full disclosure, my hair still isn’t perfect. I have fly-aways like crazy, due to years of damage from heat and hair dye, abrupt weather changes and unfavorable indoor climate controls. My hair still falls out, a lot, and now that I have highlights, the breakage is at an all time high (thanks, bleach!). But I saw a picture of myself from seven years ago and I realized just how much my overall hair condition has changed. I attribute it to this “one secret trick that hair dressers don’t want you to know about! (Just kidding, they probably do want you to know about it so that they don’t have to tell you 50 times to stop using box dye): Switch to mixing your own hair dye.

The chemicals that are used in box dyes are just too strong for most hair types. Most of them have at least a 30 developer strength. The darker your hair, the less developing strength you need. Personally, I only use 10. On the occasion that I’ve used 20, my hair quality has suffered. I’m not even going to talk about how most box dyes usually slip a drying alcohol into the 2nd or 3rd ingredient, whereas I couldn’t find any even listed on my separately purchased developer and hair dye.

Now, because my hair is so dark, I can’t really speak to the process for lighter colored hair. It probably still stands that you will need a 30 or 40 developer, or bleach and toner as it applies. But I’d hazard a guess and say that you’re probably still better off not buying a box kit, solely due to the unneeded and questionably stronger ingredients that get put into it. I will say that ammonia is another not-so-great feature that pops up in the hair dye that I use today — but there are ammonia free options on the market, in both box dyes and separately purchased hair dyes.

The first time mixing on your own can be a little intimidating, but fear not, as the ratio of developer to color should be 50:50. Most mixing bowls have measurements marked on them, and you don’t necessarily have to even be super precise for the color to develop and ultimately process on your hair. Sally’s Beauty has always been my go-to supplier for hair dye and accessories, but I’ll link what I can back to Amazon even if it’s just for reference.

1- Put on an old shirt that you don’t mind getting dye on. Cover your “work station” with newspaper or towels. Put on some gloves. Any non-powder latex or vinyl glove will do. Buy them online and/or in bulk: they sell ’em at Sally’s, but they’re too expensive. Here are some cool purple gloves:

2- Find an occlusive to put onto your skin around the hair line. This makes the dye a lot easier to “wipe off” if you accidentally get it on your skin. Elta MD’s Intense Moisture does the trick:

3- Get out your dye bowl and brush:

4- Put the developer into the bowl first. The amount you put in the bowl will depend on the length of your hair, but just keep in mind that the ratio of the developer to the color should be about 1:1. If there are measurements on the bowl that you purchased, you could put enough developer to reach the “1” line. I use this 10 volume developer, but again the number could increase depending on the lightness of your hair:

5- Put the hair dye in the bowl over top of the developer. If you have measurement markers, squeeze enough color out of the tube to reach the “2” line, or whatever will accomplish a 1:1 ratio with the developer. Throw the excess hair dye away, since breaking the seal exposes it to air and will degrade the product before you can use it for your next color. I use this hair dye by Zotos:

6- Now all the same rules apply as regular hair dye! Alternate between mixing the product, and sitting and waiting until the color has started to develop. Once the color is showing, you can go ahead and use your brush to apply. Wait 25-60 minutes, and then wash off. ~A